NewspaperTree.com Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘texas

NPT Capitol: state budget passes the House 142-2

The state budget just passed the House as amended by the Senate.

According to the Speaker’s office, it includes a $1.9bn increase in public education funding, $1.2bn increase in Higher Education funding, $264m to boost HE financial aid and an increase in $208m for community service operations benefiting “our most vulnerable disabled populations.”

It also includes $2bn in new bonds for more highways and around $12bn in federal stimulus funds.

A few El Paso specific items after the jump

–Ben Wright Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

May 29, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , , ,

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 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

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

April 30, 2009 at 4:37 pm

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

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

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 Capitol: Will Margo run again?

The Capitol enjoys its fair share of gossip and rumor. One such rumor currently doing the rounds is that El Paso Businessman and Republican Party member, Dee Margo might run again in 2010.

Margo lost in 2008 to state Rep Joe Moody (District 78) which prompted a tempestuous outburst from his son Don Margo.

Apart from the rumor,the Margo’s have been quite busy lately appearing in articles in the El Paso Times and El Paso Inc. Margo’s El Paso Times piece attacked straight ticket voting in wake of the Barraza scandal.

“He (Barraza) was elected due in a large part to a tidal wave of straight-ticket voting — along with every other Democrat in El Paso County.I should know. I appeared on that same ballot in a race for state representative and was “consumed” by that tidal wave as well,” Margo said.

Could this be the opening salvo in 3rd campaign push?

Margo’s campaign website pages from the fall still come up in a google search but when you try to access them, them have been disabled. Margo’s old campaign line is still active but sends you straight through to voice mail.

Margo was in a meeting when NPT phoned him, and so was not available for comment

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

April 21, 2009 at 1:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,