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Capitol Protests Hit From 2 Sides
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Capitol Protests Hit From 2 Sides

BY Peter Wong

To get a sense of what some Oregonians think lawmakers should do about the state budget, all you had to do was hang around the Capitol for a few hours Thursday. The latest forecast of state income, which is down almost $700 million for the next two years, did not change some people's minds. On a chilly Thursday morning, on the Capitol's front steps, about 100 advocates and recipients of social services rallied under the banner of the Human Services Coalition of Oregon. They opposed more spending cuts and supported higher taxes or reduced tax breaks. On a chilly Thursday afternoon, on the Capitol's west steps, about 100 people rallied under the banner of Oregon Citizens for a Sound Economy. They opposed higher taxes or reduced tax breaks and supported more spending cuts and efficiencies. Both sides had their stories to tell. Beverly Bettis of Hubbard sat at the edge of the morning rally. At age 68 with multiple sclerosis, she relies on caregivers under Oregon Project Independence to lift her from bed each morning, give her a bath, put her in a wheelchair and put her back into bed at night. It costs the state $400 per month. But the alternative for her is a nursing home at $3,000 per month, much of which could be paid from federal grants. She would lose her home. "This service makes so much of a difference in the value and quality of my life," Bettis said. "I am able to be involved and participate in church and community activities. Otherwise, I am stuck at home." What is left of Oregon Project Independence, established 25 years ago, would be eliminated in the draft proposal by the Legislature's budget writers. "I continue to hope that they can find new revenue and ways to balance things," Bettis said. Michael Koester of Ashland, who also uses a wheelchair, arrived the previous day to meet his legislators. The commercial artist created cardboard cutouts of human figures with one-sheet descriptions of what various state spending cuts have done to people. The cutouts were lined up around the human services rally, and people were invited to supply descriptions by computer. "The concept was to represent Oregonians of all kinds - not just people with disabilities, but people who never get seen up here," said Koester, who himself has been in danger of losing in-home care. "I'd like lawmakers to see the real faces behind their decisions." Steve Mitchell of Ashland had a differing view. He said his dry-cleaning business has been forced to close three of six locations and reduce employees from 26 to 12. "That's real life," Mitchell said. "I had to cut everything I could to stay alive in business. As a citizen, I am saying that government has to do the same thing." He supports proposals by Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Taxpayers Association of Oregon to overhaul the public-pension system, eliminate vacant state jobs, find more efficiencies in agencies, and transfer some government functions to the business sector. Bill and Donna Cain of Rogue River also were part of the Citizens for a Sound Economy group. Donna Cain, current secretary of the Oregon Republican Party and a 1998 candidate for nomination to the Oregon House, said legislators are making progress with scaling back the long-term unfunded liability of the Public Employees Retirement System. "We are encouraged by what has been done so far," she said. "But we are hoping that it continues because PERS is costing the state billions. Anyone else in any other kind of business does not get that kind of retirement guarantee." Bill Cain said that efforts ought to be extended to paring other payroll costs in the public schools. "We need to return control of the education system to the people and out from under the unions," he said. Rob Wheaton of Portland relies on medications to keep his body from rejecting the transplanted heart he received six years ago. He had been living with an enlarged heart. When voters rejected an income-tax increase Jan. 28, it triggered elimination of state assistance to Wheaton and more than 8,000 "medically needy" people with high medical expenses but unable to qualify for Medicaid. The Legislature restored medications for transplant and AIDS patients through June 30. Before that restoration, Wheaton said he was down to a three-day supply of medication, some of it obtained from others. He is worried that the state cutoff will stand - and he has not received any free or reduced-price medications from drug manufacturers. "For me, it's difficult to watch my pill supply dwindle," said Wheaton, who's 29 and looking for work. "It has become an hourglass of my life. I see those pill boxes getting smaller and bottles getting emptier. I see death coming."

05/16/2003
What's Next
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What's Next

The quarterly economic and revenue forecast for state government will be presented at 9 a.m. today in Hearing Room A of the Capitol to a joint meeting of the House and Senate revenue committees. A rally urging lawmakers to consider more money for public schools and state services, either through higher taxes or reduced tax breaks, is scheduled for 10 a.m. on the front steps of the Capitol. Oregon Citizens for a Sound Economy, which opposes higher taxes, has scheduled a news conference for this afternoon.

05/15/2003
Giving Students a New Choice
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Press Release

Giving Students a New Choice

On May 9, the U.S. House of Representatives Government Reform Committee held a hearing on alternative schools and educational reform in the District of Columbia. Legislators heard from various witnesses who testified on H.R. 684, the “D.C. School Choice Act of 2003” sponsored by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) supports this sensible reform measure, which would increase significantly parents’ control over their children’s education.

05/14/2003
School Choice Comes to Washington
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Press Release

School Choice Comes to Washington

Dear Legislator: On May 9, the U.S. House of Representatives Government Reform Committee held a hearing on alternative schools and educational reform in the District of Columbia. Legislators heard from various witnesses who testified on H.R. 684, the “D.C. School Choice Act of 2003” sponsored by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) supports this sensible reform measure, and on behalf of the 280,000 members of CSE, I urge you to support this bill, which would increase significantly parents’ control over their children’s education.

05/14/2003
Texas 'Chicken D's' Need to End Walk-Out
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Press Release

Texas 'Chicken D's' Need to End Walk-Out

Texas CSE’s motto is “government goes to those who show up” but democracy doesn’t work if our elected officials fail to show up. Our political system does not work if the minority runs when it comes time to vote.

05/14/2003
Media Advisory: Texas Press Conference on Legislator Walk-Out
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Press Release

Media Advisory: Texas Press Conference on Legislator Walk-Out

Organizations representing over 500,000 Texas citizens are holding a press conference at 10 am Wednesday, May 14, 2003, in front of the Texas Capitol, to discuss legislation which will likely be killed if the House does not have a quorum by Thursday. Where: Capitol, South side, on street at 11th and Cong. Ave When: 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 14, 2003

05/14/2003
Texas Chicken D’s: Quorum Busters
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Press Release

Texas Chicken D’s: Quorum Busters

Texas CSE’s motto is “government goes to those who show up” but democracy doesn’t work if our elected officials fail to show up. Our political system does not work if the minority runs when it comes time to vote. These “Chicken D’s” antics are costing taxpayer money – and time is running out and wasted tax dollars are adding up. This walk-out is costing us every day enough to educate one Texas schoolchild, and a special session will cost us $1.5 million a day – money needed for education, for health care and roads.

05/14/2003
Outgunned, Texas Democrats Vamoose With Rangers on Their Trail
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Outgunned, Texas Democrats Vamoose With Rangers on Their Trail

AUSTIN, Texas -- In an act of political subterfuge, at least 53 Democratic legislators packed their bags, disappeared from the Capitol and apparently scattered across the Southwest on Monday as Texas Rangers searched for them, bringing a divisive legislative session to an abrupt halt. Under state law, Republicans -- who control the governor's mansion, the state Senate and the state House for the first time since the 19th century -- need 100 of 150 legislators on the floor of the House before they can conduct the people's business.

05/13/2003
Walkout Threatens Array of Bills
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Walkout Threatens Array of Bills

BY R.A. Dyer

AUSTIN - Although the shutdown of the Texas House is aimed at blocking legislation to redraw congressional districts, it could jeopardize more than 200 other bills, including those dealing with the state budget, teacher bonuses and the regulation of child pornography. The House has until Thursday to give first-round approval for major legislation and until Friday to deliver final approval. A series of other legislative deadlines kick in next week.

05/13/2003
Walkout Threatens Array of Bills
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Walkout Threatens Array of Bills

BY R. A. Dyer

AUSTIN--Although the shutdown of the Texas House is aimed at blocking legislation to redraw congressional districts, it could jeopardize more than 200 other bills, including those dealing with the state budget, teacher bonuses and the regulation of child pornography. The House has until Thursday to give first-round approval for major legislation and until Friday to deliver final approval. A series of other legislative deadlines kick in next week. The walkout directly threatens 233 bills scheduled for consideration this week, said a spokesman for House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland. The shutdown also indirectly threatens budget legislation, making it more likely that Gov. Rick Perry would call lawmakers back to Austin this summer for a special session. "This childish prank endangers the hard work legislators have invested in ensuring that homeowners insurance rates are lowered, and it jeopardizes dozens of other pieces of important legislation," Perry said. But in a prepared statement, absent Democrats said they're willing to address pressing issues -- but not a redistricting plan pushed by the state GOP and U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land. "We are ready to work to solve the problems caused by budget cuts in education and health care, not on cutting up the state of Texas to satisfy Tom DeLay's quest for power," the statement read. Besides immediately threatening the redistricting legislation -- which the House had planned to consider Monday -- the shutdown also threatens a sweeping government restructuring bill scheduled for debate today. House Bill 2, by Rep. David Swinford, R-Dumas, would expand the powers of the governor, lead to budget cuts for some schools and potentially result in one-time bonuses for Texas school teachers. But if House Bill 2 dies, those programs would die with it, Swinford said. The bill also includes an additional $350 million in savings to help plug the state's nearly $10 billion shortfall, he said. "This touches every agency in the state," Swinford said. "You can't find a vehicle for this" to get the legislation adopted. State Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, R-Burleson, said her House Bill 1655 to create "Choose Life" license plates also faces extinction. The legislation, under which a motorist could pay an extra $30 for the specialized plates, was to have come up Monday. "I was not expecting this to be the reaction," Wohlgemuth said of the Democratic walkout. "We need to get down to business. This is crunch time." Lawmakers have yet to finish debate on other key bits of legislation, including a bill to regulate the Texas insurance market, a bill to make dramatic changes to the civil justice system and the principal state appropriations bill. But because those bills received prior approval in the Texas House or originated in the Texas Senate, they are less threatened by the mass walkout. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, president of the Texas Senate, also said he would help rescue endangered legislation, especially bills pertaining to the state budget. "We're going to work together to make sure that the key pieces of legislation that we expected ... are covered by the Senate," Dewhurst said. "We'll work on passing each and every one of those so government continues and we don't see a glitch in services." If House members don't return soon, however, scores of minor bills face almost certain death -- including many on the "local and consent calendar" and others still pending in House committees. The walkout effectively blocked meetings by most House committees, even though Monday was the last day for House committees to adopt House bills. Political analyst Harvey Kronberg said lawmakers can sometimes find alternatives to hard-and-fast deadlines. But with each passing day, those alternatives become fewer and more disparate, he said. "This has polarized the House," said Kronberg, editor of the online Quorum Report. "Some of Craddick's own chairmen have taken a walk. With the hard feelings that will be lingering over the next couple of weeks, everything is radioactive. Easily hundreds of bills could be killed. And bottlenecks galore." Some of the bills scheduled for House consideration this week -- but which now could perish -- include: House Bill 60, related to prohibitions on child pornography; House Bill 1017, related to child-care services; and House Bill 70, related to tax exemptions for the elderly. Also affected would be House Bill 405, related to freshwater protections; House Bill 37, related to speed limits near schools; House Bill 3974, related to alternative education programs; and House Bill 699, related to school board elections. State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said some bills that face extinction are perhaps better off dead. "I am equally concerned about some of the pending legislation that might go forward," he said. Peggy Venable, director of the conservative Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, said House Democrats have abandoned their responsibilities. "How can they be representing their constituents if they are hiding from the authorities and playing ob-structionist games?" she said. Endangered bills Monday's walkout by state Democrats could doom numerous bills pending in the Texas House of Representatives, including: * House Bill 2223, by Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, would suspend a teen-ager's driver's license if he engages in terroristic threats, false alarms or bomb hoaxes. * House Bill 2988, by Jaime Capelo, D-Corpus Christi, would establish guidelines for quarantine measures and the disposal of human remains in case of a major public health emergency. * House Bill 1253, by Myra Crownover, R-Denton, would give school districts greater latitude in determining the salary of retired teachers who return to work. * House Bill 797, by David Farabee, D-Wichita Falls, would increase penalties for drug offenses committed within 1,000 feet of a youth center. * House Bill 1691, by Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, would allow funding for accelerated reading programs for students at risk of dyslexia.

05/13/2003

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