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Groups Support Texas Supreme Court Priscilla Owen Nomination to Fifth Circuit
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Groups Support Texas Supreme Court Priscilla Owen Nomination to Fifth Circuit

A diverse collection of individuals and groups will hold a press conference on the steps of the Texas Supreme Court Building, on Monday, July 15, at 10 a.m. They will announce their unanimous support for the nomination of President George W. Bush of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Those announcing their support are: Texas Justice Foundation; Free Market Foundation; Liberty Legal Institute; Becky Farrar, Concerned Women for America/Texas; Cathie Adams, President of Texas Eagle Forum; Tim Lambert, President of Texas Home School Coalition; Texas Christian Coalition; Mark Levin, Young Conservatives of Texas; and Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy. These groups will announce that they concur in the judgment of the American Bar Association and President Bush that Justice Owen is a "highly qualified" candidate for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. While not agreeing with every decision Justice Owen has ever rendered, these groups agree with the people of Texas who have elected her to the Texas Supreme Court that she is a highly qualified, independent mainstream justice. The groups will also announce their condemnation of liberal special interests groups who oppose her nomination. Texas Justice Foundation CEO & Founder, Allan E. Parker, stated: "The liberal special interest groups who oppose Justice Owen are demonstrating that they are out of touch with mainstream Texans and have no respect for the people of Texas. Justice Owen has been endorsed by the people of Texas and the majority of newspaper editors in this State as a highly qualified Justice. To say that she is not qualified is an attack on the judgment of the people of Texas." The Senate and the Senate Democrats should respect the will of the people of Texas and their judgment as to judicial qualifications. These non-partisan groups support high quality judges like Ms. Owen, no matter what party affiliation. For instance, each of the groups would strongly support former Texas Supreme Court Justice Raul Gonzalez, a Democrat, for either the Fifth Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court. "The fact that the extreme left has set its sights on such a fair and qualified judge as Justice Owen demonstrates the depths to which the confirmation process has sunk. There is no basis for their attacks," said Shackelford, chief counsel for the Liberty Legal Institute. "Apparently, instead of judicial qualifications, the only qualification that the extreme left demands in a judge is mindless adherence to their left-wing activist agenda. If the Senate begins rejecting judges of Justice Owen's caliber, the confirmation process will be reduced to a game of raw political power, permanently damaging our system of justice," said Shackelford.

07/15/2002
Groups Announce Support of Owen Nomination
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Groups Announce Support of Owen Nomination

BY Natalie Gott

The U.S. Senate should not allow any "left wing activist groups to hijack" the confirmation process of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, President Bush's nominee for a federal appeals court, several groups said Monday. "She's just, very simply, an excellent, an extremely well qualified, and a very liked judge," said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel of Liberty Legal Institute, which says it specializes in the defense of religious freedoms and First Amendment rights. Bush has nominated Owen for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which decides appeals from federal courts in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. A hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled for Thursday. Shackelford made his comments Monday as his and other groups pledged their support for Owen after a coalition of labor, consumer and women's rights groups last week labeled Owen an "ultraconservative activist" who opposes consumer and reproductive rights. The groups last week pledged to battle Owen's confirmation the U.S. Senate. Owen's supporters say she received a unanimous "well-qualified" rating from the American Bar Association and that she faced little opposition in her state judicial elections and was elected overwhelmingly. Groups that opposed Owen's nomination are showing that they are out of step with Texas values, said Allan Parker, the chief executive officer for the Texas Justice Foundation. "We feel those liberal special interest groups have no respect for the judgment of the people of Texas when they attack their Supreme Court justice and say she is not qualified," said Parker, whose group says it provides free legal representation in cases to protect individual rights, limit government and promote a better business climate. Shackelford said the only basis for the attacks by the groups is that Owen "won't legislate their left-wing political agenda from the bench." The criticism Owen has received comes because she has tried to interpret laws passed by the Texas Legislature, which has been somewhat conservative, Shackelford said. The coalition against Owen said last week that her opinions on the state Supreme Court, where Owen has served since 1995, are anti-consumer. They also criticized her rulings against young women who seek to bypass the state's parental notification law for minor seeking abortions. Cris Feldman, a staff attorney for Texans for Public Justice, which opposes Owen's nomination, said Owen's published opinions reveal an "extremist and activist by any measure" and said her defenders consist of a who's who of the "right-wing fringe." "Furthermore, she is inefficient in processing her caseload and she repeatedly goes out of her way to protect large special interests," Feldman said. Owen's office referred calls seeking comment to the U.S. Justice Department, where Monica Goodling said Owen would be an excellent federal judge. Among the groups Monday that held the news conference to say they support Owen's nomination were the Texas Justice Foundation; Free Market Foundation; Liberty Legal Institute; the Texas chapter of Concerned Women for America; Texas Eagle Forum; the Texas Home School Coalition; the Texas Christian Coalition; the Young Conservatives of Texas; and Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy.

07/15/2002
Books Face Gantlet of Reviews, Ideology
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Books Face Gantlet of Reviews, Ideology

BY Matt Frazier

A battle begins in Austin on Wednesday that will influence the education of children in Texas and throughout the nation. The State Board of Education is kicking off a series of public hearings to gather opinions before choosing which social studies books will shape Texas' children's views of history and the world around them. Seventy organizations and individuals already have signed up to speak. Some political and education analysts say the outcome will be a key test of Texas' textbook selection process. They want to see whether the state board can put aside party politics, absorb a barrage of opinions from lobbyists and choose the most accurate, complete textbooks. Because Texas is the nation's second-largest purchaser of textbooks, the board's decision will affect the education of students throughout the nation. Books approved in Texas are virtually assured some financial success and often are shipped to schools in other states. The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a key player in past textbook debates, says it has discovered 553 errors in the recommended books, as well as hundreds of cases where key historical figures and events were misrepresented or ignored. Publishers eager to earn the $344.7 million Texas will spend on books this year have already been working with such concerned groups to correct factual errors and consider possible revisions to make the texts more acceptable. The Texas Freedom Network has launched an "I Object!" campaign, claiming groups such as the foundation will try to censor texts and impose conservative and religious agendas on the new textbooks. Groups such as the foundation, however, counter that the Texas Freedom Network is pushing its own liberal viewpoints. Education board members say that despite the politics and rhetoric, the result of the review process has been steady improvement in textbook quality. Bill Miller, a lobbyist and political consultant, said there's little question that the review process has helped catch errors before they make it to classrooms. "Whether it has gone too far - I think we are bordering on that," Miller said. "That would be damaging to education." Constant battles In the past, groups have complained about how textbooks portray a variety of subjects, including God, sex, slavery, evolution, patriotism and gender bias. The constant battles prompted state legislators in 1995 to limit the State Board of Education's textbook selection powers. The board cannot directly alter textbook content but can reject books because of errors or failure to follow the state curriculum. Groups such as the Texas Freedom Network have complained that conservatives and religious right groups have had too much influence on textbooks. Those complaints came to a head last year when the Texas Public Policy Foundation and other conservative lobbying groups said a proposed environmental science book unfairly portrayed the significance of acid rain, deforestation, global warming and other environmental issues. The state board voted along party lines to reject the book. Republican board members say they and Democrats were elected to represent their constituents' wishes in educating their children. Because Republicans have had control over the board since 1996, more conservative, patriotic philosophies have appeared in textbooks, they say. "We are just trying to do our jobs and make sure we have accurate, error-free textbooks in our children's hands," said education board member David Bradley, a Republican. "I think we've seen vast improvement in our textbooks." Although Republicans outnumber Democrats, board member Rene Nunez, a Democrat, said there is enough philosophical diversity on the board to keep textbooks from following extreme agendas. "I think it's worked, contentwise," Nunez said. "The textbooks are improving." Hundreds of errors Famed African-American Rosa Parks made headlines in the 1950s when she took a seat in the middle section of a public bus where blacks and whites were allowed to sit together. Or, at least that's what Texas students would learn from one of the textbooks proposed this year, according to the Texas Public Policy Foundation. In fact, there were no such bus sections, and Parks made headlines by sitting in the whites-only area. This year, the state seeks to update textbooks for a variety of high school subjects under the broad heading of "social studies," including U.S. history, comparative government and politics, human geography, psychology and sociology. English and Spanish textbooks for elementary and middle school also are being reviewed. All but one proposed text passed preliminary state review this year. The San Antonio-based foundation asked 16 university professors and public school teachers to study how well proposed replacement texts meet state essential knowledge and skills requirements. Including Rosa Parks' bus seating error, the organization said it discovered 553 errors in the books and hundreds of instances where key historical figures and events are misrepresented or ignored. After spending almost $100,000 on the three-month review project, the organization does not think any of the proposed books deserves to be removed from the state's acceptable list. But the group believes changes must be made. "We gave our reviews to the publishers about two weeks ago," said Chris Patterson, director of education research for the foundation. "If it is possible, we hope some can add material to make their textbooks more historically comprehensive." Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy also is collecting a list of mistakes. The group says it rejects revisionist history, anti-free market, anti-American sentiment and "politically correct textbooks" that promote student advocacy. April Hattori, spokeswoman for education book publisher Glenco/McGraw Hill, said the company is studying some of the reviews and is "very willing and happy" to correct factual errors in its book samples, but that content is guided overall by educational experts and Texas requirements. But the Texas Freedom Network argues that, for many conservative groups, complaining about mistakes and balance is cover for a deeper agenda. "We are seeing the same thing this year we saw last year," said Ashley McIlvain, spokeswoman for the network. "Groups certainly did identify factual errors. But when it came right down to it, they were rejecting books based on philosophical objections they had with the author." Richard Kouri, spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association, agreed. "Politics is being interjected," Kouri said. "What we are going to be watching this time is how successful this new attack strategy is going to be. Is the board going to start knocking off three, four or five books at a time, or forcing companies to go back and rewrite books in order for them to have a chance to be adopted by local school districts?" Matt Frazier, (817) 548-5403 mfrazier@star-telegram.com State textbook review panel Texas is one of 22 mostly Southern states that use a statewide textbook adoption process. The process begins with the State Board of Education issuing a proclamation to publishers that details the subject areas for review, content needed to meet state requirements, the maximum acceptable per-student costs and the estimated number of books required. Members of the state textbook review panel search for factual errors while determining whether the proposed texts cover knowledge and skills deemed essential by the state. Based on these evaluations, the commissioner of education prepares a preliminary report detailing which textbooks should be placed on the conforming list, nonconforming list or be rejected. School districts choose books from the conforming list. The board then conducts public hearings in Austin on Wednesday, Aug. 23, Sept. 11 and Nov. 14. A final decision is expected Nov. 14. Public hearing The first public hearing on proposed textbooks is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday in Room 1-104 of the William B. Travis Building, 1701 N. Congress Ave. in Austin. It is too late to register to speak at this hearing. Those interested in speaking at subsequent hearings may fill out a registration form at the board's Web site at www.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/input/register.html.

07/14/2002
Fire-Fee Proposal Sets of Sparks
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Fire-Fee Proposal Sets of Sparks

BY Rich Mckay

DAYTONA BEACH -- John J. Williams, an 81-year-old retiree, walked to the podium during the most recent City Commission meeting, shook his head and declared to the mayor and the commissioners, "Holy crap! This is ridiculous." Although no public hearing was set at the time, his unvarnished sentiment was a dose of what the commission should expect to hear at its meeting this week about the proposed fire-assessment fee. The session will start at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The World's Most Famous Beach is heading down a road few city governments tread, creating what is essentially a fire tax that could be levied against the tax-base untouchables such as other government properties, including schools, church properties and other nonprofits, as well as residents. The idea is to help the city raise between $6.6 million and $8.8 million to help fix the city's budget woes with a fire-protection fee. The plan is to use the new fee to pay for most of the Fire Department's proposed $8.8 million budget, then sliding tax money usually spent on fire protection into other places, such as paying police overtime during Bike Week. The fee, at $8.8 million, would represent 5.7 percent of the proposed $152 million budget slated for adoption in September; and the $6.6 million level would be 4.3 percent of the budget. It is a move recommended by the city's financial consultants, and it has been successfully used in about 50 communities across Florida. State law permits such a move, but some local residents and county officials call it an economic shell game. 'WHAT'S NEXT?' Williams complained later that he and other residents already pay for the Fire Department through their taxes. Why, he asked, should they have to pay again? Homeowners would pay $134 annually and apartment and condominium dwellers would pay $89 under the plan. "What's next? A police-assessment fee?" Williams asked after the meeting. Although it's politically unpopular, Mayor Bud Asher said that the fire-protection fee might be necessary to restore the city's financial health and maintain the services that residents have come to count on. After six years of not raising taxes, the city had a $2.2 million budget shortfall this year, and bigger shortages are expected unless more money is found. "These are tough decisions but we have to do what's right for the city," Asher said. COUNTY COUNCIL RESISTS Even the Daytona Beach City Commission isn't of one mind on the fire tax, with nearly half of the commissioners voting against it in the razor-thin 4-3 vote -- with commissioners George Burden, Charles Cherry and Darlene Yordon opposing it. They aren't the only ones who are anxious about the city's next move. The County Council openly balked during an emergency meeting last week to oppose the controversial fire-protection fee that could cost the county as much as $225,232 annually. Council member Big John complained that Daytona officials are essentially asking county taxpayers to fix the city's money problems. He also pointed out that it could touch off a budget-bleeding trend if the 15 other cities and towns in the county wanted the same break that Daytona Beach gets. "This is really a bad idea," John said. For instance, John asked, what do you do about Daytona Beach International Airport? The county owns it and the fire tax could be upward of $168,000, but the airport has its own Fire Department. Asher pointed out that nothing has been established yet, as far as which properties would or would not be included. "What we're doing now is just preserving our right to go forward with this," Asher said. "We don't know yet who will or won't be included." He also said that county officials are "out of line" to tell Daytona not to have the fire-assessment fee at all. SCHOOL BOARD CONCERNED The School Board is worried too, and it sent a letter pleading that the city not try to slice a $400,000 wedge out of the bank account that it needs to pay for teachers, schools and books. School Board members were present at the most recent City Commission meeting and are expected to make their voices heard Wednesday. Some church leaders also are nervous. The folks over at the First Assembly of God on Ridgewood Avenue say there must be another way. Under the city's plan, the fire tax would cost the church 29 cents per foot of property. That would be a $7,250 annual bill for the 25,000-square-foot facility. BITE INTO CHURCH'S WALLET That's a lot of money for the congregation of 200 regulars, said its pastor, the Rev. Dickie Alan Dixon, who said that the city would be crossing a barrier respected throughout the country that recognizes churches' role in society, Dixon said. "It's very possible that churches would have to divert money from benevolence and charity work to offset the tax," he said. "Our congregation wants to be good citizens," Dixon said. "I think the city would get a better result if they asked the churches for a special donation for the city's Fire Department." That way, churches could pay what they could afford. Asher has proposed that church sanctuaries and other places used specifically for worship not be included, but other church property could be. Groups that watch public policy, such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State in Washington, agree with Daytona's steps. "The U.S. Supreme Court holds that laws that are neutral -- not singling out churches -- are constitutional," said Rob Boston, the group's spokesman. "It sounds fair to me. No one's getting a free ride or special break," he said. Citizens for a Sound Economy, a tax-watchdog group in Washington, said that while the fire fee is legal, it doesn't seem fair for residents or the nonprofits. "We've been dealing with this issue all over the country," said Marty Reiser, its spokesman. "Rather than clamping down on spending, governments are looking for new money anywhere they can it. We oppose this on that basis." TO CUT OR NOT TO CUT Commissioner Burden said the city could cut spending somewhere in the proposed $152 million budget. For that reason, he opposes the fire-assessment fee. Asher said that with "all the demands for services made by the public," there's nowhere left to cut, so that means raising more money. Commissioners who don't believe that, Asher said, are "not in the same world."

07/14/2002
Books face gantlet of reviews, ideology
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Books face gantlet of reviews, ideology

BY MATT FRAZIER

HEADLINE: Books face gantlet of reviews, ideology BYLINE: MATT FRAZIER; Star-Telegram Staff Writer HIGHLIGHT: BOOKS: State Board of Education members believe that despite the politics and rhetoric, the review has resulted in steady improvement in textbook quality. BODY: A battle begins in Austin on Wednesday that will influence the education of children in Texas and throughout the nation.

07/14/2002
FIRE-FEE PROPOSAL SETS OFF SPARKS
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FIRE-FEE PROPOSAL SETS OFF SPARKS

BY Rich McKay

DAYTONA BEACH -- John J. Williams, an 81-year-old retiree, walked to the podium during the most recent City Commission meeting, shook his head and declared to the mayor and the commissioners, "Holy crap! This is ridiculous." Although no public hearing was set at the time, his unvarnished sentiment was a dose of what the commission should expect to hear at its meeting this week about the proposed fire-assessment fee. The session will start at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

07/14/2002
Americans for Priscilla Owen
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Americans for Priscilla Owen

Group Calls for an End to the 'Politics of Personal Destruction'

07/13/2002
Groups seek defections on budget
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Groups seek defections on budget

BY Greg Lucas

In an apparent effort to prolong California's budget stalemate, three Washington, D.C., conservative anti-tax groups with ties to the GOP have launched attacks on two Democratic Assembly members trying to get them to vote against tax increases. The two lawmakers, Barbara Matthews of Tracy and Lou Correa of Santa Ana, represent Assembly districts with relatively low Democratic registration and are targets of the GOP this election.

07/13/2002
CSE Joining TJF in Supporting Owens
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Press Release

CSE Joining TJF in Supporting Owens

A diverse collection of individuals and groups will hold a press conference on the steps of the Texas Supreme Court Building on Monday, July 15th, at 10:00 a.m. The groups will announce their unanimous support for the nomination of President George W. Bush of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Those announcing their support are: Texas Justice Foundation, Free Market Foundation, Liberty Legal Institute, Becky Farrar, State Advisor and Legislative Liaison for Concerned Women for America Texas, Texas Eagle Forum, Tim Lambert, President of Texas Home School Coalition, Texas Christian Coalition, Marc Levin and Young Conservatives of Texas and Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy.

07/12/2002
Medicaid and the State Budget
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Press Release

Medicaid and the State Budget

I don’t know about you, but when Legislators start thinking that they know more about health care issues than doctors, I get nervous. By the way, remember that the definition of health care to politicians is “someone else paying for it.”

07/10/2002

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