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Getting On Board
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Getting On Board

BY Charlie Mitchell

"You're either with us or you're against us." The Bush administration has delivered that message to the Europeans, the United Nations and -- even more successfully -- to the K Street community, where the issue is not war and peace but tax cuts, specifically dividend tax cuts. House Ways and Means Chairman Thomas is ready to introduce President Bush's economic growth bill this week, and industry groups are lining up like small, Eastern European countries to pledge their support to the president. "The wind is turning to the back of the dividend proposal, from having a very strong wind in its face," said Dirk Van Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors and a leader of the Tax Relief Coalition. "The administration has made it abundantly clear that this is the cornerstone of the package -- it's not designed to deflect blows from other parts of the package." There is no shortage of talk about the "add-ons" that various trade associations would like the Ways and Means Committee to attach to the bill later this month, including accelerated depreciation proposals tailored to a variety of industries. But discussion -- at least open discussion -- of chipping away at the $388 billion set aside for dividend relief to fund other tax cuts has "ebbed," in the words of GOP lobbyist Ed Gillespie. "Remember," said Ken Kies of the Federal Policy Group, "the 2001 [tax-cut] bill as enacted was pretty much the president's proposal. Politically, he's in a stronger position than he was two year ago -- I don't expect the administration to show much flexibility in terms of what they see as the right way to do this." Business groups are anxious to demonstrate what they have been doing to push the Bush plan forward. The TRC this week is circulating a memo to its thousand-plus member companies and trade groups highlighting recent grassroots and media efforts by Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Business Roundtable, the Securities Industry Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Edison Electric Institute, the American Forest and Paper Association and the Seniors Coalition. The TRC recently formed a Committee on Dividend Benefits, headed by BRT president John Castellani and CSE president Paul Beckner, which meets every Thursday, includes over 40 members and has its own Web site (www.trcdividendbenefits.org). The TRC is beginning a run of print ads trumpeting the dividend plan this week, and the BRT will begin its own ad run next week, according to Castellani. "From the BRT standpoint, any economic growth package should restore consumer confidence and restore investor confidence," Castellani told CongressDaily. "From our members' perspective, [the Bush approach] is the best way to do it." Beckner said CSE contacted 40 House members and about 18 senators over the Presidents' Day recess in support of the proposal. "A fairly broad cross section of the business community is working to make dividends a viable part of the package," he said. Separately, Gillespie has put together what he calls a coalition of the "dividend faithful" -- about 30 companies that already pay out dividends and are "true believers" in the plan. "We're working in tandem with the TRC, on a parallel track," Gillespie said. "We're working on lobbying strategy, grassroots and sharing targets." Meanwhile, the loyal opposition has its doubts about the sincerity of some of the president's allies. "I think they're being good soldiers," said Roger Hickey of the liberal Campaign for America's Future (www.ourfuture.org), which is helping to organize grassroots opposition to the president's proposal. "The business community is falling in line and lobbying for their president, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of energy there. I question how much in resources they'll put into it." Hickey's group -- a charter member of the Fair Taxes Coalition, which includes several hundred public interest groups and labor unions -- is churning out e-mails to activists throughout the country, as well as holding events in state capitals to dramatize the state-by-state impacts of the Bush plan. For instance, Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., joined the community group ACORN in Minneapolis recently to release a report claiming the proposal would worsen Minnesota's budget crisis by $110 million and cost the state jobs over the next decade. The Fair Taxes Coalition is targeting the usual list of Senate moderates, "grabbing senators in their state while also fighting here in Washington," Hickey said. Right now, it is a shoestring operation, but Hickey said the opposition will make itself heard in the coming months with the help of the unions and some wealthy benefactors. "This is a coalition that doesn't have a lot of money, but when things heat up, money does tend to become available," he noted.

02/26/2003
Social Security's Junk Mail
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Press Release

Social Security's Junk Mail

I think I need to contact the postal inspector to report a case of mail fraud.

02/26/2003
Don’t Forget the Death Tax
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Press Release

Don’t Forget the Death Tax

The White House has submitted its budget to Congress, unveiling a $674 billion economic growth plan as well as new Lifetime Savings Accounts and Retirement Savings Accounts. President Bush has filled the void of domestic policy with one of the deepest tax cuts in recent years. Debate over the expansive plan has already begun and is expected to dominate much of Washington through the spring. Notable by its absence is the repeal of the death tax, an inefficient and unfair tax that should be stricken from the tax code.

02/26/2003
This Week on the Hill
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Press Release

This Week on the Hill

Miguel Estrada The new news on this story is that Bill Nelson, the junior Democratic senator from Florida, will break from his party and vote to end debate and to confirm Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit if and when a vote is scheduled. Essentially, the debate is stuck in a parliamentary quagmire. The Senate is technically debating the nomination; in actuality, the Democrats are filibustering.

02/26/2003
Legislators Consider Changes in Civil Justice System
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Legislators Consider Changes in Civil Justice System

BY Kelley Shannon

Yvonne Moran and her 6-year-old daughter spend many a night crying over the loss of Moran's husband a few days before Christmas in 1996. Bart Moran's minivan was broadsided and his seat belt failed, throwing him to his death, said Yvonne Moran of Sinton. She later won a $6.7 million civil court judgment. The defendants are appealing. On Wednesday, Moran traveled to the Capitol to speak out against a bill she contends would make lawsuits like hers against the car maker and seat belt manufacturer more difficult, if not impossible. "My message would be: Please don't quiet our voices. The law is all we have," Moran said. Plenty of others appearing before the House Civil Practices Committee took a different view. They said the bill by Rep. Joe Nixon, R-Houston, would crack down on frivolous lawsuits and restore balance in the Texas civil justice system. "Among the fuels that feed the fires of litigiousness are the many hit-the-jackpot jury verdicts that occur with increasing frequency," said Richard J. Trabulsi Jr., president of Texans For Lawsuit Reform, who spoke in favor of the bill in a jam-packed hearing room. Trabulsi said his group isn't "anti-lawsuit" or "anti-lawyer." But he said an unfair legal system costs jobs and passes businesses' legal costs on to consumers. Among the proposals in Nixon's bill are: -Delaying class-action lawsuits until plaintiffs exhaust administrative remedies through any applicable state agency. -Requiring the plaintiff to pay the defendant's legal fees if the plaintiff rejects a settlement offer and later wins a lower monetary verdict in court. -Allowing an immediate pre-trial appeal of a venue ruling when there are several plaintiffs. Nixon says this would prevent "courthouse forum shopping." Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, a member of the committee, asked Nixon what sort of financial impact his bill would have on state agencies if they must handle more administrative cases. Nixon said he didn't think there would be any extra fiscal impact because those avenues are already available. Major changes to the state's civil justice laws were last made in 1995, when George W. Bush was governor. Among other things, the Legislature limited punitive damages, limited where civil lawsuits can be filed and limited the percentage of fault in a claim involving multiple defendants. Nixon said the system still needs changing because of high jury verdicts. Since then there have been $10.5 billion in jury verdicts in Texas cases with awards of $10 million or higher, he said. Nixon has filed a separate bill dealing specifically with limits on medical malpractice lawsuits. Other groups showing up in favor of Nixon's omnibus civil justice bill Wednesday were Citizens for a Sound Economy, Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse and economist Ray Perryman. "Judicial reform is one of those rare issues where the economic evidence is straightforward, concrete and incontrovertible," Perryman said in his prepared remarks. Changes that would be brought about by Nixon's bill would result in lower insurance rates and create a stronger climate for investment and business expansion, Perryman said. But for plaintiffs like Yvonne Moran, 38, a driving examiner for the Texas Department of Public Safety and now a widow and single mother, the proposed law is seen as a barrier - one that would make it difficult to shed light on a product's malfunction and one that could prevent some monetary recovery for the loss of a loved one. Her daughter, Autumn, now in first grade, was only an infant when her father died. She's getting to know him through homemade videotapes that Yvonne is so glad they made. "She never knew him," her mother said, "but she certainly misses him."

02/26/2003
NJ Manufacturers Gets Relief from Issuing Auto Quotes
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NJ Manufacturers Gets Relief from Issuing Auto Quotes

The state's insurance crisis took yet another turn for the worse today when the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance allowed New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Group, the state's largest insurer, a respite from quoting rates to drivers seeking coverage from its subsidiary, New Jersey Re-Insurance Company. The move dramatically increases the already serious difficulties drivers have in obtaining auto insurance. New Jersey Re-Insurance Company writes about 2,000 new auto insurance policies monthly. According to John Friedman, chairman of the Coalition for Auto Insurance Competition, the move is further evidence that New Jersey's auto insurance laws and regulation require immediate reform. "The state's auto insurance marketplace is unstable and dysfunctional, requiring immediate reform that instills more company competition and more choices for consumers," said Friedman. New Jersey Manufacturers says it was left with little choice after a deluge of callers, many lacking coverage after their previous companies left the state market, overwhelmed the company's offices. The heavy demand from drivers seeking auto insurance coverage interrupted the company's regular day-to-day operations, forcing the insurer to apologize for service delays to its 700,000 policyholders. The company says it will take 56 days to clear up the backlog for quotes. "Today's announcement underscores the immediate need to address the state's excessive regulation of the auto insurance industry, which is pushing companies out of New Jersey and continues to threaten the stability and sustainability of New Jersey's auto insurance market," Friedman said. "Insurers are either leaving the state, paying other companies to take their New Jersey business or asking the state to be exempted from existing rules. Consumers and companies alike are finding themselves in a 'perfect storm' of marketplace failure. It is imperative that we move forward with legislation to restore competition to New Jersey's auto insurance market." The state's decision is the latest in a series of events that have restricted the ability of drivers to obtain coverage. In the past year, seven auto insurers have stopped doing business in New Jersey. Twenty-six companies have withdrawn from the state during last decade. Last summer, State Farm, once the state's largest insurer, obtained approval to non-renew 4,000 policies a month for the next three years as part of that company's withdrawal from the state. The Robert Plan ceased writing policies in September, and in January of this year two more insurers, Central Mutual and Merchants Insurance, announced they were leaving the state. "Good intentions have led us down the wrong path," continued Friedman. "We need a regulatory system that doesn't force auto insurers from our state or into insolvency, but rather permits companies to compete in an active market." The Department of Banking and Insurance has placed 19 other auto insurance companies under close monitoring due to their poor financial condition. Together these companies are responsible for 28 percent of all auto policies in the state. Today's decision will place even greater pressure on these firms, increasing the chances that more will abandon the market, further stressing an already damaged industry. The collapse of the state auto insurance system, predicted for years by industry specialists, has become a serious possibility. "With comparatively few auto insurers remaining in New Jersey, the loss of any others will add pressure on an industry near the breaking point," said Friedman. "Many companies are already straining their capacity of policyholders." Although Governor James E. McGreevey called for auto insurance reform in his State of the State address, the legislature has yet to act on S-1999 or A-2625, the New Jersey Automobile Insurance Competition and Choice Act. New Jersey officials must act now, before the industry is further crippled, and more drivers frustrated. "Drivers need a regulatory system that promotes competition, encourages companies to sell auto insurance, and creates a stable market that offers more choices for consumers. Every day that goes by without legislative action is a day where the state risks further deterioration and, ultimately, collapse of the auto insurance market," Friedman concluded. The Coalition welcomes the participation of consumers, businesses, and associations who seek to work together to bring about meaningful and responsible auto insurance reform. Members include the National Association of Independent Insurers, Insurance Council of New Jersey, American Insurance Association, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, Independent Insurance Agents of New Jersey, Citizens for a Sound Economy, National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, New Jersey Association of REALTORS, Professional Insurance Agents of New Jersey, New Jersey Food Council, New Jersey Retail Merchants Association, NJ SEED (Society for Environmental, Economic Development), Somerset County Chamber of Commerce, Latino Chamber of Commerce of Mercer County and the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey.

02/26/2003
Getting On Board
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Getting On Board

BY Charlie Mitchell

"You're either with us or you're against us." The Bush administration has delivered that message to the Europeans, the United Nations and -- even more successfully -- to the K Street community, where the issue is not war and peace but tax cuts, specifically dividend tax cuts. House Ways and Means Chairman Thomas is ready to introduce President Bush's economic growth bill this week, and industry groups are lining up like small, Eastern European countries to pledge their support to the president. "The wind is turning to the back of the dividend proposal, from having a very strong wind in its face," said Dirk Van Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors and a leader of the Tax Relief Coalition. "The administration has made it abundantly clear that this is the cornerstone of the package -- it's not designed to deflect blows from other parts of the package." There is no shortage of talk about the "add-ons" that various trade associations would like the Ways and Means Committee to attach to the bill later this month, including accelerated depreciation proposals tailored to a variety of industries. But discussion -- at least open discussion -- of chipping away at the $388 billion set aside for dividend relief to fund other tax cuts has "ebbed," in the words of GOP lobbyist Ed Gillespie. "Remember," said Ken Kies of the Federal Policy Group, "the 2001 [tax-cut] bill as enacted was pretty much the president's proposal. Politically, he's in a stronger position than he was two year ago -- I don't expect the administration to show much flexibility in terms of what they see as the right way to do this." Business groups are anxious to demonstrate what they have been doing to push the Bush plan forward. The TRC this week is circulating a memo to its thousand-plus member companies and trade groups highlighting recent grassroots and media efforts by Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Business Roundtable, the Securities Industry Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Edison Electric Institute, the American Forest and Paper Association and the Seniors Coalition. The TRC recently formed a Committee on Dividend Benefits, headed by BRT president John Castellani and CSE president Paul Beckner, which meets every Thursday, includes over 40 members and has its own Web site (www.trcdividendbenefits.org). The TRC is beginning a run of print ads trumpeting the dividend plan this week, and the BRT will begin its own ad run next week, according to Castellani. "From the BRT standpoint, any economic growth package should restore consumer confidence and restore investor confidence," Castellani told CongressDaily. "From our members' perspective, [the Bush approach] is the best way to do it." Beckner said CSE contacted 40 House members and about 18 senators over the Presidents' Day recess in support of the proposal. "A fairly broad cross section of the business community is working to make dividends a viable part of the package," he said. Separately, Gillespie has put together what he calls a coalition of the "dividend faithful" -- about 30 companies that already pay out dividends and are "true believers" in the plan. "We're working in tandem with the TRC, on a parallel track," Gillespie said. "We're working on lobbying strategy, grassroots and sharing targets." Meanwhile, the loyal opposition has its doubts about the sincerity of some of the president's allies. "I think they're being good soldiers," said Roger Hickey of the liberal Campaign for America's Future (www.ourfuture.org), which is helping to organize grassroots opposition to the president's proposal. "The business community is falling in line and lobbying for their president, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of energy there. I question how much in resources they'll put into it." Hickey's group -- a charter member of the Fair Taxes Coalition, which includes several hundred public interest groups and labor unions -- is churning out e-mails to activists throughout the country, as well as holding events in state capitals to dramatize the state-by-state impacts of the Bush plan. For instance, Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., joined the community group ACORN in Minneapolis recently to release a report claiming the proposal would worsen Minnesota's budget crisis by $110 million and cost the state jobs over the next decade. The Fair Taxes Coalition is targeting the usual list of Senate moderates, "grabbing senators in their state while also fighting here in Washington," Hickey said. Right now, it is a shoestring operation, but Hickey said the opposition will make itself heard in the coming months with the help of the unions and some wealthy benefactors. "This is a coalition that doesn't have a lot of money, but when things heat up, money does tend to become available," he noted.

02/26/2003
Enterprise Zones of Choice
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Press Release

Enterprise Zones of Choice

© 2002 Copley News Service, 2/25/2003 In 1981, Congress enacted the Kemp-Roth 25-percent-across-the-board tax rate reductions (aka the Reagan tax cuts), which made a significant improvement to the tax code and helped free the economy from "stagflation" (simultaneously rising inflation and unemployment). The top tax rate was then 70 percent, and the lowest rate was 20 percent.

02/25/2003
Community News
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Community News

CEDAR HILL Library to host youth art party March 1 An art party will be from 2 to 4 p.m. March 1 at Zula B. Wylie Library in celebration of Texas Youth Art Month. The event will feature face painting, refreshments, art activities and artwork from Cedar Hill ISD students. The library is at 225 Cedar St. DeSOTO Alternative rock concert for youths is today Amos Fest, an alternative rock concert for area youths featuring bands from southwest Dallas, Ellis County and Arlington, will be Friday at the DeSoto High School Auditorium, 600 Eagle Drive. The band Amos will also perform music from its debut album, For Life the Dream to Live. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Advance tickets may be purchased for $ 12 online at www.amos.tv. Tickets are $ 15 at the door. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Young Life. Young artists program is Saturday The Dallas Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority will present its sixth annual Young Artists Renaissance program, sponsored by the DeSoto Arts Council, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturdayat the DeSoto Civic Center, 211 E. Pleasant Run Road. Call 214-428-7400 or Chandra Dozier at 972-409-9554 or log on to www.dallasalumnae.org for more information. Gardening group holds first meeting Thursday The first meeting of a new DeSoto gardening group will be at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Bluebonnet II room at the DeSoto Civic Center. Monthly speakers will be provided in cooperation with the Dallas Council of Garden Clubs. Local art league meeting monthly The DeSoto Art League meets at 7 p.m. the last Thursday of each month at DeSoto Presbyterian Church, 212 W. Pleasant Run Road. Each month, members bring their artwork to be judged by the attending members. January winners were Rudy Amato, first; Ava Freeman, second; and Carol Cull, third. Members provide refreshments. At the last meeting, David Dotter demonstrated various methods of throwing pots. A juried art show is planned for June to coincide with the DeSoto Toad Holler Creekfest. The league's next meeting is Thursday. Guests are welcome. Call Dotty Germino at 972-224-2209 or Ken Reese at 972-217-1546 for more information. Black photo series is being displayed The Ester Davis Distinguished Art Series is on exhibit through February at the City Hall atrium in the DeSoto Town Center, 211 E. Pleasant Run Road. The exhibit features vintage photographs of blacks in all walks of life. Call 972-230-9648 for group tours. The series places the spotlight on three black art legends. Robert Jackson and Michael Mann from the "Art on the Boulevard" program publish and distribute fine-art prints by top local and national artists. Mr. Mann will present selected pieces from his collection. Akua Scott Rahsaan, a scholar and authority on African artifacts, will show pieces from her collection, as well. As an educator for more than 20 years, the native New Yorker-turned-Texan is a frequent visitor to her hometown and Africa. Production company offers theater classes ACT 1 Productions, under the direction of Maureen McDonald and Dennis Gilmore, offers after-school classes at DeSoto's Corner Theatre. The two directors have a combined 40 years' experience teaching youth theater and drama classes. The one-hour classes will run for six weeks. Classes are broken down by age and run from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and from 4 to 5 p.m. Tuesdays. Each class will culminate in a final presentation for family and friends. Call 972-223-0139 for details. Arts commission seeking talent The DeSoto Arts Commission is sponsoring the first DeSoto Star Search at 8 p.m. April 12 in the Corner Theatre, in DeSoto Town Center, 211 E. Pleasant Run Road. The DeSoto Arts Commission is seeking singers, dancers, musicians, comedians and other performers. Cash prizes will be awarded to the winners in each of the following age groups: 8 to 12, 13 to 18, adults, and seniors, 55 and older. Winners will be chosen by a panel of celebrity judges featuring Burton Gilliam, national spokesman for Pace Picante Sauce and actor in numerous movies including Honeymoon in Vegas. All performers must audition before the event. Auditions will be from noon to 5 p.m. March 29 at the Corner Theatre. Appointments are required. Call 972-230-9648 to schedule an audition. All singers and dancers must bring their accompaniment music. A piano is not available. Animal acts, pyrotechnics or lewd behavior will not be allowed. There is a 5-minute maximum per act. Kite festival will be April 19 and 20 Eden Kites, in conjunction with the DeSoto Chamber of Commerce, the Smithsonian Institution and the American Kite Fliers Association, will present the annual Lone Star Kite Festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 19 and 20 at Meadow Creek Park in DeSoto. The two-day festival will feature sport kite demonstrations, buggy rider exhibitions, parasails, food, an outdoor children's kite making class and Easter worship service on Sunday. The event will be one of more than 700 events held nationwide in celebration of National Kite Month. DUNCANVILLE Library presents black history exhibit A black history display will run through Feb. 28 at the Duncanville Public Library, 201 James Collins Blvd. The exhibit will feature letters from the days of the Civil War and various books. IRS help offered Wednesdays, Saturdays The Duncanville Public Library, 201 James Collins Blvd., is hosting free tax help. Sessions will be offered from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesdays and from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays. AARP provides the Wednesday help. Internal Revenue Service volunteers staff the Saturday sessions. Call 972-780-5061 for more information. Hockey match to benefit area women's shelter The Duncanville Dr Pepper StarCenter and the Duncanville Police Department will host a Best of the Southwest Hockey Match between police and fire departments in the southwest area of Dallas County at 4 p.m. Saturday at the StarCenter, 1700 S. Main St. The event will benefit the Brighter Tomorrows women's shelter. The public is invited. The cost is $ 8 for adults and $ 2 for children 12 and under. Library to host events, Dad's Night Out series The Duncanville Public Library will host the Dad's Night Out entertainment series, which takes place at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month. The library also will host other programs through March 29. The programs include Nursery Rhyme Time at 10:15 a.m. Mondays, home school videos at 2 p.m. Tuesdays, Spanish story time at 10:15 a.m. Wednesdays, library story time at 10:15 a.m. Thursdays and group story times. Groups of five or more should make appointments for the free programs. Call 972-780-5044. Citizens Police Academy to start Tuesday The Duncanville Police Department is sponsoring its 15th Citizens Police Academy. The 11-week course will run from 7 to 10 p.m. every Tuesday beginning Tuesday at Duncanville City Hall, 203 E. Wheatland Road. Participants must be at least 21 and live or work in Duncanville. A criminal background check is required. Call Pug Pagliara or Officer Eddie Edwards at 972-780-5027. Women's business group hosts annual scholarship Duncanville and Cedar Hill high school seniors are invited to apply for the annual scholarship offered by the Duncanville Charter Chapter of the American Business Women's Association. The application deadline is March 17. All applicants must be U.S. citizens who live in Duncanville or Cedar Hill, attend Duncanville or Cedar Hill high schools or be a daughter of an ABWA chapter member. A degree or career objective in business is not required. The scholarship will be awarded in May. For more information or to receive an application, call Evelyn Duncan at 972-296-7188. Library presenting Spanish story times Former teachers Valois Hounsel and Carmen Boyle are presenting Spanish Story Times at 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays through March 29 at the Duncanville Public Library, 201 James Collins Blvd. The library's weekly video presentation on 13 subjects from the series Animal Life for Children allows home-schooled students, ages 4 to 10, an opportunity to observe animal behavior and habitat. The videos are presented at 2 p.m. Tuesdays through March 29. Nursery Rhyme Time is 10:15 a.m. Mondays through March 29. Library Story Time for groups are at 10:15 a.m. Fridays. Programs and tours for groups of five or more are by appointment only. Call 972-780-5061 for more information. LANCASTER Library to celebrate Black History Month Lancaster Veterans Memorial Library, at 1600 Veterans Memorial Parkway, will host a program featuring a black history video festival and cultural and historical performers every Saturday in February. The schedule is: film Sojourner Truth at 11 a.m. Saturday and jazz trio Daddy's Chair at 2 p.m. All programs are free and open to the public. Call 972-227-1080. Meeting at library to feature actor Friends of the Lancaster Library will meet at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. The event will feature actor Bob Heinonen, who brings historical characters to life. The library is at 1600 Veterans Memorial Parkway. Preschool story hour offered on Tuesdays Preschool story hour starts at 10 a.m. Tuesdays at Lancaster Veterans Memorial Library, 1600 Veterans Memorial Parkway. Valli Hoski, children's and youth services librarian, leads the storytelling, songs, puppetry and movie activities. All programs are free and open to the public. Call 972-227-1080, e-mail camil@lancastertxlib.org or visit www.lancastertxlib.org. AREAWIDE Sock hop to benefit Bryan's House St. Anne Episcopal Church, 1700 North Westmoreland Blvd., is sponsoring an evening of '50s music, dancing and light refreshments from 7 to 10 p.m. SaturdayFeb. 15 to raise money and supplies for Bryan's House. Admission to the Sock Hop is a donation of either cash or supplies to Bryan's House. Needed supplies include baby food and formula, diapers, pacifiers, bottles, bibs and children's clothes. Bryan's House provides services to children and families affected by HIV and AIDS. About 600 children and 250 families are served annually. For more information, call the church at 972 709-0691. Grief support group offered for parents Charlton Methodist Hospital offers a bereavement support group for parents who have lost a baby through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth or infant death. The group provides a place to talk with others who have experienced a similar loss. Counselors are available. The free sessions are from 7:30 to 9 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month in the main auditorium of Charlton Methodist Hospital, 3500 W. Wheatland Road in Dallas. Call 214-947-7127. Comptroller to speak to Pachyderm Club The Southwest Dallas County Pachyderm Club will host its 2003 officer installation banquet and fund-raiser from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Melrose Hotel 3015 Oak Lawn Ave. in Dallas. The featured speaker is Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn. Mrs. Strayhorn was the first recipient of the Friends of Texas Taxpayers Award from the Citizens for a Sound Economy. Supreme Court of Texas Associate Justice Dale Wainwright will swear in the new officers. Call 214-232-2381 to make reservations. Hospital to host technology fair Charlton Methodist Hospital is hosting a free technology fair to share information on the latest technologies for people with diabetes from 6 to 9 p.m. March 10 at the Outpatient Center, 3550 W. Wheatland Road. The technology fair is open to the public, and will feature vendors for all of the latest products used to manage and treat diabetes. The fair will also have Ask-a-Doctor and Ask-a-Dietician sessions so participants can ask questions. Call 214-947-0000 for more information.

02/21/2003
Board Votes for Extension of Part's Tax
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Board Votes for Extension of Part's Tax

BY Paul Muschick

The Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation won approval Thursday to continue taxing rental cars to pay for buses, commuter trains and other transportation efforts. The Guilford County Board of Commissioners voted six to five to allow PART to collect the 5 percent tax. PART cannot levy the tax without the commissioners' consent. The board had approved a one-year trial last year, and on Thursday gave its blessing for the tax to continue indefinitely. Without the tax, PART likely would have gone out of business. "They have met the expectations," said Commissioner Bob Landreth. "It's time to turn them loose." The approval means the tax will also continue in Forsyth County, which has agreed to go along with the levy as long as Guilford County does. "It's a way of helping people who otherwise maybe would not be able to afford transportation," said Commissioner Carolyn Coleman. Coleman, Landreth and Commissioners Mike Barber, Jeff Thigpen, Skip Alston and Bruce Davis, all Democrats, voted for the tax. Barber said PART needs a source of local income to attract even greater state and federal dollars for its services. Republican Commissioners Linda Shaw, Trudy Wade, Billy Yow, Steve Arnold and Mary Rakestraw voted against the tax. Wade said she may have supported it if the commissioners had agreed to extend the tax for only two years, and then reconsider it again. The board voted down her suggestion. "Accountability, checks and balances are in my idea good government," Wade said. Arnold, who votes against all tax proposals, said increasing taxes is not the way to promote economic development. He said PART's plans do not make sense. "Light-rail is a silly and ridiculous idea in this area," he said. Opposing commissioners accused PART of inflating its bus ridership numbers to gain the board's support. They said PART's estimate of 315 riders a day is misleading, because that figure is the number of boardings, not the number of people using the service. People are counted twice if they transfer to a different bus. "You're giving us a false number," Yow said. He and Rakestraw criticized the commissioners for not permitting tax opponents in the audience to speak out. Opponents included car rental owners and the local chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy, a national organization promoting lower taxes. The organization contends the tax - $1.50 on a $30 rental - is hitting local residents, not visitors as PART claims. Opposing commissioners said the tax is unfair to an industry that already is suffering because of a slow economy. Rental companies in Guilford and Forsyth counties brought in about $3 million less between July and December 2002 than during the same six months in 2001, prior to the tax, according to information PART provided to the commissioners. That's a difference of about 14 percent. The approval does not automatically mean the tax will continue. It still must be approved by the PART board, which will hold a public hearing on the issue at 8:30 a.m. March 12 at the Piedmont Triad Partnership in Greensboro. There is almost no chance PART will stop the tax because it likely would be putting itself out of business.

02/21/2003

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