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

Archive for May 2009

NPT Capitol: House (Pickett) and Senate (Carona) negotiations get down to TxDOT local option tax

As House and Senate conferees put the final touches on the jointly hashed out TxDoT sunset bill, one sticking point remains — and it’s getting heated.

That sticking point is language that would give metropolitan areas the ability to call elections in order to authorize raises in automobile fees and gas taxes — in order to pay for transportation projects.

State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, says he has a list of 77 House members who are willing to vote for the TxDOT bill if it has the local option language in it.

That’s surprising, considering the House took a vote on leaving the language in earlier this week. It went down 86-59.

State Rep. Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, with a wry smile, said that number was “ambitious.” State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, went further saying that the 77 names Carona has simply aren’t there and that something “close to deceit” has been going on.

According to Pickett, lobbyists have been rounding up state Reps and asking them to sign a petition that asks the conference committee to keep the debate open. Those numbers are what Carona is touting, said Pickett.

It’s all getting a bit heated now. Carona said that the only thing in the way of getting this bill passed is Pickett. Pickett went outside of the chamber about an hour ago and openly argued with the lobbyists who were shopping for signatures.

This morning, at a rally on the Capitol’s southern steps, a Tarrant County Judge called for those who oppose the local option language to “get out of the way” while supporters chanted “let us vote!,” reported the Fort Worth Star Telegram. (Carona spoke at the rally.) According to the Austin Chronicle they were complemented by a “radical anti-tax crowd.”

More to follow…

Update: Things might have calmed down a little now. Isset and Carona are sat on a windowsill in the House chatting rather amicably. Meanwhile, Pickett and House Republican Caucus leader Larry Taylor are deep in conversation.


Written by newspapertreeelpaso

May 29, 2009 at 2:43 pm

NPT Biz: Hunt Building ranked as a ‘Housing Giant’

News release sent to NPT:


Hunt Building Company, Ltd., an affiliate of Hunt Companies, Inc., headquartered in El Paso, Texas, was ranked 23rd largest among the nation’s top 350 builders of housing in the 2009 Annual Report on Housing’s Giants issue of Professional Builder Magazine.

The magazine ranks Housing Giants based on revenue, and the listing consists of builders of single-family attached, single-family detached, and rental housing. The Hunt ranking is up 22 places from the publication’s 2008 rank of 45th. Hunt Building’s 7,558 new residential units completed in 2008 are up 3,360 units, or 80%, from the 4,198 rental housing units Hunt completed in 2007.

The Professional Builder’s annual report also names the Top 10 Builders of rental housing in 2008, in which Hunt is ranked #2. Both rankings are the highest ever achieved by Hunt in the magazine’s annual report.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

May 29, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

NPT City: Castro and Robinson to debate Saturday


EL PASO – Voters will get one more chance to ask questions of the two candidates in the upcoming runoff election for Northeast city representative during a forum organized by the El Paso Press Club on Saturday.

Incumbent Melina Castro and challenger Carl Robinson have confirmed their attendance to the event, which is designed to give voters and members of the media access to the candidates.

The event starts at 10:30 a.m. Saturday May 30 at the Northeast YMCA, 5509 Will Ruth.

Members of the media and the public are invited to attend and encouraged to ask questions of both candidates.

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

May 29, 2009 at 11:08 am

Posted in Uncategorized

NPT Capitol: Transportation conference? Not so fast, Sen. Shapleigh

NPT reported yesterday, that state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh was going to be part of the TxDoT conference committee, bar any last minute changes.

But in a surprise move, state Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, was named to the five-member Senate team instead. Surprise? As an example, the Austin American-Statesman reported that Hinojosa “is not on the transportation committee and hasn’t been visibly involved in the issue this session.”

The presence of Shapleigh, who knows his stuff when it comes to transportation, would have been an interesting counterpoint to state Rep. Joe Pickett, chair of the House Transportation Committee and instumental in crafting the House version of the TxDOT bill.

So why no Shapleigh? Here’s NPT’s take:

The House and Senate versions of the TxDOT bill are radically different, which has caused some tension between the two chambers. If Shapleigh went to conference, Senate author, Glenn Hegar, R-Katy would be the only conferee from a predominantly rural district. Taking Shapleigh, rather than a fellow rural senator perhaps reflected the fact that Hegar (whose version of the bill is more conservative) thought he needed someone to keep Pickett busy. (And who better to get under Pickett’s skin than Shapleigh?) However, as NPT reported here, the main players in the House and Senate (Hegar, Carona, Isett, Pickett) have been getting on better the last week. Maybe Hegar decided he didn’t need a pit bull after all.

–Sito Negron and Ben Wright

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

May 28, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

NPT Capitol: Marquez, Chavez feud “a long standing El Paso tradition”

The fall out from the latest round of feuding between El Paso state Reps Norma Chavez and Marisa Marquez is causing a mini-stir this morning at the Capitol.

One state Rep told NPT they are “sick and tired of it” and called it a “public embarrassment.”

The state Rep, who wished to remain anonymous, added that it was “a long standing El Paso tradition” which made the delegation hard to work with.

Another said that delegations need to have “their own house in order” before trying to get things done in Austin. They added that the delegation they were part of worked hard look united in public even though they didn’t agree on everything.

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

May 28, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

NPT Border: Judge halts border fence in Brownsville

News release sent Wednesday afternoon from the office of state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh:

Federal judge delays construction of border wall in Brownsville, says U.S. Government must define property rights

Case may have implications for future construction of border wall

“This Brownsville case has enormous implications for all border wall construction. In America, property owners do have rights, even on the border.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

May 28, 2009 at 10:11 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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

Posted in Uncategorized

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