Transportation deal in the works

The Texas Tribune reports that a very select Conference Committee, including Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Sen. Finance Cmte. Chair Tommy Williams and Sen. Transportation Cmte. Chair Robert Nichols, has come up with the framework for a deal on Transportation funding. As the astute may recall, this was the issue added immediately after redistricting to the call of the first special session. However, the filibuster and other misplaced priorities on the part of the Republicans lead to the issue dying at sine die. The issue, along with Miller compliance and abortion, was added to this session’s call.

The House and the Senate have both previous passed Transportation funding bills. The key difference between the two bills rest on what money from the rainy day fund (RFD) is used for, as well as how much money to use. The House’s version included a convoluted project which would entangle education funding, by switching around lots of earmarks for RDF-bound taxes.

The Conference Committee’s bill would divert lots of money earmarked for the RDF, originally form oil & gas taxes, for transportation funding, predominantly highway maintenance. While many originally wanted a provision setting a minimum RDF balance at $6 Billion, this new bill requires the Legislative Budget Board (LBB), dominated by Republicans, to set the amount. This bill is a constitutional amendment, meaning it requires 2/3 of both Houses and must be endorsed by a majority of voters in November–although the new bill pushes the referendum back to 2014.

Since 2/3 is required, 5 House Democrats and 2 Senate Democrats are needed for approval. This is not just a rule or a tradition, but part of the State’s Constitution. Dewhurst cannot get around it. Accordingly, it is worth noting that Democrats are somewhat unified in opposition to setting a limit to the RDF balance.

This is somewhat noteworthy, because the session ends on Tuesday. The Houston Chronicle reports that Perry has absolutely no problems calling lawmakers for a third special session on this issue, and this issue alone.

Accordingly, it may be in the Democrats’ interest to compromise.

UPDATE: Off the Kuff has more.

City Council update

The Houston Chronicle reports that the City Council has unanimously passed an ordinance which regulates “group homes,” facilities somewhere in between boarding home and nursing home, and with little-to-no regulation.  From the Chronicle:

The ordinance before the City Council, delayed a week to Wednesday so stricter fire safety requirements Rodriguez suggested could be discussed, would require that home operators pay a fee, register with the city, share information about owners and employees, submit to criminal background checks and report any criminal activity or deaths.

Rodriguez’s amendments would add an annual inspection. Rodriguez said inspections – as well as requiring group homes to have smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers and fire evacuation plans – could help regulators spot unsafe conditions or deter operators’ negligence.

This ordinance has long been in the works, and it has been tagged (a one week delay by a Councilmember) a few times. About a week-and-a-half ago, I even heard the Mayor bragging about the effectiveness of this ordinance. It appears somewhat strange to me that these regulations did not already exist, so they are certainly a step in the right direction. As the Chronicle discusses, these places are often “the housing of last resort for many mentally ill, disabled and elderly…”

In other news, the Chronicle also reports that a Wage Theft ordinance is being discussed, though not voted, by the City Council. The ordinance was introduced to the City Council from the Mayor’s office (well, actually David Felman’s (the CIty Attorney) office) and referred to the Public Safety Commission. The article discusses what the ordinance would do:

The proposed ordinance would empower a wage theft coordinator to maintain the database of offending firms and update the watch list of accused companies, investigate complaints involving city contracts, counsel workers who file complaints against Houston companies not working for the city, and monitor City Council agendas to see if a company up for a contract appears in the database or watch list.

A firm found guilty of wage theft in an administrative or legal proceeding would be ineligible to work for the city and would be unable to receive or renew city permits or licenses. A city department director wanting to grant work to a firm on the watch list would need to review the situation before forwarding the request to the council.

Firms would be removed from the watch list if a complaint is ruled unfounded; companies in the database could be removed if a conviction is overturned on appeal.

Wage theft is essentially, the withholding of salaries by an employer, typically for overtime pay.  The Public Safety Committee is chaired by Ed Gonzalez, and also about 11 more Councilmember. The result is 75% of the Council sitting on this Committee.

The Chronicle interviewed, on the committee, both Gonzalez and Christie, who spoke in favor of the measure. Accordingly, it looks like this good piece of legislation could pass with bipartisan margins, similar to the group home measure.

Off the Kuff and Dos Centavos have more.

A few more candidates

First off all, I would like to apologize for the two day absence. I was up in Washington for a conference, and my nighttime schedule unexpectedly filled up. Further, the 3 hours I was planning to dedicate to writing, on the plane, was a non-starter because I got booked on the one Southwest flight still without WiFi. Oh well.

These past few days have seen three major contenders enter the fray for the 2014 Republican Primary for statewide elections, as well as one more candidate for the 2013 City Council election in District D.

As expected, Dan Branch made an official announcement to enter the Attorney General’s race. As The Dallas Morning News reports, the State Representative announced his candidacy, surrounded by family, at the SMU Law School. Branch, like Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman and Senator Ken Paxton, had been running a pseudo-official campaign for Attorney General in the past weeks. However, after Abbott’s big announcement last week, Branch quickly began making his way towards a formal announcement.

Next, I got a press release (THANK YOU) announcing the candidacy of a man named Ray Keller for Railroad Commission. I’ve never heard of Keller, a former State Representative from the Dallas area, and I soon learned the reason. Keller served in the Legislature from 1979 to 1987, well before I was born.

The Legislature was heavily Democratic during that time, and half of the years included a Democratic Governor, so I take the claim he made of being a “Conservative Republican” in his press release with a grain of salt. He is a bit of an unknown, I guess you could say. It would not surprise me in the least. I will leave the diagnostics on this new candidate to one of my older contemporaries, perhaps old enough to remember the 80s.

Finally, in State news, Representative Brandon Creighton, the Conservative Republican who has an odd love-affair with guns, has announced his intention to make an announcement at some point in the future. Creighton, long rumored to be eyeing the spot of Agriculture Commissioner, announced on his Facebook that big day will come on August 9th. No word if it will be in San Antonio like all the other big announcements.

Back to municipal elections, there is yet another candidate in District D: Christina Sanders. She is the State Director of the League of Young Voters. She doesn’t really have a website or social media set up, but does have this shell of a donation page. I am always overjoyed when a fellow young person gets involved with politics, especially when they have experience as well. Sanders will be a good addition to an already interesting race.

If you are following my previous article on District D, you will note that one such candidate has decided to go out of his way to call me a liar. I don’t have any ill-will towards this individual, but the malice and untruthfulness on his part are somewhat important to note as one weights candidates’ integrity come election day.

Dos Centavos has more on Sanders.

Playing dirty in District D

I logged onto my Facebook today to find this interesting ad on my newsfeed:

1003326_10200701153149339_1546987383_n

First of all, this is a hilarious photo of Boykins. I cannot find it on his account, for the life of me. While the ad itself did not appear to be the work of any other candidate in the race, one such contended, Larry McKinzie, wasted no time in sharing the ad to his Facebook (which is how I stumbled across it).

The ad raises some serious allegations about Boykins. First, I would like to know how many Republican primaries we’re talking about. I can’t think of many people more yellow dog Democrat than my father, and he voted in GOP primaries prior to 2006, back when absolutely 0 Democrats ever had a chance in Harris County. I would not be surprised if Boykins was doing the same thing. I know some people affiliated with the HCDP have some special Obamaesque spying technique that allows them to figure out exactly which primaries Boykins voted in. I’d like to see how that goes.

But his campaign donations are public knowledge, so I decided to investigate that angle. Boykins donated a lot of money to Democrats; the GOP money is dwarfed in comparison. Further, when that money is examined, a pattern appears. Boykins donated to incumbents like Ted Poe, Kay Granger and Pete Olson, who faced only token opposition. Boykins donated to David Dewhurst, which I can’t blame him for considering who he was up against. Boykins donated $500 to Randy Weber, but he donated three times that amount to the Democratic opponent, Nick Lampson.

Fellow “blogger o’ the left” Erik Vidor also posted his two cents on the two entire issues. Vidor commented:

Dude has only voted in one Republican Primary (2010) going back to 2000. Every other time it was for the D’s. The contributions are interesting fodder but it’s important to recognize that Mr. Boykins line of work requires working from both sides of the aisle. And upon further examination of campaign reports, he’s been pretty even in his giving to both parties.

I do not know if Vidor is getting his information from the fancy Obama spying software I previously mentioned, but if he did only vote in the GOP Primary in 2010, I cannot really blame him. Except for a few delusional liberals, everyone knew the Democratic Party was going down in flames that year. It made much more sense to nominate less-evil Republicans who would be sure to win in the general election.

All in all, I do not see much in the way of substantial attacks against Boykins. While nothing in the ad is untrue, it is somewhat misleading. I will be doing a somewhat more thorough investigation on this in the coming days. Otherwise, there is no real scandal here. Larry McKinzie has officially lobbed the first stone, and campaign season has begun.

TPA Roundup (July 22, 2013)

NOTE: The opinions and viewpoints expressed by other blogs are not necessarily the opinions and viewpoints of Noah M. Horwitz or Texpatriate.

The Texas Progressive Alliance supports the call for justice for Trayvon as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff discusses the status of abortion litigation as pro-choice forces in Texas prepare to file suit over Texas’ harmful new law.

Horwitz at Texpatriate discusses the State of Municipal Elections in the City of Houston.

Can Texas Democrats win in 2014 if they focus on turning out women of all demographics to the polls? PDiddie at Brains and Eggs says ‘no, but’

WCNews at Eye on Williamson makes the case for Wendy Davis to run for governor, Why Wendy Davis must run for Governor of Texas in 2014.

Texas Leftist observes that campaign season has swung into high gear for Houston, as City Council debates the true cost of 380 deals.

====================

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

TFN Insider challenges us to remember all of the nasty things abortion opponents have been saying about us lately.

Jason Stanford compares Rick Perry to Jerry Jones, but doesn’t say who should be more offended by the comparison.

Mark Bennett contends that the Zimmerman verdict didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already believe.

Juanita expresses her pride in a recent award won by Rick Perry.

The TSTA Blog gives an update on the state of CSCOPE.

BOR wants to know what Greg Abbott was thinking when he asked people to ask him anything.

Marty Hajovsky mourns a piece of history damaged by fire in Houston.

And for folks in the Austin area, I Love Beer announces a food drive benefiting the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas.

Annise Parker is not running for Governor

In case you were wondering. The question has been coming up, first in January and later in July, after her name popped up –along with that of Julian Castro, Wendy Davis and Bill White– in PPP polls for upcoming Statewide elections.

Somehow, amidst the rancor over HB2 and the drama over Campaign finance reports, I missed a tweet by the Mayor stating:

“LOL. I appreciate the encouragement to run for Governor, but I have the best job already and hope to keep it for 2 more years.-A.”

This does not come as a surprise to me, nor should it to really anyone. Parker is very obviously running for re-election, a race that will last until the middle of December if there is a runoff. If she were to run Statewide, it would require filing the signatures for the primary ballot about the same day as her third inauguration. There are some pretty outlandish politicians in Houston who would have the unmitigated temerity to do something like that, but Parker is not one of them.

I would feel like a bit of a schmuck if I wrote an entire post on how Parker isn’t running for Governor, because it is sort of like those headlines which triumphantly state that rain causes flooding: this shouldn’t be news to anyone. Instead, I’d like to read the tea leaves for what Parker’s future will look like.

I tend to think there is a very good chance (+90%) Parker will be re-elected, so this occupies her through January of 2016. She will be 59 at that point, and in no hurry to retire. The timing gives her a variety of options going forwards. First, as I predicted long ago, I think there could be a chance Parker will run for the House of Representatives, specifically Sheila Jackson Lee’s seat (though I doubt the two would actually run against each other). SJL will have been serving for 20 years by that point, though she will still be comparatively young.

The Congress option would probably be the only option where Parker would go straight into something else, politically speaking. Otherwise, she would most likely spend at least a year on a private company’s payroll, doing consulting or what not. She will have been on a civil servant’s salary for 18 years by 2016, she may want a change of pace.

Second, if Hillary Clinton runs (which I think she will) and wins (which I also think she will), Parker could easily get a job in the new Administration doing something. Again, this would be a good end-path for the Mayor.

Third, there is certainly still a chance Parker would run Statewide in 2018. Governor is probably not the most likely possibility, as I would put my money on Comptroller. The only problem with this, as I wrote back in August, is that Parker is liberal and lesbian, not the old, White, moderate man that Democrats in this State love to nominate. The African-American Democratic political community in this State has an unfortunate homophobic streak, which could complicate primary efforts. It would be a stretch, to say the least, to find Parker doing well on a Statewide ballot any time soon.

But the biggest priority right now is 2013.