El Paso-centric info and commentary from the Center of North America

Archive for April 2009

NPT City: Rep. Byrd beats back at builders

Build PAC, the political action committee of the builders’ association, sent a hard-hitting glossy mailer. Hard-hitting? Actually, Byrd termed it in far-less politic terms in a lengthy, very hard-hitting letter that detailed the wrongs in the mailer. You can view both the mailer and the letter via the links below.

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Written by newspapertreeelpaso

April 30, 2009 at 6:06 pm

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NPT Capitol: Final draft of gambling HJR circulating, Tiguas in

The final (well…probably the final) draft of House Licensing Chair Ed Kuempel’s omnibus gambling bill has begun circulating the capitol. Language authorizing the Tigua Indians to re-open Speaking Rock Casino remains included.

According to one Austin source (armed with a spread sheet) the bills backers have 87 yeas, 45 nays and 34 maybes – that totals 166 house members, meaning that some House member’s names appear in two categories (i.e. maybe leaning yes, maybe leading no).

The draft tidies up a few parts of the previous draft making it narrower in scope.

Firstly the definition of “coastal barrier Islands” is narrowed to islands 25 miles in length connected to the mainland by bridges. “Dredge spoil islands” at least 18 miles in length in coastal islands are added in too. “Populous Metropolitan areas” remains the rather vaguely coded nod to Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin and Houston developing Vegas style resorts – but does El Paso count as a “populous metropolitan area”? Could other small cities one day be classed as “populous metropolitan areas”?

The section authorizing Tigua and Coushatta gambling has words that limit operations to El Paso and Polk Counties added in. This seems to be to prevent other Indian tribes outside the state using the section to claim that they can set up shop in Texas.

Read the full resolution after the jump.

–Ben Wright

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Written by newspapertreeelpaso

April 30, 2009 at 4:37 pm

NPT City: Rep. Quintana’s got Rep. Castro’s back

Yesterday, the city attorney’s office issued an opinion that stated city Rep. Melina Castro owes the city a debt and thus cannot legally take office. The opinion shortly was reported in the media. You can read the NPT story here/

The speed at which the opinion was reported did not sit well with city Rep. Rachel Quintana, who questioned the release in an e-mail to multiple city officials. Below is the e-mail, and a response from City Attorney Charlie McNabb.

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Written by newspapertreeelpaso

April 30, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

NPT: Drill, baby drill? Not on Otero Mesa, an appeals court rules, agreeing with the city and county.

A press release from various groups involved in a lawsuit to protect Otero Mesa from oil and gas drilling. For background, read:

Beautiful and Wild Otero Mesa Contains Vast Riches, so What Happens Next?, by David Crowder, June 2, 2008: Fragile grasslands, oil and gas, and water: A delicate mix and a struggle for the right solution in Southern New Mexico. Otero Mesa is just the east-northeast of El Paso, and the City Council this week and Commissioners Court next week will consider resolutions calling for protection of the area.

City Council: Preserve Otero, Hold Feds Accountable on Border, by David Crowder, June 3, 2008: The City Council supports protecting Otero Mesa from oil and gas exploration, and jumps into the growing backlash against the border wall.

See below for the news release from today’s court ruling.

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Written by newspapertreeelpaso

April 30, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

NPT Capitol: Pickett says no to amendment pushed by Haggerty, now a lobbyist

From the Dallas Morning News, It’s the season for the session’s lobbyists:

In the House, Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, filed one of two amendments that would make the Transportation Department pay to move lines and cables for projects funded by the federal economic stimulus. Pitts said he sponsored it at the urging of an ex-colleague now lobbying for AT&T – former Rep. Pat Haggerty, R-El Paso.

“I was just trying to help Pat out,” Pitts said.

Said Pickett: “It would set a very bad precedent. They’re in our right of way at no charge. They should pay if they need to move.”

Sito Negron

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

April 29, 2009 at 2:00 pm

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NPT Capitol: Tiguas in rough draft of gambling omnibus bill

A draft of the omnibus constitutional amendment proposal, promised several weeks ago by Licensing Chair Ed Kuempel, R-Seguin, has been doing the rounds at the capitol as of Tuesday evening.

The draft would put to voters the idea that any form of gambling could be authorized in Texas, providing that counties decide for themselves what kind, through a local election. The bill explicitly states, (in draft form as of press) that it “does not prohibit a federally recognized Indian tribe from conducting gaming on land in this State that was held in trust or recognized as tribal land of the tribe by the United States on January 1, 1998.”

In short, that means the Tiguas are in the bill. (That could change as NPT noted here several weeks ago.)

The bill, as drafted is very broad, meaning that the fights between different gaming interests, which have plagued the various efforts to legalize gambling this session, will have to move to the House floor. Time is simply running out for any further debate in committee. The bill would also require a lot of enabling legislation, which couldn’t be passed until the 2011 session – so don’t cancel that trip to Vegas just yet.

The bill would need 100 votes on the House floor and 21 in the Senate to make it onto the ballot in 2009.15

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

April 28, 2009 at 11:01 pm

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NPT Capitol: House GOP bloc worried about Voter ID bill? UPDATED

The Republican Party of Texas released a statement applauding a statement made by 52 Republican representatives committing to core principles they want included in voter ID legislation.

Those principles are: 1. Ensure a valid photo identification is needed to vote, 2. Take effect at the next possible uniform election date, 3 Be free of any registration requirements such as same day voter registration that dilutes the intent of the bill, which is ensuring fair and accurate elections, and 4. Increase criminal penalties for voter fraud and registration.

NPT had orginally interpreted the statement as a position of weakness – that only 52 Republicans were on board with the language and the Republican leadership was conspicious in its absence from the list of signatories. However the Texas GOP released a new list on Wednesday which took the number of signatories up to 71 – including Chairmans Branch, Kuempel and McCall (Calendars) and just 5 shy of the majority needed to get it passed.

Far from being a position of weakness, the revised list looks rather formidable. Voted ID now looks set to be the showndown issue of the session. But they will need to get 76 votes – meaning if Dems are universally opposed to he measure, they would only need to flip two Republicans (from either the 71 or the 4-plus-Speaker-Straus not signed up to the GOP list) OR flip one and put Speaker Straus in a position of breaking a tie vote.

Read NPT’s old analysis and the first GOP press release after the jump

–Ben Wright Read the rest of this entry »

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

April 28, 2009 at 10:43 pm

NPT Media: The EP Times apparently costs more. Sort of. Maybe.

The El Paso Times apparently has or is raising the cover price. NPT received a call from someone saying that the paper raised its price to 75 cents. But the paper sitting on our desk, today’s, was 50 cents. The caller said not all papers were properly marked, so there’s been some confusion on the rollout of the price increase. We could not confirm that (although we have a call in to the Times to get the info straight). NPT found some 75 cent papers — Monday’s and Tuesday’s — at the Downtown Walgreens on Mesa Street. And one of our friends said they saw a vending machine at Cici’s Pizza on N. Mesa with the 75 cent papers inside (although the machine said 50 cents — and it worked!). Is this new, or did we miss a previous announcement? NPT has called the El Paso Times several times but nobody’s talking yet.



Written by newspapertreeelpaso

April 28, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

NPT Capitol: TxDoT sunset bill amended, passed out of committee

In a brief hustle of a meeting this afternoon, the House Transportation Committee passed a HB 300 out of committee. The bill has morphed considerably from the original filed by state Rep. Carl Isett, R-Lubbock. [link]

Particularly, the original recommended TxDoT ditch its five member Texas Transportation Commission leadership structure in favor of a single commissioner. The committee substitute keeps the five member panel but instead of all members being governor appointments, now only three are, the other two being appointed by the House Speaker and the Lieutenant Governor respectively.

Isett said he expected the bill to make it onto the floor next week.

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

April 28, 2009 at 12:52 pm

NPT Capitol: Moody (quietly) passes first bill, then another

moody1With all the fuss and palaver last Thursday over Pickett’s CASA bill and Margo considering another pop at District 78, this slipped through the radar.

The press release, from state Rep. Joe Moody’s office was issued last Friday after he passed his first bill the day before. Moody’s bills concentrate on law and order. Read the press release after the jump.

–Ben Wright Read the rest of this entry »

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

April 28, 2009 at 8:45 am

Posted in Uncategorized