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

Archive for April 17th, 2009

NPT Capitol: Moody and Marquez budget amendments fail

marquezEl Paso freshman state Reps Marisa Marquez and Joe Moody, both failed to amend the budget Friday afternoon. The two lawmakers, in back-to-back amendments, were both blocked for the same reason – their amendments created general law, which under House rules, (R. 8, Sec. 4) cant be done by an appropriations bill.

moody1Moody’s amendment concerned what he called “pay to politics” and would have prohibited funds from the Texas Enterprise and Emergency Technology funds being awarded to companies if any of their officers or directors had in the previous two years, “made a political contribution to the governor, lieutenant governor or speaker of the House in the preceding two years.”

Marquez’s amendment, in light of the AIG bonus scandal would have prohibited funds going from TEF and ETF sources to companies that had laid off 25 workers or more in the previous year, but had also given bonuses to executives worth more than 1% of their base salary.

–Ben Wright

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April 17, 2009 at 2:02 pm

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NPT Capitol: Tiguas in but could be out later

According to the Dallas Morning News, a gambling omnibus bill is getting closer to hitting the House floor, which would also allow the Tiguas to Re-open Speaking Rock Casino.

The bill “would allow up to 17 resort casinos: 3 on Indian reservations; 2 on the South Texas barrier islands; 1 in the Port Arthur area; 3 at Class 1 racetracks; 2 at Class 2 racetracks; and 6 others spread out across the rest of the state,” said the DMN article, also noting that the bills backers vote count is in the 90s. (They need a hundred to send it over the Senate.)

NPT have been following the bill closely and have argued that the criminal history of Tigua Gov. Frank Paiz is an immovable road block to the Tiguas being included in the bill. NPT has also argued that Paiz might be wise to dig his heels in because any gambling bill may be D.O.A if it hit the House or Senate floor.

After talking with sources in Austin, a slightly new logic seems to be emerging. The Tiguas have not got to work to get in the bill – they have to work to stay in it.

First, big gaming interests are by no means convinced a bill will pass – so why bother booting the Tiguas out at this stage? Second, if the issue of Paiz came up, the Tiguas could be removed from the bill on the floor of either the House or Senate (or in conference committee) by amending the bill to remove language authorizing gaming on their reservation.

Paiz may still have to walk in order for them to be included in the bill. But with the emphasis being on staying in rather than getting in, they have more time.

–Ben Wright

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April 17, 2009 at 12:38 pm

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NPT Capitol: EPISD’s lost $100m from the stimulus

Yesterday, Senate Democrats sent a letter to Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education, claiming among other things, that the El Paso Independent School District had been swindled out of approximately $99.4m by Texas budget writers.

How did they come to a figure like that? Here’s the short story. The Federal Stimulus Package sends a whole bunch of hard currency to states in order to shore up their education budgets. The Fed’s logic is that with all the economic problems states are encountering, the money means they wont have to cut education funding from its level in boom years. If states have any of this money left over after shoring up their budgets, then the leftover money (more-or-less) goes straight to the local ISDs.

But Texas is in a different state to most other states.

First it has approaching $9bn in its RDF savings account (the rainy day fund) and second, it has not (yet) been battered by the global economic crisis. Texas has a few holes in its budget, but nothing the RDF couldn’t take care of. However, budget writers have so far left the RDF untouched. Instead, they have ta taken the education stimulus money and used it to free up general revenue, and then used that general revenue to plug a variety of other holes in the budget created by things like declining sales tax revenues.

Senate Democrats argue that if Texas had plugged its budget holes with the RDF instead of using the stimulus money, then the ISDs would have gotten a windfall – $100m to EPISD and a whopping $347m to Houston ISD.

During the Senate’s debate of the budget earlier this month, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, said that things in Texas might get worse before they get better (economically speaking) and so it was better to leave the RDF for an even rainier day.

Both sides have a point. In one sense, using the Fed’s credit card instead of the states savings account is a shrewd move giving Texas a ‘Plan B’ if things really get bad. But Texas schools are hardly the nation’s best funded. By plugging the budgets gaps with stimulus money instead of the RDF or tax hikes, ISDs wont get a potentially much needed windfall.

–Ben Wright

Check back with NPT after the weekend for the long story…

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April 17, 2009 at 12:15 pm

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NPT Media: Huff Post columnist: Shapleigh’s figures show Perry’s, Republicans’ failures

shapleigh1From columnist James Moore on the Huffington Post, on Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s comments about Texas secession:

Eliot Shapleigh, a state senator from El Paso, compiles a report each legislative session called “Texas on the Brink.” Skimming it will provide more than enough data to show just how functional the Republican leadership of this state has been since 1994.

There is little doubt that Perry is serious about seceding from the union. My guess is he’s grown tired of fighting it out for last place with Mississippi.

Ok, fair enough, but my guess is that Texas has maintained its priorities going back well beyond 1994. In other words, the state’s issues seem to be a Texas thing, not a Republican or Democratic thing.

But Republicans have owned the state for the past 15 years, so they can own the failures. And Perry’s comments, well, that’s just a Perry thing, and he’s a Republican, and now they own a fringe-right issue, just about the time Democrats have started making inroads back to power in Texas.

Sito Negron

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April 17, 2009 at 12:07 pm

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NPT Media: Texas Observer: The national media invades El Paso—and gets the story wrong.

Article in the Texas Observer about the Drug War and media coverage of El Paso and the Border:

That’s the reality these days for El Pasoans. Or rather, it’s the twisted perception created by border-warrior politicians and national news media, and foisted on Juarez’s relatively peaceful sister city. For El Pasoans and residents of nearby border towns, it might all be a mere oddity—maybe even worth a chuckle—if it didn’t mean the construction of 18-foot border walls, blustery talk about National Guard troop surges, and new resources for the disastrous war on drugs. While “troop surge,” “border wall,” and “drug war” might sound irresistibly sexy to politicians and pundits, it’s border residents who have to live with the fences and tanks and consequences.

And, of course, the article includes some great quotes:

“I’m happy that the border is an important place,” Negron said. “But I’m not happy about the context in which they place it.

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April 17, 2009 at 11:14 am

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NPT City: Slamming mayoral candidate Rivera

rivera-carlos_afterActually, this sounds like a unique (and very cool) campaign event:

April 17, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Poetry Slam Fundraiser, Carlos for Mayor Headquarters
814 Myrtle
Donation: $5 – Food and beverage
$10 – Food, beverage, and a collection of Lyzzie Garcia’s poetry – Cosmic Revelations in Prose and Poetry.

For more info, go here

Sito Negron

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April 17, 2009 at 10:33 am

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