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June 30, 2003

Here it is: Dallas Redistricting Hearing

By Byron LaMasters

I missed parts of the hearing, but I attended the vast majority of the hearing between 8 AM and 11 PM. The part in which I missed, I’ve used other reports to fill in the details. I've included excerpts of reports obtained via email by Tom Blackwell (a Dallas County Democratic precinct chair) and Collin County Democratic Party Chair Deborah Angell Smith.

I arrived at the Dallas redistricting hearing at UT-Southwestern a little bit after 8 AM on Saturday, when there were about 30 Democrats in the parking lot. By 8:30 AM two buses had arrived from Waco and Temple with supporters of U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Waco), and the crowd swelled to over 100 Democrats. At that time, State Rep. Terri Hodge (D-Dallas) had organized a press conference, as the hearing was being held in her district. Flanking her were State Rep. Roberto Alonzo (D-Dallas) and U.S. Rep. Martin Frost (D-Arlington), whose district would be chopped apart in the Republican redistricting proposal. Also joining the press conference were State Rep. John Mabry (D-Waco), House Democratic leader Jim Dunnam (D-Waco), State Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth), Redistricting subcommittee member State Rep. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo), and U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas). The entire north Texas Democratic legislative delegation was united in opposition to the re-redistricting. Martin Frost received an especially warm welcome. During the press conference, a truck drove up with a 15 foot blown up rat with “Rick ‘the rat’ Perry” written on it. That drew quite a reception, and distracted everyone from the press conference for a few minutes. A friend of mine also dressed in a Darth Vader costume and held up a sign reading “Darth DeLay”. Several others dressed in storm trooper costumes. Before we were allowed into the hearing, we were handed sock puppets to hold up when Republicans were speaking to symbolize that they were puppets for Tom DeLay. We were also, all given “Deny DeLay: In America voters choose their Congressmen, Congressmen don’t choose their voters” stickers.

By 9 AM, the crowd had grown to several hundred, and everyone was allowed inside the building. I almost felt like I was in an African American church for a few minutes as a group of several dozen African Americans sang some Black spiritual songs softly, while we filled out witness affirmation forms and waited to enter the auditorium. Only 250 people were allowed into the auditorium due to the firecode. Shortly after 9 AM, the auditorium filled up, and no more people were allowed to enter. I was able to get in at the beginning, but had to leave shortly in order to attend the executive board meeting for the college caucus of the Texas Young Democrats. After the meeting, I had to wait in line for nearly 30 minutes to get back into the hearing. I signed a petition for a potential lawsuit saying that I was denied access to the hearing room.

The hearing began with a bang. Rep. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo) was mad as hell, and he represented how about 90% of the audience felt. I’d say that the audience was about 90/10, Democratic / Republican. Redistricting subcommittee chair Kenny Marchant (R-Carrollton) didn’t call the meeting to order until nearly 10 AM. Marchant tried repeatedly to get everyone quiet, which was not an easy task. One woman in the back kept complaining about the sound, and shouted “I can’t hear you” repeatedly for about five minutes. Finally, Marchant asked if someone in the front would switch seats with her. Within a few seconds, someone offered, and the problem was solved. Still, heavy heckling continued for awhile. After Marchant gave an introduction, Richard Raymond was recognized to speak, and said that this unprecedented hearing was illegal, and a sham, but that he intended to cooperate to allow the voices of the people of north Texas to be heard. After the “illegal and sham” remark, 90% of the crowd rose to give him a prolonged standing ovation, something that occurred dozens of times throughout the day.

After a couple of somewhat civil exchanges, things got really heated when Raymond called on Kenny Marchant to step down as subcommittee chair, since Marchant had a conflict of interest, as he would likely run for one of the redistricted seats. Marchant will likely run in the new 24th district if the proposed map is adopted. He had intended to run in the current 32nd district in 2002, but U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions decided to run in the 32nd instead of the 5th. By playing along, and not challenging Sessions, Marchant was to be rewarded by Tom DeLay with his own seat. The exchange between Marchant and Raymond went back and forth for about 30 minutes as the audience taunted Marchant, and repeatedly shouted "Give it Up! Give it Up!". Finally, Raymond made a motion to remove Marchant as subcommittee chair that was not seconded. The second Democrat on the subcommittee, Ruth McClendon (D-San Antonio) was absent all day. All three Republicans, Kenny Marchant (R-Carrollton), Carl Isett (R-Lubbock) and Kent Grusendorf (R-Arlington) were present, along with Raymond. Other state representatives attending the hearing were allowed by the chair to participate on the panel, could question witnesses, and submit documents and information for the recond (although they did not have a vote on the committee). So, throughout the day Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth), Yvonne Davis (D-Dallas), Terri Hodge (D-Dallas), Roberto Alonzo (D-Dallas) and Jim Dunnam (D-Waco) participated on the panel. Burnam wore a “Deny DeLay” t-shirt under his suit.

Finally, the hearing got underway. U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas) riled up the crowd early with her passionate opposition to the re-redistricting. The elected officials spoke until about 3 or 4 PM. The Democrats were generally applauded, while most Republicans speaking were shouted down and heckled. The Dallas County Republican Party Chair Nate Crain really riled up the crowd when he responded to a question by Lon Burnam asking him if he could name one Republican president since Abraham Lincoln that had done anything for minorities in this country. Crain answered by saying “George W. Bush” which was followed by about five minutes of pandemonium as the vast majority of the African Americans and Hispanics in the audience were incensed. Shortly after Crain, a former Democratic State Representative from Fort Worth, and current Republican spoke, saying that redistricting was good for Black people, because it gave Blacks a new district. He received similar fury from the audience, where he was called "Uncle Tom" and worse. Later, the (former) state representative from Fort Worth that defeated the pro-redistricting Black former rep spoke, saying that he defeated his predecessor, because he was a sitting Democrat who endorsed the Republican gubernatorial candidate.

One of the more powerful speakers was the independent mayor of Waco who urged the committee to not change the 11th district, represented by Chet Edwards. She said that the re-redistricting proposal would have moved the power base of the district to the Fort Worth suburbs, and that the Fort Worth suburbs, and Waco did not share common interests. City Councilmen from Temple and Killeen also spoke in opposition to changes in Chet Edwards district. All of them were upset that redistricting hearings were not held in central Texas. Waco, Temple and Killeen urged the subcommittee to hold hearings in central Texas, but the Republicans on the committee showed little interest. Raymond made a motion, which was not seconded, for the subcommittee to hold hearings in Waco and Laredo. Jim Dunnam made a statement for the record that he thought that the treatment of his constituents that had travelled from Waco to testify at the hearing was atrocious. Dunnam said that only two or three of the dozens of his constituents that attended the hearing had the opportunity to speak before their bus left.

Other speakers included Dallas County Democratic Chair Susan Hays, the Republican and Democratic County Chairs of Tarrant County, and Republican and Democratic national, and state committee men and women. City councilmen from Dallas, Forth Worth, Denton and McKinney all spoke in opposition to redistricting. A city councilwoman from a small exurban town of 1200 was ridiculed for speaking in favor of redistricting, but then asked the committee to change the map, because the proposed map would have divided her town. Well boo-who. After she spoke, she came back to gather her things in the row behind me, and I said to her, “Excuse me ma’am, but your testimony was really dumb. If you don’t want your little town to be divided, then you don’t want redistricting. You’re an idiot”. She didn’t say anything, and walked out hastily. An elderly woman sitting next to her thanked me for what I said.

Others testifying included former Dallas City Councilman Al Lipscomb who repeatedly compared the Republicans to Hitler. Former Congressman Bob Gammage gave us a history lesson, and suggested that Speaker Craddick planned to break quorum himself when both Gammage and Craddick were members of the "Dirty Thirty", a bipartisan group of rebel house members in the early 1970s. Rep. Roberto Alonzo, who defeated Garcia in the primary, was present for much of the testimony, and asked good questions of the witnesses. The response to testimony by Dallas School Board member / Democratic Precinct Chair Joe May was that the 24th Congressional District was a minority opportunity district. Some witnesses spoke about the practice of Gerrymandering by 'packing and cracking.' In this case it was to pack minorities in the 30th Congressional District (EBJ) and divide up or 'crack' and divide their neighborhoods into areas that are absorbed into Republican districts. This “cracking” was especially evident in Tarrant County where the minority neighborhoods were cracked into multiple suburban districts. One Hispanic woman said that she would mobilize her friends, her family, her chicanitos and chicanitas to kick out Republicans. Local LULAC and NAACP leaders testified in opposition to re-redistricting. One Republican precinct chair made several offensive comments. One, she said that Republicans had become the majority party the right way, through hard work and grassroots organizing, while the Democrats resorted to vote stealing and buying votes. That caused quite an uproar, and Richard Raymond asked her what she thought of Republican voter intimidation and vote stealing in Florida in 2000. Raymond also referred to Bush’s 2000 “election” as a Supreme Court selecting, “if the Supreme Court can select our president, what’s the problem with the Court drawn maps”. Two, the Republican precinct chair made a comment saying that “people of your ilk” were responsible for a lot of bad things, as she looked directly at Richard Raymond. The audience was stunned. Terri Hodge asked her what exactly she meant by “people of your ilk”, and the lady said “well, Democrats”. We laughed. Right. Another racist Republican.

One of the more interesting testimonies was by a Rice professor that said that the proposed DeLay / King map was going to be a court map even if adopted by the legislature, because the courts would undoubtedly make revisions to the map, because he believed that in its current form, the map violated the Voting Rights Act. One of the arguments that many Republicans have made for redistricting is that they believe that the legislature, not the courts should be responsible for drawing the maps. This testimony seemed to refute much of that argument. Richard Raymond questioned that argument every time a Republican made it. Raymond asked each Republican using that logic how they felt about Rick Perry skirting his constitutional duty by not calling a special session in 2001 to address redistricting. Only one Republican, some severely balding guy from the Tarrant County Young Republicans said that Perry should have called a special session in 2001. Around 8:30 PM Marchant decided to introduce a proposal to limit the testimony of the remaining witnesses to five minutes. Raymond objected, and said that he thought that it was unfair to the people remaining to limit their testimony, when others spoke for much longer. The LULAC guy shouted out, "if you're willing to stay all night, stand up"! About 75% of the crowd stood up and started chanting "All Night! All Night!". Eventually, Marchant's proposal passed 3-1. Around 9 PM the court reporter stumbled up to the panel and notified Kenny Marchant that he was about to pass out (he had been working 12 hours straight, as the committee decided to skip the scheduled lunch recess). That propted a lawyer friend of mine to say "lets give him a hand, he's been working hard all day". That prompted applause by everyone in the room. Raymond asked that it be put in the record that the court reporter received a standing ovation for his work.

The Dallas County Democratic Party did a great job of getting people out there. The party sent out emails and made phone calls. They provided lunch for Democrats at the hearing. I truly believe that the current Republican overreaching is causing the Democrats in this state to unite in a way that I’ve never seen before in my lifetime. Black, White and Hispanic Democrats stood together yesterday, united in our opposition to re-redistricting. We all realize that we have much more in common than not, and that we all share similar goals and dreams for our party and our country. The hearing gave me a great opportunity to meet with other Democrats, and make progress towards getting young people, and college Democrats on board with the College Caucus of the Texas Young Democrats. There were leaders from SMU and UTD at the hearing, and we made progress in bringing them on board with our organization. Anyway, I left the hearing at 11 PM. I was tired, hungry and exhausted. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an opportunity to testify. I had intended to testify in opposition, and tell the subcommittee that this type of behavior is why so many young people don't get involved in the process. People of my generation often feel that our votes don't make a difference, and that politicians don't care about our issues. Nothing makes that more evident than the proposed redistricting map which divides the student populations at UT into three districts, two Represented by San Antonio Republicans, and one by a Hidalgo County Democrat. The hearing lasted until 1:45 AM. At that point Richard Raymond made a motion that the subcommittee report that they take no further action on redistricting. At first he was denied a vote, then Marchant allowed it. It was denied on a party line 3-1 vote.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:38 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Houston Redistricting Hearing

By Byron LaMasters

As I write on the Dallas Redistricting hearing, Charles Kuffner has everything you need to know about the Houston hearing.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rep. Hopson: Plan would gut Rural Texas

By Byron LaMasters

Today, Democratic State Rep. Chuck Hopson (D-Jacksonville) issued a press release opposing redistricting for many reason, among them, that the DeLay / King plan would "gut rural east Texas":

During the course of the regular session, the leadership’s proposed plan would have gut rural East Texas. The map would have Cherokee County represented by a member from Dallas. Panola County would be split into two districts, one which would be represented by someone from Houston. Someone please tell me, what Dallas and Houston have in common with East Texas other than they want to take our water.

You can be sure that rural Democratic reps will use this as an election issue in 2004, regardless of what happens with redistricting. Neither rural Democrats, nor rural Republicans want to be placed into suburban dominated districts, as is done by the DeLay / King plan.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

First-hand Account of Brownsville "Hearing"

By Byron LaMasters

This was an email forwarded to me by Tom Blackwell, which was forwarded to him by David Van Os:

The following is a personal report by Susan Reeves of Corpus Christi who attended the Brownsville redistricting hearing. This moving account of an American citizen encountering fascist totalitarianism right here on Texas soil is a must read.

Quorum? We Don't Need No Stinking Quorum!

I attended the redistricting committee hearing in Brownsville Thurs June 26. I was one of the people who arrived on the first of three buses from Corpus Christi / Nueces County. We got there at about 9:30 am, so we were not immediately aware of the fact that one of the Republican representatives, Pitts of Waxahachie, was not there. When the Democratic state reps who were in Brownsville realized that the Republicans would be forced to depend upon Democratic State Rep Kino Flores for a quorum, they quickly decided that we had an unexpected opportunity to control the debate by preventing an official meeting from being held. They hastily called a press conference and were waiting for the media to arrive when we got to the hearing location.

All that we knew was that, for some reason, there was a plan in the works to shut down the hearing.

I admit I was a little upset at first, because I had spent a lot of time preparing my remarks to the committee, to say nothing of getting up at 4:30 am to make a three hour bus trip to the hearing location.

Then I started watching the Republican version of participatory government and finally realized why the Democratic state reps felt they had to take such drastic measures.

At about 10 am, we went to the press conference held outside the building on the UT-Brownsville campus which served as the hearing location. I listened to the state reps explain how the Republicans had bloc-voted to deny their request to have full field hearings with all members of both the House and Senate Redistricting Committee present. They explained how the Republicans were violating provisions of the Voting Rights Act by refusing to have these field hearings, by refusing to reveal the true map under consideration, and revealing the lengths to which Tom DeLay had gone to coerce the Republicans into carrying out his wishes. The state reps at the press conference were united in their determination to let their constituents know about the unethical and illegal tactics DeLay was using to force through an unconstitutional redistricting scheme which will cost Texans over $7 million that could have been used to provide health care to children, to purchase new school books, or to provide care to poor elderly people in nursing homes.

We returned to the hearing room, and I was astonished to see that, while we were absent, Reps Crabb and Krusee had decided to convene the meeting despite lacking a legal quorum. We immediately began shouting that there was no quorum established; therefore the meeting was illegal. Many of the papers are reporting that Crabb advised the audience that the meeting was unofficial and not for the record, but I heard both Crabb and--in particular--Krusee say repeatedly to those in the room not to be concerned about the lack of quorum. He--Krusee--would see to it that their comments would be entered into the official record. Of course, he did not answer shouted questions from the approximately 150 people in the audience at the time (I agree with press estimates of total attendance at 300 throughout the day,) how comments made outside an offical hearing could possibly be entered into an official record. After just a few minutes, it became clear to Krusee and Crabb that it was impossible for them to hear any testimony over the shouts of the crowd. They "recessed" the "meeting" and retreated behind the curtains at the rear of the stage. One person outside told me later she had overheard Krusee outside shouting into his cellphone, "Get me the Governor! I need to speak to the Governor immediately!"

As soon as most of the people had stepped out of the room, Crabb again attempted to illegally convene the sham hearing. From what I saw it was actually Krusee calling the shots and telling Crabb what to do. By now, it had become obvious that Crabb and Krusee had no intention of calling upon anyone directly involved in the dispute to testify.

A Hispanic man who is a veteran and a member of the GI Forum (a civil rights organization,) stepped up to the microphone and began to address the crowd. Krusee was furious and told him that he had not been called to speak. The man reminded Krusee that this was not a meeting, just a gathering of people in a public place, and anyone had a first amendment right to speak freely. The man said that since there was no legal meeting, he had as much right to talk to the group as Krusee and Crabb. At this point, Krusee demanded that the man either sit down or leave. The man told Krusee he had no authority to say that. Krusee looked around and demanded that someone do something to get this man away from the microphone. One of the University police officers walked up very close to the man in an aggressive manner--he later told me the officer had actually pushed him with his chest or stomach. Susie Luna-Saldana of the GI Forum rushed to the mic, and started shouting, "Are you going to arrest a veteran, Rep Crabb? I ask you Rep Crabb--are you going to arrest a veteran?" By this time, most in the audience were shouting, and the man from the GI Forum who made the impassioned speech about our right to free speech had walked up on stage and bowed his head as if in prayer, followed by about 5 other GI Forum members carrying signs opposed to redistricting. Many news reports said the police were called, but I never saw anyone other than about 4 University peace officers in the room. However, at the time, I felt like they were going to start arresting us all at any moment. An official with UTB came into the hearing room at this time, and Krusee demanded he come to the microphone. When he got to the mic, (I did not hear the official's name due to the noise) Krusee said that--since the "meeting" was being held on the UTB campus, the reps did not have the "responsibilty" to maintain order, and that it was the responsibility of UTB officials.

The official responded by asking for people to sit down and be quiet, to no avail. He then said something about it being difficult to do anything about the protests, since UTB was only providing a venue, and as long as people were only shouting, there was not much the University could do about it--he seemed to be saying as long as we were peacefully protesting, we had the right to speak out. Krusee was furious--once again, he and Crabb disappeared behind the curtains in the back of the stage. As they left, the GI Forum members began to sing "God Bless America." Strangely enough, Crabb sang along with them as he was collecting his papers from the table onstage. A few minutes later, at 12:30, they announced they were breaking for lunch and would return at 2:30 pm.

At 2:30, Crabb and Krusee started the show. By this time, the second bus from Corpus Christi had arrived. We allowed Crabb and Krusee to speak without more than scattered words of dissent. We were willing to listen to what they had to say; it was the illegally-taken testimony from witnesses we opposed. Krusee seemed to take this as a sign we had given up. Once again, he said that he would make sure that any testimony taken in this "hearing" would be entered into the official record. A few shouts of "No Quorum! " "Illegal testimony!" and "No record!" were heard. Then another witness called by Crabb--of course, it was no one from the Corpus Christi buses--started to speak. Once again, sporadically at first, but rapidly building to a roar, were the shouts of "No quorum!" It became a cheering, hand-clapping chant, with no more than 10--15 people sitting silently. Since the witness had stopped speaking, the chants began to die out.

Krusee then tried again to ask the witness something. This time, the crowd chanted, "Si se puede!" (rough English translation: Yes We Can!) As that chant died out, Krusee said that he was sorry, but the witness would need to file written testimony with the committee because he did not feel that he should ask him to testify when he was being "verbally and physically intimidated." Then Krusee spat, "These proceedings are NOT illegal." I was so shocked by what I was hearing that I wrote those two statements down, in order to remember exactly what Krusee said. I realized--with horror--that I was watching Krusee rewrite history to his liking. He wanted the "approved" record to show that witnesses were "physically intimidated." THAT IS A LIE. He wanted the record to show that "these proceedings" were "legal." THAT IS A LIE. It was a true Kafka moment: I was in the old Soviet Union, not America; I was through the looking glass, and the Queen was yelling, "Off with her head!"

Then, an Hispanic gentleman from the GI Forum walked to the microphone. All the other members of the Forum lined up behind him with their signs. (They were easy to identify because they were wearing their distinctive red and blue military-style caps.) Krusee was absolutely determined to force us to accept the "legality" of the "hearing." He asked the man to state his name, address, and Social Security number, although he had NEVER asked another witness to do so, and one's Social Security number is NOT required in order to speak. The man refused, saying again that this was not a legal meeting; therefore, he was not required to identify himself. Krusee asked again for this information. Again, the man refused, saying it was not a legal meeting and he had a First Amendment right to say whatever he pleased. He then began to talk about how Hispanics were not stupid people, and realized what the current redistricting plans would do to them. Krusee then completely lost his temper. He stood, looking down on the group of about 25 Hispanic Americans with an expression of (what I considered) absolute hatred upon his face. I was stunned by his venomous expression. He then glared at the person in the sound booth in the back of the auditorium, and drew his hand across his neck in a slashing motion, telling the sound man to turn off the microphone. In less than 10 seconds, the microphone went dead. As Krusee disappeared in fury behind the curtain, the GI Forum members called out for us all to join in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance; then once again, joined by Crabb, they sang "God Bless America."

Although we had managed to send Krusee packing, Crabb stayed, seated quietly at the table onstage. We spent the rest of the afternoon chanting slogans, in both English and Spanish. We went outside again for a live appearance on two early local news programs at 5 pm. We then had a short meeting where Jerry Hebert (not sure of the spelling,) an attorney, representing US Reps Solomon Ortiz (my rep) and almost all of the other US Democratic Representatives in Texas, told us that we had done something today akin to the public version of the "Killer D" walkout, which had exceeded anyone's wildest expectations. We repeated our appearances on both 6 pm broadcasts, and then those of us who were on the first bus loaded up and left (although we might as well have stayed, since we broke down and had to wait for the later bus to rescue us.) The rest of our group stayed until the "close" of the "meeting" at 8 pm.

So what have I learned after an unbelievable journey and only 9 hours sleep in the last 2 days? I have learned that I love my country--actually, that I love the ideals upon which my country is based--equality, democracy, and the brotherhood that exists between all of us who strive to ensure our freedoms remain intact. I have learned that there is a concerted assault to deny those of us who do not hold a rigid, authoritarian view of government a place at the table. I fear for the soul of my country. I can tell you that I will never forget this trip to Brownsville, not because it was pleasant, but because it was there that I realized what it means to stand up for the ideals of this country in the face of official oppression. I pray that I will continue to have the courage to stand up against all those who seek to suck the very soul out of America through totalitarian tactics like those I witnessed. I can now say wtih total assurance that I am PROUD to be an American patriot.

Susan Reeves

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

People Powered Howard

By Andrew Dobbs

Well I suppose that many of the readers of this blog are keeping up with the Democratic Presidential Primary so you are probably already aware that Howard Dean has raised over $6.5 million and counting this quarter. As of 12 minutes ago we had raised $230,000 today alone. The amazing thing is that the average donation size is less than $100 which suggests a few things.

First, we have tens of thousands of new donors, people that are moved by this message into giving money. Ted Sorenson always said that 50 $1 donations are better than one $100 donation. The simple act of writing a check, or giving your credit card number to a stranger so that another stranger can run for office is an incredibly huge step and if you can convince 25,000 people nationwide to do that, you are a force to be reckoned with.

Secondly, a very large portion of this bounty will be matched by federal dollars- this $6.5 million could end up being $10 million or more by the end of it all.

Finally, Howard Dean can beat Bush because he can hold his own on Bush's ground of traditional campaigning and then beat him on the field of grassroots organizing. People talk about how much money Bush has, etc., but there is a saturation point. $200 million vs. $100 million isn't that big of a difference, they both buy a lot of commercials. In fact, in some races (a la Tony Sanchez) too many ads can backfire. So Dean has a fundraising muscle with ordinary people that, when coupled with the big dollar donors that will show up if he wins the nom, can build a healthy war chest and then he can turn out crowds, build excitement and have a movement that costs almost nothing but is incredibly powerful. He is the only candidate that doesn't look like a creature of the out-of-touch elitism of Washington DC and is the only one with the power to create such a movement.

Joe Trippi called us all into the conference room today to let us know that we are making history. Someday soon there will be an upper division poli sci class called "The Politics of the Internet" and the entire first few weeks will be devoted to Dean For America. This campaign is doing something never done before and it is incredibly exciting to be a part of it. I would invite you to be a part of it too by giving just a little bit of money, $10, $50, $2000, it all makes a difference. You can go to http://www.deanforamerica.com/contribute and give there.

Let's take our country back.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 12:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

House Adjourns

By Byron LaMasters

The House has adjourned until 10 AM Thursday. Beforehand, Rep. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo) asked to ammend the House rules so that representatives could not ask people at hearings for their social security numbers. Redistricting committee chair Joe Crabb (R-Atascocita) had asked a Hispanic veteran in Brownsville for his social security number on Thursday.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Crabb refuses to answer questions

By Byron LaMasters

Redistricting committee chair Joe Crabb (R-Atascocita) announced that the redistricting committee would meet at 2:30 PM today.

Crabb then refused to answer a question on the floor by Rep. Paul Moreno (D-El Paso). Moreno asked whether full committee redistricting hearings were held across the state of Texas. Crabb answered that six subcommittee hearings were held. Moreno said that Crabb wasn't answering his question and asked again. Finally, Crabb walked off refusing to answer the question further.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sen. Lucio to run for Re-election

By Byron LaMasters

Senator Eddie Lucio Jr (D-Brownsville) announced his intent to run for re-election for the State Senate last Friday. This lessens the speculation that he'll support re-redistricting. Perhaps Lucio saw Thursday's demonstration in Brownsville, and realized that he'd have quite a few enemies if he supported re-redistricting. Hopefully, this is a sign that Lucio will oppose any redistricting proposal:

Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, announced Friday that he will seek a sixth term in the Senate next week. His announcement lessened speculation that he might be one of three Democrats to break ranks and vote to bring up a redistricting bill.

Other Democratic Senators who might vote with Republicans are Frank Madla of San Antonio and Ken Armbrister of Victoria. On the Republican side, Sen. Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant is considered most likely to vote against a map he views as unfair.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

House Resolution 3

By Byron LaMasters

Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) had a motion (HR 3) that would be that the speaker would appoint two committeees to notify the Senate and the Governor that the House has convened and is prepared to do the business in which they were called to do. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo) noted his opposition. Garnett Coleman (D-Houston) noted his opposition based on the fact that his constituents in hearings opposed taking up the matter. Paul Moreno (D-El Paso) noted his opposition because their were no hearings in El Paso in his questioning of Garnett Coleman. Moreno also said that the Voting Rights Act required that full committee hearings be held in all of the major population areas of the state, where the voting rights of minorities would be changed. Since their was no hearing in El Paso, Moreno believed that this redistricting bill was a violation of that act. Coleman and Moreno also noted that no hearing was held in South Texas (the Brownsville hearing did not have a quorum). Rick Noriega (D-Houston) believed that the subcommittee hearings were unconstitutional. He also took a shot at Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) in saying that the redistricting hearings and the session were held hastily in order to further the political ambitions of people wanting to run for mayor (like Sylvester Turner). Turner went on to defend himself his resolution as just a curtesy and a formality, and attacked anyone that would misrepresent his position, as Turner opposes redistricting. Turner was defended by Al Edwards (D-Houston), but then decided to withdraw the resolution.

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Quorum Present

By Byron LaMasters

Speaker Craddick has just announced that a quorum is present at today's special session.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Watch the Session Online

By Byron LaMasters

Starting at 10 AM the special re-redistricting session will be broadcast live online, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 29, 2003

Dallas Hearing Overview

By Byron LaMasters

I've been hosting several people from out of town this weekend, and I've had little time to post. I plan to post a full report this evening on the Dallas hearing, which I attended from 8 AM until 11 PM with a few breaks. The crowd was about 90% Democratic, and it was a quite a circus. Check back this evening or tomorrow.

This is the Dallas Morning News article on the hearing, here.

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June 28, 2003

Dallas Hearing

By Byron LaMasters

I will be attending the Dallas redistricting hearing today. Friday saw the State Democratic Party chair accuse Republicans of rigging the subcommittee hearings in Dallas. The Dallas Morning News reports:

State Democratic Party chairwoman Molly Beth Malcolm said an e-mail by Collin County GOP chairman Rick Neudorff sent to fellow Republicans was proof that legislative hearings on redistricting are "nothing but a sham."

Mr. Neudorff said his e-mail was only an effort to rally speakers and help prepare them for Saturday's all-day redistricting hearing at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

The hearing is being conducted by a five-member panel of the House Committee on Redistricting. The hearings are part of a GOP-led congressional redistricting effort that will dominate a special session that begins Monday.
Mr. Neudorff said his efforts were similar to Ms. Malcolm's handiwork this week when she sent a mailing to Democrats with suggested wording for letters to the editor in local newspapers.

"I'm not trying to pull a fast one," Mr. Neudorff said.

In his e-mail sent Friday morning to supporters in Collin County, Mr. Neudorff asked for volunteers to testify at the hearings.

"You can either write your own testimony, or our retained [volunteer] group of speech writers will be happy to draft remarks for you," he wrote.

He said that if supporters planned to go, they should let him know, "as I will need to get you a place in speaking order AHEAD of time," he said.

Ms. Malcolm said the e-mail shows that "Collin County Republicans and perhaps even the committee itself are rigging the process."

Speakers, except for elected officials, are usually taken on a first-come, first-served basis at such committee hearings.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 27, 2003

Redistricting Senate Committee Hearings

By Byron LaMasters

There will be re-redistricting Senate subcommittee hearings in Austin, Laredo, San Angelo, McAllen, Houston and Dallas over the next few days. Times and locations, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Brownsville Hearing

By Byron LaMasters

Ok, well here's what happened. On Wednesday, three Democrats on the House Redistricting Committee sent the following letter to the chairman, Rep. Joe Crabb (R-Atascocita), notifying him of their intention to attend hearings other than the ones in which they were assigned:

June 24, 2003 The Honorable Joe Crabb Chairman, House Committee on Redistricting Austin, Texas

Chairman Crabb:

We are writing to express our concern about the Subcommittee assignments for the Redistricting Committee hearings scheduled later this week. We were elected to provide effective representation for our constituents, but your subcommittee assignments make that virtually impossible.

Each one of us is represented by a Member of Congress who resides in San Antonio. We are the only members of the Redistricting Committee whose Member of Congress lives in San Antonio. However, two of us have been assigned to attend a hearing in Lubbock and the other has been asked to travel to Brownsville, making it impossible for any of us to attend the San Antonio hearing should we all go where we were assigned.

We note that Rep. Marchant and Rep. Grusendorf are both assigned to the hearing in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area where they live. Rep. Isset is assigned to the Lubbock hearing in his home town. Both Rep. Talton and Rep. Wilson, the Democrat who most consistently supports Republican redistricting plans, are assigned to the hearing in Houston, their home town. Given this subcommittee system, certain travel and geographic difficulties are inevitable, but we are concerned that our assignments may result from our being the three committee members who have most vigorously opposed this unprecedented mid-decade redistricting effort.

In addition, Rep. McClendon and Rep. Raymond had first been told they would go to San Antonio, then that was changed. Both Raymond and McClendon were then informed they were going to Lubbock. When Rep. McClendon inquired about this change, her staff was informed she had agreed to this change when in fact she has never agreed to go to Lubbock and would not have agreed to be assigned to Lubbock over San Antonio.

Our situation underscores the fact that the process of splitting into subcommittees for simultaneous hearings is inherently flawed. Instead of providing individual committee members with an opportunity to most effectively participate in a hearing process involving the full committee, this process is a feeble attempt that puts haste ahead of inclusive participation.

We trust that it is your intention to allow us to fully participate as committee members should one or more of us choose to attend a different subcommittee hearing that allows us to better represent our constituents. Thank you for your consideration.


Mike Villarreal - Vice Chairman
Richard Raymond - Member
Ruth Jones McClendon - Member

The five members of the committee assigned to the Brownsville hearing were the chair, Joe Crabb (R - Atascocita) and committee members Rep. Mike Krusee (R-Round Rock), Rep. Jim Pitts, (R-Waxahachie), Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio), and Rep. Kino Flores (D-Mission). Villarreal attended the subcommittee hearing in San Antonio, although he was not on that subcommittee. Pitts was unable to attend the Brownsville meeting because of a "personal conflict". With only three of the five committee members in attendence, Flores decided to leave the hearing, in effect, breaking the quorum of the subcommittee. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram had the best overview of events in Brownsville:

An angry group of South Texas activists and a Democratic state representative shut down a public redistricting hearing Thursday, hurling insults at Republican House leaders and turning the hearing into a boisterous pro-Hispanic rally.

The hearing was halted before it ever started when state Rep. Kino Flores, D-Mission, walked out to break the subcommittee's quorum, evoking memories of last month's Democratic walk-out that shut down House business.

"What has happened is that a sleeping giant has been awakened," Oliveira said.

The committee had been scheduled to take 11 hours of testimony on redistricting, in anticipation of a special legislative session called by Gov. Rick Perry to take up the issue beginning Monday.

After waiting an hour for a quorum, state Rep. Joe Crabb, R-Atascosita, the committee chairman, declared the hearing would not be official but that all testimony would be taken down by a court reporter and shared with other committee members.

Instantly, more than 50 people waiting to testify stood up and walked out. A few minutes later, as Oliveira was blasting the proposed redistricting plan, they walked back in and - with shouts, whistles and cheers - demanded that Crabb shut down the meeting.

"It's unofficial, it's illegal, you're wasting our time," said Joe Ortiz, a South Texas activist. "Shut it down."

Crabb recessed the meeting, but he and state Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, the other committee member waiting to hear testimony, said they wanted people to have a chance to testify anyway if they so desired.

"It was the governor, not this chairman, who called the special session on redistricting," Krusee said, as the crowd booed and hissed. "The chairman is doing his duty ... (the protest) has denied the people of South Texas the right to free speech, a voice."

University police were called to the auditorium in the school's Science, Engineering and Technology Building in case the group of about 50, which Krusee compared to "a mob," posed a threat to the two GOP House members who were hearing testimony. No arrests were made.

Moments later, Oliveira joined the protesters and called the hearing "a sham" because the entire redistricting committee wasn't present. Crabb had broken the 15-member committee into three subcommittees and sent them to three different cities on Thursday to begin the hearings.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram also wrote that Texas LULAC announced that it planned to fight redistricting.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Shelia Jackson-Lee accused the Harris County Republican Party of race-baiting.

The Abilene Reporter News writes that Abilene would lose clout under The DeLay / King redistristricting plan.

For further reading, here's what other papers wrote on the redistricting subcommittee hearings yesterday:

Austin American Statesman: here
Brownsville Herald: here and here.
Dallas Morning News: here.
Harlingen Valley Morning Star: here
Houston Chronicle: here and here.
San Antonio Express-News: here

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Get your Deny DeLay T-shirt

By Byron LaMasters


Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 26, 2003

Brownsville Re-redistricting Hearing Shut Down

By Byron LaMasters

Information, here.

People familiar with both sides in Dallas have described what they expected the Dallas hearing to be like using words like "circus" and "pandemonium".

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ok, back to re-redistricting

By Byron LaMasters

There's redistricting hearings today, and I plan on posting on them tonight / tomorrow. I'm pretty much done writing about sodomy for now, and I'll go back to redistricting and all in my next posts, but I'll probably be gone for much of the rest of the day, so expect more on redistricting tonight / tomorrow. If things get really interesting, expect a post on the political state report.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Harry Blackmun's memory honored

By Byron LaMasters

Justice Harry Blackmun is one of my personal heroes. He was a conservative appointed by Richard Nixon in 1970, but through his service on the court, he found an independent streak, and near the end of his career, he ended up being one of the most consistantly liberal voices on the court. He is best known as the author of the Roe v. Wade opinion, but he also wrote a great dissent in Bowers v. Hardwick (which, in 1986 upheld Georgia's sodomy law on a 5-4 vote). Here's the end of Blackmun's dissent:

I can only hope that here, too, the Court soon will reconsider its analysis and conclude that depriving individuals of the right to choose for themselves how to conduct their intimate relationships poses a far greater threat to the values most deeply rooted in our Nation's history than tolerance of nonconformity could ever do. Because I think the Court today betrays those values, I dissent.

Blackmun is smiling today.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Legal Arguement for Gay Marriage?

By Byron LaMasters

From Lawrence et al. v. Texas

The rationale of Bowers does not withstand careful analysis. In his dissenting opinion in Bowers JUSTICE STEVENS came to these conclusions:

“Our prior cases make two propositions abundantly clear. First, the fact that the governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice; neither history nor tradition could save a law prohibiting miscegenation from con- stitutional attack. Second, individual decisions by married persons, concerning the intimacies of their physical relationship, even when not intended to produce offspring, are a form of “liberty ” protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Moreover, this protection extends to intimate choices by unmarried as well as married persons.” 478 U.S., at 216 (footnotes and citations omitted).

JUSTICE STEVENS ’ analysis, in our view, should have been controlling in Bowers and should control here. Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today. It ought not to remain binding precedent. Bowers v. Hardwick should be and now is overruled. The present case does not involve minors. It does not involve persons who might be injured or coerced or who are situated in relationships where consent might not easily be refused. It does not involve public conduct or prostitution. It does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter. The case does involve two adults who,with full and mutual consent from each other, engaged in sexual practices common to a homosexual lifestyle. The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime. Their right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives them the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government. “It is a promise of the Constitution that there is a realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter.” Casey, supra, at 847. The Texas statute furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual. Had those who drew and ratified the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment known the components of liberty in its manifold possibilities, they might have been more specific. They did not presume to have this insight. They knew times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress.As the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Texas Fourteenth District is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion. It is so ordered.

Brilliant. What's next? Kennedy writes that, "The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny...". We'll have to wait and see how broadly this can be interpreted, but following Kennedy's logic, it seems as if there is now a legal arguement for gay marriage, and equal rights for gays and lesbians at every level.

Already, the decision is being used to push for gay marriage in Connecticut:

While Connecticut does not have a sodomy law, Rep. Michael Lawlor said the high court's 6-3 decision helps support the argument for gay marriage in the state.

Lawlor said the Supreme Court justices made clear that it is unconstitutional to single out gays and lesbians and deny them equal rights. He expects that argument also will be used in the push for gay marriage in Connecticut.

Lawlor and several other lawmakers tried to get a bill passed this session that would have allowed same-sex couples to register their relationships with the state. The registry would have given more rights to same-sex couples.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dubya's model Supreme Court Justice

By Byron LaMasters

Here's a quote from the dissent by Georege W. Bush's model Surpeme Court Justice:

"The court has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda,'' Scalia wrote for the three. He took the unusual step of reading his dissent from the bench.

"The court has taken sides in the culture war," Scalia said, adding that he has "nothing against homosexuals."

How compassionate, Georege, huh? Oh, and I'm amused with the praise that the neocons are giving Clarence Thomas for this statement:

If I were a member of the Texas Legislature, I would vote to repeal. Punishing someone for expressing his sexual preference through noncommercial consensual conduct with another adult does not appear to be a worthy way to expend valuable law enforcement resources.

Well good for you Clarence! But you still think that the government has the right to go into gay people's homes, and arrest them for private, consentual sex. You can't have it both ways.

Update: Kos is posting on Scalia's opinion as well. He's right. This is a huge step towards equal rights for gays and lesbians in this country (yes, that includes gay marriage). Why? Because the very foundation in which state sponsored discrimination against gays and lesbians is allowed is because of sodomy laws. Why can't gays adopt children? They're criminals. Why can't gays be protected in hate crimes laws? They're criminals. Why can gays be discriminated against in housing and employment? They're criminals. Lawrence vs. Texas was not just about sodomy. It's about knocking down the foundation of every law in this country that discrimates against gays and lesbians.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Historic Day

By Byron LaMasters

I'm legal.

Update: I'm still looking at the decision, but I'm pleased that the ruling was on privacy as opposed to just equal protection, as ruling on privacy strikes down all sodomy laws, not just laws in states where there's a different standard for homosexual and heterosexual sodomy (like Texas).

Good line of attack that Howard Dean is using and that all Democrats should pick up on:

The Texas anti-sodomy law was nothing less than government-sanctioned intolerance and discrimination. The fact that President Bush defended the law while he was Governor shows that he is not the uniter he claims to be.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:35 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Dan Morales caught lying

By Byron LaMasters

Well, it wouldn't be the first time. Dan Morales ran for the Democratic nomination for governor last year, losing to Tony Sanchez. Morales was the highest ranking Latino, ever in the state of Texas, serving as Attorney General from 1991-1999. Morales went on to endorse Rick Perry in the general election after Perry appointed Morales to his anti-crime commission. But that wasn't good enough for Morales. He endorsed David Dewhurst for Lt. governor, too. So, I really have zero sympathy for this man... he's in jail now, and he's getting what he deserves:

Former Texas Attorney General Dan Morales was jailed Wednesday after prosecutors alleged that while free on bond on federal charges, he may have lied about his income when he bought two luxury cars.

Morales, who has been indicted on charges of fraud, conspiracy and lying on a loan application for a home, was taken into custody by federal marshals during a routine court hearing on his case and booked into the Travis County Jail.

Prosecutors claimed that although Morales had earlier told the court he couldn't afford to hire a lawyer, he stated on loan applications for a Lexus and a Mercedes that he made $20,000 a month and $20,800 a month.

By making the contradictory statements about his income, prosecutors said, he may have committed new offenses and therefore should have his personal recognizance bond revoked.

The loan application information "was inconsistent with previous testimony of the defendant," said Shana Jones, spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, who is based in San Antonio.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks set a hearing for this afternoon to determine if a new bond should be set.

Last year, Morales couldn't afford a lawyer, this year he's making $20,000 a month. Something's just not right.

Full disclosure: I did vote for Tony Sanchez, both in the Democratic primary, and the general election last year. I don't regret it, but I would not support him (in the primary) if he runs again. I considered voting for Dan Morales, but I gave Tony Sanchez the benefit of the doubt in the primary after debating with his son for about an hour at a University Democrats party in early 2002, and also because I hoped that he would use his millions of dollars to help rebuild the Texas Democratic Party (register voters, voter education, etc). Unfortunately, most of his money was wasted away on largely ineffective television ads, and high priced political consultants. I've met Tony Sanchez several times, and he's a very decent, family man, who cares deeply about education and other issues. But, as a candidate, he just didn't have it, went way too negative, way too early, failed to offer a compelling vision for the state, changed his campaign theme weekly, and couldn't recover from Rick Perry's attacks.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:03 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 25, 2003


By Byron LaMasters


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Re-Redistricting Update

By Byron LaMasters

With the special re-redistricting session less than a week away, there does not appear to be any Democratic plan to break quorum again. The Austin American Statesman reports.

Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle reports on Sen. Jeff Wentworth's (R-San Antonio) proposal to create an independent commission to deal with redistricting, taking it out of the hands of the legislature, much like what is done in Iowa, New Jersey, and several other states. It's a great idea, but I doubt that it will go anywhere. Here's what the Houston Chronicle says about it:

Hopeful but realistic, a Republican state senator from San Antonio is preparing two proposals for his colleagues during the upcoming special session on congressional redistricting.

For the seventh time in 10 years, Sen. Jeff Wentworth will sponsor legislation that, beginning after the 2010 Census, would take redistricting out of the hands of lawmakers and place it with an independent, bipartisan citizens commission.

He also is drafting a redistricting map that, for now, would give Republicans the opportunity to increase their share of Texas' congressional districts.

Wentworth said he believes, especially in view of the contentious fight over redistricting this year, that the citizens commission is the way to go. On Tuesday he prefiled a constitutional amendment and a related bill that would create one.

They were the first pieces of legislation filed in advance of the special session, which Gov. Rick Perry has scheduled to begin on Monday.

Wentworth said several other states have redistricting commissions. But he admitted he was under no illusion that his idea will finally catch on in Austin, since it has been rejected in every legislative session since 1993.

Wentworth said the redistricting map he is drafting would allow Republicans to win 19 of Texas' 32 congressional districts, a proportion similar to the 19 Republicans who now hold seats in the 31-member state Senate.


Wentworth said the bitter congressional redistricting fight prompted him to renew his push for a different approach.

"I am more convinced than ever that Texans will be better served if the redrawing of legislative and congressional lines is placed in the hands of men and women whose political futures do not depend on the outcome," he said.

The commission Wentworth is proposing would include four Republicans and four Democrats selected by state legislators and a nonvoting presiding officer selected by the other commission members. Members could not have served in public office or a party leadership post during the previous two years.

I like Wentworth's plan for the redistricting commission. If any good comes out of this special re-redistricting session, it would be taking redistricting out of the hands of the legislature. Democrats should have done this in the early 1990s when they were in charge. Wentworth is generally considered a moderate Republican. He narrowly won his primary challenge against a ultra-conservative opponent who had the support of the state party chair. Wentworth has made appeals to the conservative base this session, as he authored the Texas Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and made the following statement:

People talk about discrimination as though it were a bad thing. It is something we do all the time.

Fortunately, the Lesbian, Gay Rights Lobby of Texas attacked him nearly daily for the statement, which pissed off Wentworth, but he's really not that anti-gay. He's just scared to death that he'll lose a Republican primary, as he is pro-choice, and generally moderate, and not beholden to the state party leadership.

The Houston Chronicle also writes that two senators, Frank Madla, D-San Antonio and Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant were unsure of their vote on redistricting.

The Dallas Morning News writes that Democrats are counting on the senate to kill re-redistricting.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:22 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

What will $50,000 buy?

By Byron LaMasters

While it is illegal to fundraise during the regular session, there is no law prohibiting fundraising during a special session. Only this session was a law signed that prohibits fundraising during the twenty days following the regular session, during which the governor has a chance to review bills to sign or veto (this law of course was inspired by the 2001 session where Rick Perry took tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars from special interests, and returned the favor to those interests by vetoing unfavorable bills). Anyway, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has an offer for all you folks out there willing to spend $50,000. The Dallas Morning News reports:

For $50,000, a political contributor to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst gets to visit his Hill Country ranch. A donation of $25,000 buys an invitation for two to a holiday reception in Austin.

The legislative session is barely over, another one is about to begin, and campaign fund raising is in full swing. Mr. Dewhurst has an Austin fund-raising reception scheduled for Monday, the first day lawmakers return to the Capitol for a special session on congressional redistricting.

Texas law prohibits statewide office holders and legislators from collecting donations during the regular session, but it's legal to accept them during a special session. The special session that starts Monday will be the state's first since 1992.


Invitations sent by the David Dewhurst Committee promote joining the "Dewhurst Council" for donations ranging from $1,000 to $50,000.

A $50,000 donation earns the title "chairman," with a visit to the lieutenant governor's Snaffle Bit ranch near Fredericksburg, an invitation to the holiday reception and biannual meetings in Austin.

"Wow," said Tom "Smitty" Smith, Texas director of the campaign finance watchdog group Public Citizen. "I don't ever recall seeing a [solicitation] that high before."

The state should ban fund raising during special sessions, Mr. Smith said.

"The implication is always there that if you contribute during a legislative session, it will influence the way they vote or the actions they might take," Mr. Smith said. "That's why we don't allow fund raising when the Legislature is in a regular session."

Chuck Anderson, a spokesman for the David Dewhurst Committee, said the timing of the Dewhurst event was a coincidence. The reception was scheduled weeks before Gov. Rick Perry called for the special session.

Well, darn, it's tempting, but I think I'll pass on this one.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 24, 2003

Why Affirmative Action is still needed.

By Byron LaMasters

I agree wholeheartedly with this part of today's Daily Texan editorial:

If we're ever to eliminate race conscious admissions policies we need to improve K-12 education. Right now, too many schools are not providing a sound education and most of those schools are in poor school districts, many of which are predominately Hispanic and black communities. The state must prepare for the day affirmative action becomes illegal and there's no quick-fix like race-conscious admissions policies to help get more minority students into selective colleges.

My position on affirmative action is that it is an imperfect solution to a difficult problem. The long term goal, in my opinion, should be equal opportunity for people of all races without affirmative action. We're not there, yet, and Republicans perpetuate the need for affirmative action by opposing programs such as universal preschool, adequate money for inner-city schools and affordable college education for the middle class (and no, I'm not claiming that Democrats have a perfect record on these issues). I'd love to be able to work with Republicans on these problems, so that it wouldn't matter if you're born to a family of immigrants, to a single mom in the inner city or to a traditional two parent family in the suburbs - you would have the same equal access to a quality pre-college education. Isn't that what America is about? Giving everyone the opportunity, no matter who they are, or where they're from, an opportunity to succeed? We're not there, yet.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:56 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Phone Banking for MoveOn.org Primary

By Byron LaMasters

I just received a call from the Howard Dean campaign reminding me to vote.

Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to rig the primary for Al Sharpton (har-har), but the good folks on free republic can't decide whether to vote for Sharpton or Kucinich. They're also a little paranoid. LOL.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:31 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Hopwood is Dead

By Byron LaMasters

From today's Austin American Statesman:

"Hopwood is dead," said Doug Laycock, an associate dean at the University of Texas School of Law and a strategist in UT's defense of affirmative action.

The nation's highest court did not revisit the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision known as Hopwood. But affirmative action supporters and UT leaders said the court's ruling in two separate cases from the University of Michigan opened the door, once again, to the consideration of race as one factor in university admissions.

There is no program in place at the moment, but it is likely that the graduate and professional programs, where racial imbalance is the greatest, will see changes first.

My thoughts? I think that this is good for UT. Since Hopwood, minority representation at UT, especially African-American representation at UT has been atrocious. It's shameful that a state university has only 3-4% African Americans in a state that is 12% African American. Is that a problem of affirmative action? No. Is it because Black people aren't qualified to go to UT? No. It's because too many African Americans are not given the opportunity to get a college education, because of our state's (and our nation's) failure to ensure a quality (pre-k through high school) education for all of our children, and give everyone a reasonable opportunity to afford a quality college education. Until the inequalities in pre-college education are addressed, without affirmative action, we discriminate against minorities, and children of poor families, Black and White, that did not have the opportunities that most college students (white suburbanites) had. Affirmative action is the imperfect solution until the problem of education inequality at the younger level is addressed.

I'm white, but I'm also better off for being exposed to diversity. Part of a college education is being exposed to people of different backgrounds, of different races, of different countries, of different religions, of different sexual orientations and more. We're all better off for that diversity, and that diversity gives us a better understanding of the world, and the people that we share it with.

For those interested, here is some background on the Hopwood case from 1996, which banned affirmative action at the University of Texas.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 23

By Andrew Dobbs

I hope that everybody got a chance to see the governor's speech yesterday, I hear it was great.

Yes, despite the fact that I was on Church Street in downtown Burlington, Vermont I was unable to hear the speech. Instead, I was busy attempting to cover up a giant "Vote for Green Party" sign that some rabble rousers (apparantly not officially from the Greens- they called to apologize to us and to clarify that this was not them that did this) had decided to bring to the event. I did get to meet Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-VT) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), both were friendly and Mrs. Jeffords was an absolute delight (I hear that Mrs. Leahy is also very nice, though I did not meet her).

Other than that I spent 13 hours (starting at 4:30 am) carrying heavy things and dealing with various head cases on the hottest day of the year- roughly 95 degrees all day. There were 6,000 people there, the governor rocked and it was very exciting, even if I am sore all over my body today. Nothing a few beers couldn't help. After the event and a nap most of the campaign went to Breakwaters, a restaurant on the waterfront, for dinner. 4 of us- including myself and Gray Brooks the guy from Alabama that introduced the governor- jumped into the lake. It was very fun.

Don't forget to vote in the Move On Primary today. If you have AOL they have been blocking the ballot as spam but you can request another ballot. There have also been some technical difficulties w/ Move On, they should be better soon, keep trying! Have a good one!

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 11:47 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Political State Report

By Byron LaMasters

I just posted on the Political State Report. It's a long post on several topics, so let me know if you have any comments.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

First, of all, a special thanks to Charles Kuffner for promoting my site, and congrats to the Rice Owls for their victory in the CWS. I know that Charles and a lot of other folks in Houston are quite happy tonight. Finally, I'd urge my Republican friend, TX Pundit, who feels that "drawing districts is an inherently partisan process that should not be left to the supposed high-minded courts", to take a look at Charles's post on Rick Perry's change of heart on redistricting. Two years ago, Rick Perry felt that a special session to deal with redistricting would be a "waste of taxpayer money", yet today, with Republican majorities in the state senate and state house, it is suddenly worth spending taxpayer money on a special session to re-redistrict. I read Off the Kuff daily, and if you're a fellow Texan political nut, you should too.

Also, thanks to slightly off center, the C Blog, and ReachM High Cowboy Network Noose for the kind words in the past week or so.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:25 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 23, 2003

UT to Modify Admissions Procedures

By Byron LaMasters

The effects of today's Supreme Court rulings on Affirmative Action will be felt at the University of Texas. The University announced today that it will reintroduce some affirmative action programs in time for the fall 2004 semester:

Dr. Larry R. Faulkner, president of The University of Texas at Austin, said the rulings in the Michigan case sweep away the restrictions of the 1996 Hopwood decision, a decade-long case that eliminated the consideration of race in admitting students at the university’s School of Law and other higher education institutions in Texas.

“We are very pleased here at The University of Texas at Austin that the Supreme Court’s rulings today place the state of Texas and higher education institutions in the state on the same competitive basis as education institutions throughout the United States,” Faulkner said in a news conference.

The University of Texas at Austin will modify its admissions procedures to comply with the court’s rulings in time for the fall 2004 semester, Faulkner said. This will include implementing procedures at the undergraduate level that combine the benefits of the Top 10 Percent Law with affirmative action programs that can produce even greater diversity, he said.

Establishing these procedures for graduate and professional programs will be a priority, Faulkner said, because “we don’t have a good substitute for affirmative action” in those programs.

The Michigan rulings establish a new precedent under which individualized, “wholistic” admissions procedures, such as those in place at The University of Texas at Austin that consider multiple factors in a high school student’s background, are affirmed as legal, he said.

More on the story in the Austin American Statesman.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Texas Primary Moved Up - Officially

By Byron LaMasters

As expected, Rick Perry signed a bipartisan bill to move up the Texas primary by one week, thus avoiding the potential conflict of primary day falling on Spring Break. The primary will now be held on the first Tuesday of March, Super Tuesday, which is begining, more and more, to look like the decisive day for the Democratic nomination:

Governor Perry signed Representative Dan Branch’s House Bill 2496 into law late last week. The bill moves Texas’ primary election to the first Tuesday in March, one week earlier than previous law mandated. Election date conflicts with school district spring breaks prompted the Legislature to move the primary date. Senator Kyle Janek sponsored the bill in the Senate.

I plan on posting on the Political State Report tonight to cover the recent events regarding the budget and redistricting, unless Charles Kuffner beats me to it.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dean's Announcement, Sign Wars

By Byron LaMasters

Great announcement speech by Howard Dean. I really only have one complaint... not about the speech itself, but that the campaign folks took so long to get that annoying Green Party sign covered up. It may seem insignificant, but it's important. Imagine that someone had never heard of Howard Dean before, and that speech was their first exposure to him. What would they think? That Howard Dean is supported by the Green Party? I don't know if the sign was there to protest Dean, or support him, but to me, it gave the impression that the Green Party supported Howard Dean. Now, that probably wasn't the intent of the sign, but nonetheless, it reflects poorly upon Dean. If the first thing that people hear about Dean is that he's supported by Greens, probably about 90% of voters would see that as a negative. For Republicans and independents, the affiliation could easily associate him with the "lunatic fringe", and many Democrats, like myself, see affiliation with the Greens in a negative manner.

I had a similar experience to this at our candidate rally at UT last October. As the emcee, I saw my job as consisting of three things: 1) introducing candidates, 2) cheerleading and 3) sign control. Whenever a Green / Republican (aka. Grepublican, they're all the same) sign got in the way, I would send several volunteers to block it out with a Democratic sign. My theory is that they have the right to have their signs, but we have the right to block them out when there's more of us than there are of them. Unfortunately, the event received poor coverage in the Daily Texan, because of reporter Kris Banks childish decision to write about the sign battle instead of the real story... that all the Democratic candidates came to UT and spoke on student issues. However, the event did receive good television coverage, for which I was pleased. Regardless, at every event like this, especially when it's televised, you absolutely must have an organized volunteer team willing to block out any unfavorable signs quickly.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:38 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Foreplay is fun

By Byron LaMasters

I like foreplay. Bob Graham, Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman oppose foreplay. Shame on them. Foreplay is fun, sexy, erotic, exciting... to oppose it is to be righteous, puritanical, fundamentalist, etc. Boring. Howard Dean gets it right. He teased us with a little bit of foreplay, then dove into the real thing. Those other guys just don't quite have the same touch. Boring. Duh. LOL.

Confused, yet? Well, take a look at this satirical article from the Washington Post on what the other campaigns thought of the big news, that Howard Dean was actually running for President after the months of consummate suspense:

For the record, both Graham and Gephardt are official candidates for president, as is Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.). "We don't believe in foreplay," says an official from one of these declared campaigns, who asked not to be identified because he did not wish to associate himself and his campaign with the image of foreplay.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Damn, they got us beat.

By Byron LaMasters

Dean just said that 5000 are in Burlington, VT, at his speech. We had 3200 in Austin. Kudos to Burlington.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Budget Signed

By Byron LaMasters

The Texas state budget has been signed and certified.

More on this later, watching Dean's announcement speech...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Affirmative Action

By Byron LaMasters

I'll have to read the opinions before I comment too much on this (Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz vs. Bollinger). Basically, I don't have much of a problem with the ruling from what I see at this point. The court ruled that there is a value in ensuring a "critical mass" of minority representation, but ruled the the point system used by Michigan was unconstitutional. I could understand how one could view the point system as overvaluing race as compared to other factors such as gpa, sat's and other activities. So, from what I've read so far, I can live with the ruling.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Howard Dean Announcement

By Byron LaMasters

I'll be watching the announcement online. Andrew, a Dean intern in Burlington, VT, UT student, and Burnt Orange Report contributer will post his first-hand account of the announcement... at some point. He has been working to set up since 5 AM and works until 5 PM this afternoon. After that, all of the interns up there will be having some sort of celebration party, so I'm not expecting anthing until tomorrow. Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to watching it myself. We'll have to see what he has to say about this.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dennis Kucinich Blog

By Byron LaMasters

Well, Dennis Kucinich has joined Howard Dean in the blogosphere. I haven't had a chance to check Kucinich's blog out that much yet, but I'll post on it more soon.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 22, 2003

Republican Redistricting Logic

By Byron LaMasters

Usually, I'll reply to my comments in the comment threads, but this comment to Redistricting Politics was worth its own entry.

AHEM, Tarrant County, with just slightly more population now, is divided into three Congressional districts (Granger, Barton, and Frost). The latter's district is especially gerrymandered on blatanly racial lines, so that I could drive from my high school in East Fort Worth (Stop Six Dunbar HS), south on 820 loop into Barton's district, than back up north to Granger's. The division of Travis County that you claim to be so egregious is routine in more Republican parts of the state.

Now, the comment was written by TX Pundit, a usually reasonable Republican blogger (and UT student, I'm guessing), whose site I visit on occasion. Yeah, I have several Republican bloggers on my blogroll, because, quite frankly, Democratic political masturbation, and liberal groupthink sites like the Democratic Underground get tiresome after awhile. It's good to see what the other side is up to every now, and then.

But, this is just a perfect example of Republican lies, and flawed logic in redistricting.

Let's get started:

"Tarrant County, with just slightly more population now [than Travis County]"

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Tarrant County has a population of 1,446,219, whereas the Travis County population is 812,280. Well, I guess it all depends on what your definition of "slightly" is. 633,939 people may be slightly if we were comparing the size of Texas to New York (i.e. Texas is slightly larger than New York), but when it comes to county size, well "slightly won't cut it. Tarrant County is nearly twice as large (ok, 78% larger) as Travis County.

So, lets do some more math. The average Congressional district in Texas has 651,619 people. Thus, Travis County should have 1.25 congressional districts, which it does. It has Lloyd Doggett's district representing the heavily Democratic eastern and central parts of the county, and the western half of the county is represented by part of Lamar Smith's district. Doing our division for Tarrant County tells us that it should have 2.2 congressional districts. Which, guess what? It does, well, maybe:

"[Tarrant County is] divided into three Congressional districts (Granger, Barton, and Frost)."

Almost. Actually it's four. Granger, Barton, Frost and Burgess (3 Republicans, 1 Democrat in a 60% Republican county, and you're still complaining). Hmm, next:

"The division of Travis County that you claim to be so egregious is routine in more Republican parts of the state."

But, it's not. Tarrant County is fairly represented. It has parts of four congressional districts, and three of them are Republican in a county that is 60% Republican. Would you rather two Democrats? Didn't think so. Would you rather have only three congressional districts in Tarrant County? Redistricting won't do it. Because the King plan would have five congressional districts (one whole, four part) in Tarrant County, with five Republican congressmen. How fair... How unconstitutional. It violates the Voting Rights Act by retrogressing minority voting rights. Under the Republican plan, Blacks and Hispanics in Tarrant County would no longer have the opportunity to vote for the Congressman of their choice. Their votes won't matter as their communities are divided into lockstep Republican districts.

"[Martin Frost's] district is especially gerrymandered on blatanly racial lines"

And you're saying that the King plan is better?? Take a look 9th district in the King plan. Or the 15th. Or the 30th. Talk about racial packing. Good lord. Martin Frost's current district is a very reasonably shaped, compact district, representing communities of interest. The district is a minority opportunity district. A plan to eliminate his district and create a new Hispanic majority district in the DFW area would probably pass the constitutional test, but the King plan doesn't come close.

As for the "egregious division" of other Republican counties. The one most frequently mentioned is Williamson County (North Austin suburbs) which is divided into two congressional districts despite a population of only 249,967. Well, I think that if Republicans were really concerned about communities of interest as opposed to partisan politics, then Williamson county could easily have its own district that John Carter would be happy to represent, and Chet Edwards would be happy to shed. Republicans in northern Williamson County complain that they're represented by Chet Edwards, but in fact, those voters are the reason that, even without redistricting, it's unlikely that Chet Edwards will make it through the decade without defeat. Without the northern Williamson County precincts added in 2002, Chet Edwards could easily (ok, maybe not easily) cruise through the next decade in congress, but because of their addition to his district, he'll be a top target every two years.

Anyway, TX Pundit, I enjoy reading your site, and your comments, but this was too hard to resist. By the way, you ought to add comments to your site. I see that you wrote about me last week...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:13 PM | Comments (5)


By Byron LaMasters

Today (Saturday), I mostly worked on layout. I put together the homepage rather quickly several days ago, and I just had the chance to add some things to it. I decided to add a blogroll, as opposed to just using html links. It's easier to organize. I also added referral tracking. I added a line to separate the blog from the links on the right hand column. I still need to do an "about page", but that should get done soon. Anyway, let me know if you have any suggestions. I consider myself an intermediate in HTML code. I know basic coding, and I know enough to make a decent layout, but I'm not too familiar with advanced HTML and javascripts. Thanks.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:55 AM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2003

Redistricting Politics

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin American Statesman writes of the upcoming redistricting battle. The Republicans in the legislature say that they don't want Tom DeLay to draw the maps, but DeLay's aide, Jim Ellis helped draw the proposed map during the regular session, and he's going to be back for the special session. Meanwhile, it suggests that Sen. Ken Armbrister (D-Victoria) could be bought off by the Republicans. Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) who was the author of the DeLay Redistricting proposal, still can't understand why the people of Travis County wouldn't want to be represented by two San Antonio Republicans, a Hidalgo County Democrat and another Republican from somewhere in an ugly district including Austin suburbs, Houston suburbs and a lot of land stretching towards the Gulf Coast at Aransas Pass. However, King might just get it now, as he thinks that it might only be necessary to divide Travis County into three districts. Surely, these people don't actually want Lloyd Doggett to represent them!?!

"My thought was you are getting four votes for Travis County in Congress," King said. "I think the local residents made it abundantly clear they don't want that." Travis County residents had some legitimate concerns about his map, King said, but it may still be necessary to cut the county into three districts.

Lord. Some people are bad liars. Or just stupid. Maybe a little bit of both.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:12 PM | Comments (1)

Open Letter from Doggett and Barrientos

By Byron LaMasters

Thank you for your tremendous efforts over the last several months to fight Tom Delay's redistricting plans. Your actions not only inspired Texas Legislators, but citizens from around the state who weren't able to make their voices heard during the last session. The Republican Party is doing everything within their power to cut the guts out of Travis County and the Democratic party. We must continue to stand and fight for what we believe or face 15 to 20 years of Republican’s rule.

We understand that everyone is anxious to get back to the fight to stop the newest redistricting efforts. We will need to rally our troops again, and prepare to fight another round of the Republican Party forcing the issue of redistricting. While some have suggested that Austinites might attend hearings in other cities around the state, we would urge you to conserve your energy for the big fight the week of the special session that begins June 30th. We will need every activist and volunteer that we can find to participate in events at the Capitol during the special session, whether it lasts a week or 30 days, and lobby against this redistricting effort. These efforts could include everything from testifying before committee’s, mail and phone campaigns and rally’s where needed.Plans are being developed, and tasks will be distributed shortly to all those who want to help. In the meantime, please begin setting up your network of colleagues, friends and family who woul d be willing to help. You will hear from us shortly on how you can make the most impact during this battle for our state's future.


Congressman Lloyd Doggett State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:53 PM | Comments (0)

More on Tom DeLay

By Byron LaMasters

Regarding the Texas Monthly Best / Worst list from today's Austin American Statesman, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:32 AM | Comments (0)

Legislative Black Caucus Chair Opposes Redistricting Session

By Byron LaMasters

This press release was released today from the office of State Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont). Deshotel is the chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus.

Redistricting was decided two years ago. Texas newspapers, its voters – even the Republican leadership itself – believed a decision was reached fairly through the courts – an impartial and neutral institution. This upcoming $2 million meeting is a partisan and divisive attack on Texas. There is no emergency. There is no compelling reason to redistrict except that partisan politicians in Washington, DC, demand an outcome to their liking.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:30 AM | Comments (1)

Is Carole Keeton Strayhorn an Idiot?

By Byron LaMasters

If Carole Keeton Rylander-Strayhorn wants to be governor someday, then why does she do things like this that make her look like a fool?

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn certified the state's $118 billion budget Friday by agreeing to cuts in her own agency that will balance the two-year spending plan.

"We accomplished this additional cut without adversely affecting any vital services. And this cut is coming out of my own agency's appropriation," Strayhorn said one day after shocking state leaders by not approving the budget


The standoff was resolved when Strayhorn agreed to $212 million in suggested cuts to her agency. The cuts were made through two vetoes by Perry in two bills affecting cash management.

Is it just me, or does this just make Stayhorn look completely stupid? She creates a big fuss by refusing to certify the budget. She makes Perry and Craddick look bad, then the next day she caves by slashing her own budget?? What's the lady thinking? I don't get it. Oh well.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:25 AM | Comments (2)

June 20, 2003

Howard Dean's son charged with Burglary

By Byron LaMasters

This is an unfortunate event, and Howard Dean is handling it the right way. A lot of people give Bush a hard time for the trouble that his daughters get into. Not me. I have no problem with attacking Bush for his past, but the media ought to lay off his daughters. I certainly have my own vices (no, I've never stolen liquor from a country club before), which my friends could attest to, but fortunately, I don't have famous parents, so I don't have much to worry about most of the time (Mom and Dad, if you're reading this... I'm good, I promise). It's tough enough for young people our age having to live in the shadow of their famous parents, and to have the media spotlight on them. I don't excuse what his son did... he should be punished according to the laws on the books, but the privacy of the family ought to be respected. I wish Howard Dean and his family the best.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:29 PM | Comments (3)

Strayhorn reverses course, Certifies Budget

By Byron LaMasters

Well, woo-wee... the Republican infighting is over and everyone's happy... or so it seems. This just in, from the Dallas Morning News:

Comptroller Carol Keeton Strayhorn certified the state's $117.4 billion budget plan Friday, avoiding a potential constitutional battle with the governor and the attorney general.

This is what Strayhorn said about the budget yesterday. We'll have to see how she manages to save face on this one...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:09 PM | Comments (3)

Abbott to sue over state budget

By Byron LaMasters

The Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is ready to sue to force Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn to certify the budget. From the Houston Chronicle, here:

Attorney General Greg Abbott said today he has a lawsuit ready to be filed seeking to force Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn to certify the two-year state budget, but he's hopeful ongoing negotiations will help avert taking the spending plan to court.

More from the Austin American Statesman.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:06 PM | Comments (3)

Redistricting Columns

By Byron LaMasters

From today's Dallas Morning News

U.S. Rep. Martin Frost (D-Arlington) - here

Texas Republican Party Chair Susan Weddington - here

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:01 PM | Comments (0)

Defending Jim Dunnam

By Byron LaMasters

Texas Monthly called Democratic House Leader Jim Dunnam (D-Waco) one of the worst ten legislators. The Waco Tribune-Herald gave him an opportunity to defend himself, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:35 PM | Comments (0)

Texas Monthly Best / Worst

By Byron LaMasters

After every legislative session, Texas Monthly puts out a list of the top ten best and worst legislators, and will give a few other prizes in between, including "furniture" for legislators that accomplish little. You can read the entire article here (requires free account). Here is this year's list:

The Best of 2003 Sen. Teel Bivins (R-Amarillo) Rep. Dianne Delisi (R-Temple) Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Galveston) Rep. Irma Rangel (D-Kingsville) Sen. Bill Ratliff (R-Mount Pleasant) Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth (R-Burleson) Rep. Steve Wolens (D-Dallas)

Rookie Of The Year
Rep. Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs)

Honorable Mention
Rep. John Smithee (R-Amarillo)
Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont)
Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston)
Sen. Steve Ogdem (R-Bryan)
Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie
Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo)

The Worst of 2003
Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth)
Rep. Gabi Canales (D-Alice)
Rep. Yvonne Davis (D-Dallas)
US Rep. Tom Delay (R-Sugarland)
House Democratic Leader Jim Dunnam (D-Waco)
Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay)
Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville)
Rep. Joe Nixon (R-Houston)
Rep. Robert Talton (R-Pasadena)
Rep. Beverly Woolley (R-Houston)

The Joseph McCarthy Award
Rep. Debbie Riddle (R-Houston)

Dishonorable Mention
Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland)

Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos (D-Austin)
Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston)
Rep. Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City)
Rep. John Davis (R-Houston)
Rep. Gary Elkins (R-Houston)
Rep. Al Edwards (D-Houston)
Rep. Sen. Jon Lindsay (R-Houston).
Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville).

My thoughts? I don't disagree too much with the top ten list. After all, there weren't too many Democrats with too many noteworthy accomplishments, and as much as a despise Arlene Wohlgemuth, I have to admit that she was a big player in this year's session.

As for Rookie of the Year, I'm not sure what to say about Patrick Rose. About every Democrat in the state considered him worthless, until Ardmore that is (he went.. his district includes Lockhart, a small town that would have been divided 3 ways under the King plan), and now, we have to reexamine him. I'll support him for reelection, but I won't invest too much time or money into it. He's a good guy, and hopefully, if and when he gets a few reelection victories under his belt, he'll begin to vote more like a real Democrat.

I like Lon Burnam's politics (he's the most liberal Democrat in the state house), and I wish that all the Democrats would have joined him in opposing Craddick, but they didn't and from a pragmatic point of view, his vote was stupid. Still, I was proud of him, and thanked him for it when I invited him to speak at an anti-war rally at UT in March. Still, practically speaking, it was a dumb move. Good to see Tom DeLay on the list. It's supposed to just be for legislators, but Tom DeLay likely had more impact on the legislature than almost anyone else, but the fat cats. Dunnam shouldn't be on the list. He, along with Garnett Coleman and Pete Gallegos were the brains behind the Ardmore escape. Dunnam did about as good of a job as any Democratic leader could, considering the circumstances. He fought the good fight, lost most of the time, but ask most any Democrat in the House (minus Craddick's committee chairs), and they'll say they're happy with Dunnam's leadership. Nixon, Lucio and Talton are all especially worthy of the list. Nixon carried a draconian "tort reform" bill, Lucio is a sell-out, and Talton is a hatemonger. Craddick ought to be on the worst list... he get a "dishonerable mention", but that's not enough. This session was the most partisan in memory, and if Texas Monthly gives some of the blame to Jim Dunnam for it, then they ought to give at least equal (and I'd say more... a lot more) blame to Craddick.

Texas Monthly gave Debbie Riddle a category of her own based on her statement in a committee hearing:

"Where did this idea come from that everybody deserves free education, free medical care, free whatever? It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes straight out of the pit of hell."

She received "The Joseph McCarthy 'Have You No Sense Of Decency?' Award". How appropriate.

The furnature is pretty accurate. Sen. Barrientos is my senator in the legislature, and he's a great senator, but he had little opportunity to get much accomplished this session with the Republican leadership.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:42 AM | Comments (1)

Our Fearless Leader, Rick Perry, Part 2

By Byron LaMasters

"when Tom DeLay told Perry, as he often does, "Jump." And Perry, as usual, asked, 'How high?'"

Here's what John Kelso says what Rick Perry's daily schedule during redistricting will be. From his column in the Austin American Statesman:

A lot of people may figure Perry won't have much to do during the special session that will start June 30 because lawmakers will be focusing on legislative redistricting, so that Republicans can grab more U.S. House seats, as well as dealing with the budget.

But it's not true that Perry won't have a busy schedule. We've managed to get a copy of the chores list DeLay has presented for Perry during the session. Here's part of it.

Perry, by the way, has to perform this stuff while dressed in a cute little butler's outfit.

7 a.m. — Practice bowing, scraping and genuflecting.

7:30 a.m. — Polish Tom DeLay's loafers, press his shirts and help him with his coat and tie.

7:36 a.m. — Walk Tom DeLay's dog.

7:38 a.m. — Walk Tom DeLay.

7:42 a.m. — Light Tom DeLay's cigar and fluff Tom DeLay's pillows.

7:44 a.m. — Fluff Tom DeLay's ego.

7:46 a.m. — Make coffee for Tom DeLay, and ask, "Would you like cream and sugar with that, Mr. DeLay? How about a muffin, Mr. DeLay? Is there anything at all I can get for you, Mr. DeLay? How about a couple of cartwheels or a handstand, while we're at it, Mr. DeLay?"

7:49 a.m. — Hand-wash, polish and wax Tom DeLay's car.

8:10 a.m. — Resume practicing bowing, scraping and genuflecting.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:53 AM | Comments (3)

Another Reason why Gephardt Sucks

By Andrew Dobbs

So Dick Gephardt is convinced that the Move On Primary is rigged.

Officials in Dick Gephardt's campaign said they were surprised when their supporters who registered got an e-mail encouraging them to vote for Dean. Gephardt's team considered pulling out of the primary but decided to stay in with reservations.

"We are not going to change our participation at this point, but we are concerned that the process seems to be rigged," said Erik Smith, a spokesman for the presidential campaign of the Missouri lawmaker. "We think there is a legitimate role for MoveOn to organize grass-roots support for candidates, but we are worried that it appears they are playing favorites."

Perhaps if Dick Gephardt's clan would wait a mere 24 hours, or if they had checked their email the day this story came out, they would notice an email message from Sen. John Kerry sent by MoveOn.org or today by Rep. Dennis Kucinich. The top three finishers in an earlier Move On poll got to send out emails, in the order of their finish- Dean, Kerry, Kucinich. Dick Gephardt fared very poorly in the poll.

It is laughable that at the same time that the primary schedule is rigged in Gephardt's favor (easy win IA, not too crucial for Gep NH, then MO, then union heavy MI, etc.) he would get his panties in a wad over the Move On Primary. His candidacy is based on the old way of doing things- his message is outdated and out of touch. After a decade and a half of ineffective visionless "leadership" of this party, he's surprised that the rank and file don't like him!

This of course is an attempt by the hawkishly pro-war, capitulating, calculating, spineless, tax and spend, irresponsible wing of our party to snuff out an attempt by Howard Dean to remake the Democrats in the mold of FDR, JFK, Harry Truman and Sam Rayburn rather than Dick Gephardt and Walter Mondale. We cannot allow this to happen. Show Dick Gephardt that his way of doing things is over, register in the Move On Primary and vote for Gov. Howard Dean, MD next week. 14 years of losing ground by Gephardt versus 12 years of prosperity, responsibility and justice by Howard Dean make the choice an easy one.

-Andrew Dobbs

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 08:44 AM | Comments (9)

Editorials Slam Redistricting Session

By Byron LaMasters

Today's Austin American Statesman editorial:

In a terse -- amusing, but nonetheless terse -- letter, the governor set in a motion a rancorous session, the bitter fruit of which will be a lawsuit.

"I believe duly elected officials, not federal judges, should be responsible for drawing district lines," Perry wrote. We couldn't agree more, but we're amused that Perry is willfully ignoring history, recent and otherwise.

Redistricting is a magnet for lawsuits. Federal judges over the past 30 years have had to take charge of the mapping chores.


In such raw exercises of political power, however, the first interests to be sacrificed are those of the noncombatants, those Texans who have no direct stake in which party predominates but always get stuck with the bill for the muscle-flexing exhibition.

So pull up a chair on June 30 and enjoy the session. You're paying about $1.7 million for it.

Today's Dallas Morning News editorial also encourages raising revenues to balance the budget:

If Texas is going to have a special session on redistricting – which is a lousy idea, unless you enjoy watching political bloodbaths destroy carefully nurtured working relationships – then GOP Gov. Perry should put the budget in that session as well. And legislators should do the budget right this time.

Today's San Antonio Express-News editorial opposes redistricting, but is also critical of Democrats past manuvers in redrawing congressional lines.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:06 AM | Comments (3)

June 19, 2003

Sen. Eddie Lucio

By Byron LaMasters

Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) is a swing vote in the upcoming redistricting debate. He suffered a heart attack yesterday. More on his condition, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:13 PM | Comments (0)

TSU-San Marcos

By Byron LaMasters

It's official! Southwest Texas State University is now Texas State University - San Marcos. Rick Perry signed the bill today, but a lot of people don't like the name. Here's the story.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:21 PM | Comments (1)

Redistricting Poll

By Byron LaMasters


Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:48 PM | Comments (0)

Two Governors

By Andrew Dobbs

Over the past week I have met 2 former governors of Vermont. Today I met the lovely former governor Madeline Kunin, the first female governor of Vermont. She served in the late 80s and was a good progressive Democrat. She was a polite, elegant lady, the kind that you don't see involved in politics anywhere else in the world except for this cordial little corner of civilization, Vermont. She appreciated my joke about how though my former governor was running for President, I would not be supporting him.

She was here to announce her formal support for the other former Vermont governor I met this week- Howard Dean.

I didn't even know that the governor would be in the office (it is fascinating how nobody calls him "Dean" or "Howard" or anything really besides "The Governor" in hushed tones in these parts), but I saw Kate O'Connor, the woman that travels with him and knew that he was around. I decided to seek him out discreetly and found him watching a news story from the previous evening's broadcast on the TV in the policy section. After the piece was done he turned to leave, saw me, extended his hand and thanked me for working for him this summer. I thanked him and told him that it was my pleasure and then he left. It wasn't earth-shattering, but it is always great to see him. I can't wait until Monday, when we make our formal announcement.

One final time, I must bug you, register and vote in the Move On Primary. We need this support and it will be decided by as little as 100 votes. Thanks!

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 05:04 PM | Comments (0)

Iowa Dean Ad

By Byron LaMasters


Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:04 PM | Comments (0)

Want to Balance the Texas Budget?

By Byron LaMasters

Play the Texas Budget game.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)

Comptroller Strayhorn Rejects Budget

By Byron LaMasters

Whoa, this is interesting:

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn took the historic step Thursday of rejecting lawmakers’ version of the state budget, saying it would have outspent available revenues by $185.9 million.

“When my staff completed tallying the effects of the 4,000 pieces of legislation” passed in the just-completed legislative session, “the budget did not balance,” Ms. Strayhorn said.

“I would have loved for the Legislature to have adopted a budget that I could certify.”

Ms. Strayhorn’s action makes it likely that Gov. Rick Perry will add the budget to the special session he has called on congressional redistricting for June 30.


Anticipating the comptroller might find their budget out of whack, lawmakers had added a provision that if she found there was not enough money to carry out their two-year, $117.4 billion spending plan, Mr. Perry and the 10 lawmakers on the Legislative Budget Board could cut spending by the amount needed to make the budget balance.

Ms. Strayhorn dismissed that contingency plan as unconstitutional.

An amendment to the Texas Constitution that voters approved in 1942 makes it clear, she said, that if she rules that an appropriation bill would outspend available revenue, she must return the bill to the house of the Legislature where it originated.

“There is no appropriations bill,” she said. “This bill has not been certified.”

Ms. Strayhorn said it was the first time a comptroller has found a state budget bill to be unbalanced since the 1942 constitutional amendment required her office to check state coffers to make sure they contain enough cash to cover spending measures.

Although predecessors rejected spending bills on a couple of occasions, she said, the measures involved were not the state’s two-year budget bills.

Ms. Strayhorn said the budget sent to her would have been “more than a billion dollars short” if last month’s federal tax-cut bill had not included relief for cash-strapped states.

Even with that money, it fell short, she said.

Ms. Strayhorn said she counted money from measures she found repugnant – such as draining the state’s emergency money in the “rainy day fund” and several one-time maneuvers, even though she believes they amount to “pushing the problem to future taxpayers.”

The Houston Chronicle also reports:

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn rejected the state's $117.4 billion budget on Thursday, sending the two-year spending plan back to lawmakers to rewrite before the end of the current fiscal year on Aug. 31.

"This is the first time a Legislature has sent the comptroller a budget that is not balanced," Strayhorn said. "I cannot certify this budget because it is $185.9 million short."

The state constitution requires that the Legislature pass a balanced budget and it cannot be sent to the governor's desk to sign into law without the comptroller's OK.

Governor Perry is "disappointed":

Perry has called a special session to begin June 30 to address Congressional redistricting but had not yet added the budget to his order by early afternoon.

"While the announcement is disappointing, I believe legislators can quickly address her concerns," Perry said in a prepared statement. "I will continue working with the leadership of both chambers and with Comptroller Strayhorn, and I am confident we can address this issue quickly."

Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt said Strayhorn's action means the governor will not be able to veto any line of the budget, since he does not have a budget to sign.

Well, this certainly isn't good news for Republicans. Stayhorn is becoming an increasing pain in the butt for them. Last month it was the cigarette tax proposal, and this month, she rejects the budget. Heck, I'd even consider voting for her. Ok, maybe not, but if Marty Akins runs again, I'd consider it. Regardless, the point here is that this is the first time that the legislature has utterly, completely failed to balance the budget. It's also the first time that Republicans have had complete control of the process. Interesting. Coupled with the record deficits in the federal budget, can anyone, anyone tell me with a straight face that the Republican Party is the party of fiscal responsibility???

I didn't think so.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:48 PM | Comments (1)

Dewhurst to use two-thirds rule

By Byron LaMasters

More evidence that Dewhurst will keep the two-thirds rule, that would require 21 votes to bring up re-redistricting. From the Dallas Morning News:

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a Republican who has been cool to the governor's plan to take up the divisive measure, plans to keep in place a Senate rule requiring a two-thirds vote to take up a bill because of its long-standing tradition.

"He's going to keep it," said David Beckwith, his spokesman. "It will be a challenge to get the votes, but he said if a good map comes from the House, he thinks the Senate will pass it."

Dewhurst still might be pressured to drop the two-thirds rule, but at this point, he plans to use it.

So what can Dems in the Senate do? Here's one idea:

With the two-thirds rule in place, Republicans will have to win over two Democrats to bring a redistricting bill up for debate.

"Eleven senators could sign a letter and put an end to this thing before it starts," said Ed Sills, a spokesman for the Texas AFL-CIO, which as a labor organization has supported efforts to defend Democratic seats.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:30 AM | Comments (1)

Our Fearless Leader, Rick Perry

By Byron LaMasters

Today's Houston Chronicle cartoon:

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:39 AM | Comments (0)

Houston Chronicle on Special Session

By Byron LaMasters

This is today's editorial in the Houston Chronicle:

WRONG PRIORITY Special session on redistricting wasteful, divisive Many Texans, particularly conservatives, resent the meddling of Washington politicians in matters that are clearly the state's business. Gov. Rick Perry, however, is not among them.

An attempt to pass a congressional redistricting plan demanded by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Sugar Land disrupted the Legislature's regular session. Rather than see an unreasonable and destructive plan become law, many Democrats in the Texas House decamped to Oklahoma, breaking a quorum. Subsequent excesses by state police and Republican leaders in Austin and Washington served to confirm their unreasoning intent and widen the partisan divide.

Now the governor has called a special session, to begin June 30, in a second attempt to do Congressman DeLay's will and slight the interests of all Texans of both parties.

The reasons against redistricting more than once every 10 years have been frequently and laboriously recounted:

· Redistricting this year would needlessly confuse voters thrown into new districts and confronted with unfamiliar candidates.

· It would set a precedent for disruptive redistricting any time control of the Legislature changed hands.

· A special session will cost taxpayers $1.7 million that could be better spent on health care for children or some other vital need shortchanged in the budget the Legislature just adopted.

· The plan DeLay wishes to impose would carve up the state into grotesquely shaped, absurdly elongated districts that would not reflect community and regional interests. Many Texans, both urban and rural, would be deprived of adequate representation and the opportunity to send one of their neighbors to Washington.

Perry said he is confident that Republicans and Democrats can work together to draw a map that is fair, compact and reflects community interests. If that is true, why did Perry try to pass a redistricting scheme that was none of those things?

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, like all other statewide officeholders a Republican, deserves credit for his commitment to let Democrats in the Senate have a voice in shaping state policy. Dewhurst says he will observe the Senate's tradition of allowing any 12 senators to block legislation they deem unacceptable, a rule that encourages some semblance of healthy consensus and prevents a single faction from railroading harmful legislation.

Although Texas is a heavily Republican state, and the current district lines favor Republican chances, the Texas congressional delegation has 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans. This counterintuitive result can be attributed to this phenomenon: Some long-serving Democratic incumbents enjoy widespread support among their Republican constituents.

Given the polls showing most Texans satisfied with their representative in Congress, the governor is wrong to call a special session on redistricting. Texas faces many difficult challenges -- school finance and overhaul of the tax system are the most pressing -- that should take precedence.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:34 AM | Comments (0)

Reaction from the Senate

By Byron LaMasters

While the Texas House will probably quickly pass a re-redistricting plan on a near part line vote, the Texas Senate is more unpredictable. The Austin American Statesman reports what some of the senators are saying about redistricting.

State Sen. Bill Ratliff (R- Mount Pleasant):

Underscoring the stakes, White House political adviser Karl Rove called a key Republican senator, Bill Ratliff, on Tuesday.

"He was not advocating any particular plan, but he thought there ought to be redistricting to more closely reflect the voting patterns of the state," Ratliff said Wednesday.

Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, said Rove asked whether a reasonable plan could pass the Legislature.

"I told him I would have to see the plan and that it would depend on whose interpretation of 'reasonable' he was using," Ratliff said

Sen. Todd Staples (R-Palestine):

Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, said he was pleased that the governor made redrawing the congressional map the primary reason for calling the session instead of disguising it with other topics.

"We need to be straightforward about it," Staples said.

Senate Democratic Leader Gonzalo Barrientos (D-Austin):

"It will be up to each individual member to know who they are, where they come from and what it means to be a Democrat," said Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio):

Sen. Jeff Wentworth, a San Antonio Republican who represents a portion of South Austin, said he believes that the Legislature should consider a new congressional map. But he said he objected to how the House proposed cutting up Travis County last month.

He said lawmakers should draw maps with compact districts that keep communities together.

"If we follow those guidelines, we will have a good map," he said, "but it won't shred Travis County."

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:26 AM | Comments (0)

McNeely: Blatant Partisanship

By Byron LaMasters

David McNeely's column in today's Austin American Stateman expresses some degree of surprise with the "blatantly partisan" nature of the way in which Gov. Perry announced the redistricting session:

Perry's call for a June 30 special session on congressional redistricting, at U.S. House Majority Leader DeLay's behest and in the face of editorials against it in virtually every Texas newspaper, is the most blatantly partisan act of Republican Perry's governorship.

Some thought he would at least veil his intention, calling the session on something else and adding redistricting.

"But why put lipstick on the pig?" one unsurprised observer said. "They've either got the votes or think they can pressure them better here than when they're scattered around the state."

Even more blatant is Perry's hint that he might open the session to consider funding for a border academic health center in El Paso.

The health center is a major life's work of Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, who has been wavering on whether to help provide the two-thirds vote needed to bring up a bill for consideration in the 31-member Senate. Lucio, who earlier said he might vote to bring it up, recently said he won't.

Though Lucio had been thought susceptible to the bait of a district that he could possibly win, he'd have to risk his Senate tenure to do so, since he drew a two-year term after redistricting in 2001. He couldn't run for Congress next year without quitting the Senate.

Recently, Lucio's been saying he plans to seek re-election.

As we see, the wheeling and dealing has begun... and Eddie Lucio is the number one target.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:17 AM | Comments (0)

A New Home

By Byron LaMasters

Yes, the Burnt Orange Report now has a new home on our very own domain, and hosted by Dreamhost. Live Journal served us well, but it was time to graduate. So, here we are. Yes, there's still a lot of work to be done here, but it's good enough for now. As always, advise and suggestions are welcome.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:49 AM | Comments (1)

June 18, 2003

Movable Type

By Byron LaMasters

I'll be writing an entry soon on Movable Type for Dummies. Transferring to Movable Type has been, well... an experience. With the help of my friend Bryan, I finally successfully installed moveable type last night. I bought the domain and service for burntorangereport.com through Dreamhost last Thursday. I consider myself reasonably computer literate, but my understanding of complex web technology is still rather limited. I've done several webpages before, and I know how to use ftp, but things like mySQL and perl meant nothing to me until last week. So, in the next day or two, I'm planning on writing a detailed entry on how your average blogger can figure out how to install Moveable Type.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:40 PM | Comments (6)

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