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

Archive for May 27th, 2009

NPT Capitol: House conferees named for TxDoT sunset bill

Conferees were named in the House for HB 300, the TxDoT sunset bill, after the Texas House refused to concur with the Senate amendments.

House Transportation chairman Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, also initiated a record vote over language in the Senate version that would permit metropolitan areas to call elections to okay increases in gas taxes and vehicle fees – in order to raise funds for transportation projects. The House voted, along with Pickett, in opposition to the inclusion of local option language, taken from Sen. John Carona’s SB 855, in the Senate version.

The conferees are: Pickett, Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, Ruth McClendon, D-San Antonio, Linda Harper Brown, R-Irving, Wayne Smith, R-Baytown.

It is worth noting that none of the areas the aforementioned House members represent are what one would term rural.

–Ben Wright

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

May 27, 2009 at 5:09 pm

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NPT Capitol: Shapleigh to be on TxDoT conference committee

State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh will join fellow senators John Carona, Glenn Hegar, Robert Nichols and Kirk Watson on the TxDoT conference committee, according to a source in the Senate.

Shapleigh is an interesting pick. He knows his stuff being on the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee. But he is also not on best terms with House Transportation Chair Joe Pickett. (Let’s just say they’re not on each others’ Christmas card list.) They have clashed so far this session on Stormwater exemption fees and the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority.

Is Shapleigh there to keep Pickett in check so that the other Senators don’t have to?

The TxDoT sunset process has revealed differences in approach and philosophy between the Senate and House versions of the bill. There has been a fair bit of sniping from the sidelines in both chambers. [link] Shapleigh could provide a valuable counterweight to Pickett, who is committed to overhauling TxDoT, while Hegar, author of the Senate version of TxDoT sunset, seems content with making the agency more transparent. [link]

NPT were also told that Hegar was not pleased so many of the conferees were from urban areas. (His district is predominantly rural.) Hegar has also spoken against the local option tax proposal (Carona’s SB 855) which was rolled into the Senate sunset bill. That would give urban areas the ability to raise revenue for transportation projects.

Apparently there have been last minute maneuvers to swap out a couple of the conferees, which haven’t (yet) succeeded.

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

May 27, 2009 at 3:54 pm

NPT Capitol: Straus on Voter ID, special session and being speaker again

House Speaker Joe Straus held an impromptu press conference this afternoon, the same day he filed the necessary paperwork in order to be Speaker next session.

So far no one else has filed for Speaker. Straus said he filed early out of “an abundance of caution” in light of the fact that it had become a conversation topic among House members. He said that he fully expected to be speaker next session.

Straus also spoke about the possibility of a special session. He said he didn’t mind one way or the other. (Gov. Perry warned the legislature last week that if bills on windstorm insurance didn’t pass, he would immediately call a special session.)

On Voter ID, Straus said it had fell victim to a “hard deadline” that needed to be respected by members. NPT asked him if there were other vehicles Voter ID could be tacked onto, to which he replied, “not to my knowledge.” (Speculation around the Capitol earlier today suggested that there were a few possibilities out there.)

Finally, Straus, reflecting on the last five days of parliamentary gridlock, maintained the session was about passing the budget first and foremost – something he was confident would happen.

“Everything else is gravy,” Straus said.

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

May 27, 2009 at 3:20 pm

NPT Media: Burns not clear with everyone

PBS documentarian Ken Burns will be at the Chamizal National Memorial this evening participating in a forum on national parks before presenting selected clips from his latest film titled “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” The 12-hour, six part series will air this fall, according to a PBS press release. The series was created on the basis that the idea of the national park is uniquely American, and that “the most special places in the nation should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone.”

Burns, however, has not yet escaped the heat from his last work, which was criticized for not having the spirit of inclusivity of which he speaks. Several El Paso activists are attending today’s presentations in reaction to the controversy surrounding Burns’ 2007 documentary “The War,” which was derided by Chicano activists for its lack of inclusion of Hispanic war heroes.

Burns’ documentary focused on male soldiers, including those who were African American and Japanese American. The documentary focused both on the battleground and on four American towns – Mobile, Ala.; Sacramento, Calif.; Waterbury, Conn.; and Luverne, Minn. – that were used to examine how the war impacted the home front.

Burns’ recent tour stop in San Antonio was picketed by Henrietta Rivas, the mother of Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, a former El Pasoan and University of Texas professor who is one of the founders of Defend the Honor. According to its website, Defend the Honor was launched in reaction to “The War” to “help organize and mobilize communities to address longstanding and profound problems related to Latino representation.” (For more background on Rivas-Rodriguez, click here.)

Those who have been waiting to ask their burning questions have been brainstorming and passing out fliers. “We just don’t feel that he does the proper research,” said LULAC district director Elvia Hernandez, who plans to attend the panel discussion. The forum will be from 4-5:30 p.m. and the presentation of the clips will be from 7-9 p.m.

When asked if the presentation is too little too late for those strongly opposed to Burns’ original draft of the 15-hour long documentary (the aired documentary later included a supplement about Hispanic servicemen), Hernandez recalled a controversial situation involving Def Leppard after the band made disparaging remarks about the El Paso audience and subsequently tried to “buy out LULAC,” according to Hernandez. “You don’t do these things. Think before you speak or before you act,” she said.

Although the focus on this discussion will be on the new documentary, Hernandez and the other individuals who will mobilize see the appearance as an opportunity to speak to him face-to-face.

“He is taking a good chunk of money, and when he just shows one side, it’s just not right.”

Elizabeth Ruiz

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

May 27, 2009 at 12:32 pm

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NPT City: Redd Road update

for background, click here:

District 1 City Representative Ann Morgan Lilly will host her monthly breakfast meeting at JB’s Café in Quail Hollow Plaza (5801 N. Mesa) on Thursday the 28th of May from 7:30-8:30 a.m. Mr. Alan Shubert, Director of Engineering will be our guest speaker. Mr. Shubert will provide updates on the upper valley traffic circle and all upper valley drainage improvements projects. He will also provide a brief summary of the Upper Valley Traffic Study. Contact number for more information 915-541-4151

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

May 27, 2009 at 12:00 pm

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NPT Capitol: Chavez to Marquez: Don’t bother showing up, and take your present back

The hits keep coming from state Rep. Norma Chavez, who has made clear her disdain for state Rep. Marisa Marquez. Maybe we’ll go into the history some other time. Meanwhile, the more recent history from a couple of days ago … Chavez graduated from UT Austin with a BA in Government and had a party Friday morning.

Word had gone out that Chavez told Marquez not to show up. It didn’t seem worth trying to confirm, but yesterday, Chavez saved us the effort. It was told to us by several sources that Paul Strelzin was dogging Marquez for not showing up to Chavez’s event. Chavez called Strelzin’s show to clarify that Marquez was informed, via text message, that if she showed up she would be asked to leave. Then today, Chavez sent her staff lawyer to Marquez’s office to return a gift, a picture frame, that Marquez had tried to give Chavez.

That’s our delegation, folks.

Sito Negron

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

May 27, 2009 at 11:48 am

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NPT Capitol: Voter ID dies, Repubs retaliate by killing unemployment insurance bill

Sb 362, the voter ID bill, died Tuesday evening without ever making it to the House floor. The bill failed to be heard by midnight along with other bill, including legislation relating to abortion, unemployment insurance expansion, clean air and guns on campus.

The unemployment insurance bill was killed due to a little chubbing from the Republicans, eager to retaliate after five days of Democrat stalling tactics. The bill, sponsored by State Rep Mark Strama, D-Austin, made it to the floor, but was not passed before the midnight deadline.

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

May 27, 2009 at 1:19 am

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