Archive for January, 2011
I saw Sen. Troy Fraser at an awards banquet Friday night and had a chance to ask him how he felt after Voter ID was passed. He said he felt “pretty good” and was happy that the long arduous hours of debating the Democratis were over.
The times when I tuned in during the debate he always seemed calm, collected and prepared. This is a task in its self since he had to single handly debate the senate democrats for 3 straight days.
Sen. Fraser, I know I can speak for the rest of Texas, when I say thank you and we feel more than pretty good about your efforts in passing Voter ID through the senate.
Congratulations to you and to the senate Republicans.
What do half of the GOP state senators all have in common?
Yes, you guessed it. They are all interested in running for Lt. Governor if current Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst resigns, to run for the U.S. Senate or if he is elected.
Wait, I though Abbott, Staples, Patterson and Combs wanted to run too? Yes, they all do but I will focus on them in a future post. I’m talking about the first of two possible Lite Gov races.
If Dewhurst indeed resigns, under the Texas Constitution the Lt. Governor vacancy is not filled by a gubernatorial appointment or a special election. The Texas Senate convenes as a Committee of the Whole and elects one of their own to fulfil the duties of the Lite Gov office. However, they still remain the serving senator of their district. This process has only taken one other time in Texas history and that is when Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff succeeded then Lt. Governor Rick Perry, when he became governor, after Governor Bush became President Bush.
There are no surprises on the high number of GOP probable candidates who want to succeed Dewhurst: Senators Dan Patrick(Houston radio host), John Carona(Dallas real estate), Steve Ogden(Bryan oil and gas), Tommy Williams(Woodlands – Financial), Robert Duncan(Lubbock – Attorney), Kevin Eltife (Tyler – Business), Kel Seliger(Amarillo – Steel), and Jane Nelson(Flour Mound – Business).
Why is the list so big you ask? There are 19 members of the majority party, which means they each have a 1 in 19 chance to be the 2nd most powerful politician in Texas. The number gets much smaller after you exclude the GOP members who won’t place their name on the ballot.
Steve Ogden is the only wild card. He all but retired last year until Dewhurst convinced him to come back to handle the budget shortfall, as Finance Chairman. He might be elected on virtue that he agrees not to run for re-election if elected Lite Gov. This would avoid a lot of party infighting. However, I doubt senators will want to elect someone to just be a place holder. There is nothing to gain by doing that.
You might especialy want to watch Nelson, Eltife, Carona, and Duncan this session to see what moves they make. They are my early top contenders if Dewhurst leaves.
Amadeo Saenz to Retire from TXDOT August 31 – Quorum Report
Tax cut: 2
Applause Breaks: 79
Tax cut: 6
Applause Breaks: 116
Tax cut: 4
Applause Breaks: 71
*Obama’s speech technically wasn’t a State of the Union speech but was the first time he addressed a joint session after his election.
The perceived notion that requiring photo ID is not needed because voter fraud is “infrequent” is ridiculous. Below are examples of blatant voter fraud, attempts at fraud or just holes in the system that are going unchecked because a photo ID does not need to be presented when voting:
- Over the last decade at least 400 votes were cast by non-citizens just in Dallas and Bexar County
- In 2004, 41 dead voters requested ballots by mail in Bexar County in 2004
- The Texas Independent reported that the King Street Patriots found nearly 20,000 registered voters shared the same address of 6 or more people in Shelia Jackson Lee’s (TX-18) district. This anomaly was 2-9 times higher than in surrounding districts. At this point in time the KSP’s have review only 3,800 of the 20,000 suspisous registered voters, but already have had over 450 voters thrown off the voter roll because of “duplicate registrations, nonexistent addresses, addresses corresponding to vacant lots, or the drivers licences number not matching the registration.”
- In 2oo4, a Beeville woman was convicted of voting for her dead mother
- In a state auditor’s report 46% of voter registrars said they did NOT have procedures in place to identify ineligible voter applicants, such as felons, non-citizens, or voter who submitted duplicate registration(that’s not a problem is it?)
- In 2007, The Texas Secretary of States Office also found that over 23,500 deceased registered voters but did not have the chance to take them off the voter rolls before the election
- In Harris County over 10,000 registrations, submitted by ACORN, were tossed because of fraudulent address and personal information
These are just a few examples where voter integrity has been jeopardized. Under current law anyone who is able to obtain a voter registration card is able to walk into the corresponding precinct and vote. With so many attempts of voter fraud and the combination of registatars not having the resources to properly vet voter rolls, a photo ID is needed to solve many of the problems.
(Flashback: If you remember anything from last session it had to be the circus and uncertainty that surrounded the Voter ID bill. The senate seperated from the traditional 2/3rds rules and listened to an unprecidented 24 straight hours of testimony, from literally bus loads of activist. In the Texas House, the Democrats didn’t have the votes to stop the bill, so they resorted to “chubbing” to run out the clock on session and therefore kill the bill. That coincidentally killed a lot of other innocent bills in the process causing a near revolt in the Texas Senate. The Senate members even mulled over shutting down the senate in response to the chubbing but cooler heads prevailed.)
When Gov. Rick Perry made Voter ID an emergency item he was immediately called out by the media and the left for “ignoring the budget” and being “too poltical.” But whether you like it or not, Perry made the right decision and I’m not even talking about voter fraud.
Was this move politically motivated? Probably. But at the same time Perry also knows that the less distractions there are, the less likely the budget shortfall will be pushed into a messy special session. A special session will just increase the budget shortfall and make it harder to pass the budget because there will be fewer issues members can trade to get what they want.
However, the media is only fixated upon that is just ”red meat” for the base but they fail to realize that voter ID is already red meat to the base. In fact, it can’t be made any more red. If Perry really wanted to be political he would have let voter ID slowly make its way through the legislature and call out the opposition every chance he got.
This would have undoubtedly stirred up Tea Party rallies at the capitol, pro-voter ID Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, and massive e-mail campaigns by all compelling interest groups to stand with Gov. Perry. He wants to avoid this scenario because then Perry will been seen by the public as “too political” and not focusing on the budget.
The same scenario could have been played out for the sonogram bill too but it won’t. These issues have instead been put on the fast track so the budget can be the real number one issue this session.
The next move by the governor must be substantial budget proposals if he wants to stay relevant in presidential talk and be the leader Texas needs. He should have already come out with some of these proposals but now that the senate budget is out my guess is he’ll speak on this matter soon.
Texas Added 20K Jobs, Unemployment Rate Up to 8.3% - Quorum Report
Senate to Meet as Cmte of the Whole to Take Up Voter ID – Quorum Report
Voter ID gains momentum from Perry, Dewhurst – The Statesman
Ratliff wants to settle his eligibility questions - Houston Chroncile
No new taxes, but fees aplenty in budget plan – Houston Chroncile
Inside the Texas Legislature: Seating Charts - Texas Tribune
Joe Barton considers run for Senate – Dallas Morning News
“I am going to pay an extra $40 billion in taxes and still face the $27 billion shortfall?” Yes, you read it correctly. It’s not a typo. In fact, I stand by it quite firmly. Let me explain…
When Comptroller Susan Combs announced that Texas had a budget shortfall, a heated debate arose between liberals and conservatives on whether it’s a $27 or $15 billion shortfall. “Conventional wisdom” tells us it’s $27 billion because current revenue cannot fund what the state agencies are requesting. Or it can be said that since Texas has a $9 billion Rainy Day Fund, state agencies are already over-funded and there is no need to fund their wish list in the next biennium, that the shortfall is closer to $15 billion. You might even say that there is no budget shortfall. Texas creates a bottom to top budget each session and you can’t have a shortfall when the budget starts at $0.
I know what you are thinking, “Matt that’s nice and all but you are not explaining how Texans will be taxed $40 billion extra and still face this shortfall.” Don’t worry, we are getting close.
The reason there is a $12 billion gap in shortfall numbers, between liberals and conservatives, is because it’s less of a numbers game and more of an ideological question, “How large or small should our government be?” or better yet, “At what pace should our government be allowed to grow?” The latter is the question I am interested in.
Do not believe the notion that since Texas is not severely in debt, like the federal government, that we control government growth any better. The Legislature artificially grew government; matching dollar for dollar to fund programs until they could no longer be funded. Our government, like the housing market, has produced a bubble and it has burst.
That is why the state should do now what it should have already done 20 years ago. And that is to set funding levels to adjust with population growth and inflation or use a popular formula that involves the state gross domestic product(GDP), that the South Carolina Legislature is currently considering. Either one of these formulas can curb significant increases in government growth and spending that occurred in Texas over the past 20 years.
Yes, spending limitations were adopted in the Texas Constitution in the late 70′s but the limitation wording is so vague that my guess is as good as ssayyyy… Democratic Ways and Means Chairman Rene Oliveria’s. This is why we need a finite measurement that holds our legislators accountable. If proposed and adopted, these limitations would not be unbreakable, but it would add another obstacle that big government Democrats and Republicans would have to face each session.
If the Texas Legislature would have adopted a spending limit like this in 1990, Texans would be enjoying an estimated extra $40 billion burning a hole in their pocket the next biennium. Just view the data below from previous years.
The blue bars in the chart shows unadjusted state spending and the green line represents spending levels if were set for population growth and inflation. As you can clearly see, the gap in between the green line and blue bars continues to expand which has led us to the budget crisis we face today.
This discrepancy proves that the Texas Legislature needs to pass a Constitutional Amendment or at least a joint resolution setting in place spending limitations. Otherwise we are going to find ourselves in this hole again paying and owing more than we should in the near future.