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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
Outgunned, Texas Democrats Vamoose
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Outgunned, Texas Democrats Vamoose

BY Scott Gold

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. Now they don't have a quorum, and with Thursday the last day legislation can be sent to the Senate, the conservative agenda they've effectively waited 130 years to advance could die. The Democrats' maneuver came, not coincidentally, as Republicans were preparing to redraw congressional districts, allowing the GOP to take as many as seven congressional seats away from Democrats in the next election cycle. Democrats currently hold a slim majority of the state's congressional seats, and the GOP plan could cement the Republican Party's hold on power in Washington. Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick, a Republican, was not impressed by the walkout. "Get back to Austin and get back to work," he warned the Democrats. As his compatriots whistled the Star Spangled Banner on the floor of the House, Craddick ordered the chamber's doors locked. Then, citing an obscure provision in the Texas Constitution allowing members of the House to demand a quorum of their peers, he asked the chamber's sergeant-at-arms to find the Democrats. Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Tom Vinger confirmed Monday night that three of his department's law enforcement divisions, including the fabled Texas Rangers, were on the case. The Democrats had vowed to stay in hiding until the Thursday deadline passed. But according to Associated Press, troopers were sent to a Holiday Inn in Ardmore, Okla., late Monday to tell 40-plus members gathered there to return to Austin. It was unclear how Republicans learned of the Democrats' whereabouts. The rebel lawmakers were planning a news conference today. At midnight, legislators in jeans and casual shirts milled about a conference room near the rear of the Oklahoma hotel lobby. Rep. Pete Gallego of Alpine said the lawmakers, whose numbers he wouldn't release, arrived Sunday night. Asked how long they would stay, he said, "That remains to be seen." According to published reports and interviews with aides and legislative officials, the Democrats not only hatched a secret plan to escape Austin, they leaked false plans to the Republican leadership in recent days to cover their tracks. According to published reports and interviews with aides and legislative officials, the Democrats not only hatched a secret plan to escape Austin, they leaked false plans to the Republican leadership in recent days to cover their tracks. Some of the legislators didn't know where they were going until they left, said aides who have since spoken with them by telephone. And correctly assuming that Craddick would send troopers and rangers to arrest them, they split into groups and headed for several states, including Oklahoma and New Mexico. Texas Gov. Rick Perry dispatched his attorneys Monday to ask neighboring states whether his troopers and rangers could make arrests there. Though other states were looking into it late Monday, New Mexico's Atty. Gen. Patricia A. Madrid said no. She said Texas authorities would need to issue warrants for the legislators' arrest. Only then, she said, would New Mexico authorities be able to arrest them -- and even then the two states would need to discuss extradition proceedings. "I have put out an all-points bulletin for law enforcement to be on the lookout for politicians in favor of health care for the needy and against tax cuts for the wealthy," said Madrid, a Democrat. Asked in an interview where his bosses are, Dean Rindy, a political advisor to the Democratic House Caucus, said: "I don't know. And I don't want to know." "They vanished into the night," he said. "Gone with the wind." Rindy dismissed rumors circulating that the Democrats ditched their cellular phones en masse in case any of them, in a moment of weakness, call home and give away their whereabouts. "To pry a cell phone from a politician's hand would be unprecedented," he said. "I doubt that." In a ploy audacious even by the standards of Texas politics, one of the GOP's new congressional districts would be composed of two Republican-leaning areas, one north of Austin and one in the Rio Grande Valley -- 300 miles away. The two areas would be connected by a mile-wide ribbon of land and have been dubbed a "community of interest." Democrats say U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Republican from Sugar Land, Texas, is behind the push for the new congressional districts. DeLay could not be reached for comment. "We did not choose our path. Tom DeLay did," the missing Democrats said in a prepared statement. "Our House rules, including those regarding a quorum, were adopted precisely to protect the people from what is before the House today -- the tyranny of a majority... The redistricting plan ... is the ultimate in political greed -- it is undemocratic, unjust and unprecedented. It's a power grab by Tom DeLay, pure and simple." It's not that simple, however, and the Democrats' walkout was about more than redistricting. Texas had long been a bastion of Democratic power, but the party began to falter in the 1980s, largely when white, suburban voters turned away from liberal social policies and toward the conservative wing. In 2002, Democrats assembled what they termed a "dream team" of candidates and declared it the "year of the comeback." It was a monumental flop. Largely because of President Bush's influence and fund-raising prowess, the Democrats did not capture a single statewide election. Politically, Republicans may be more powerful here than they are in any other state but they could not have picked a worse time to take control. Texas, though it spends less per capita than almost any other state, is in dire financial trouble, facing a $10-billion budget shortfall over the next two years. Many Texans, however, expect little more from their government than properly operating traffic lights, and raising taxes is tantamount to political suicide for Republicans. The alternative to raising taxes, though, is a series of dramatic cuts in social services that have shocked even many moderates here. The Republican leaders say they are trying to be good fiscal wards in difficult economic times. But they have proposed, among other things, reclassifying 56,000 elderly and disabled people so they are no longer "frail" -- making them ineligible for Medicaid. An estimated 250,000 children from low-income families would be removed from the rolls of the Children's Health Insurance Program. Money set aside to replace antiquated textbooks in public schools has been cut, and teachers' health insurance benefits are expected to drop considerably. The budget bill containing those provisions is among those that could die this week because of the Democrats' walkout. Democrats also disagree with a host of other Republican legislation that is expected to pass, including one bill that limits damages in medical malpractice cases, restricts class-action lawsuits and shields some corporations from defective product claims. "The Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives have taken a stand on principle," said Texas Democratic Party Chairwoman Molly Beth Malcolm. "They are not going to allow themselves to be run over by Tom DeLay, Tom Craddick and the rest of the far right-wing Republicans who care more about their party's agenda than what is best for Texas. The Republicans will attempt to call them obstructionists. They are heroes." According to Craddick, they are cowards. "It's not a disgrace to stand and fight, but it is a disgrace to run and hide," he said. The Texas Legislature meets just once every two years, for 140 days, during which, on average, more than 8,000 bills are proposed and more than 1,000 are debated and approved. That means every day counts, said Peggy Venable, the Austin-based state director of Citizens for a Sound Economy, which fights for lower taxes and less government regulations. "They are supposed to do the people's business. Instead they are taking a vacation at taxpayer expense," she said in an interview. "They are acting like truant schoolchildren. Democrats don't seem to know how to be in a minority. It is time they grow up." The Democrats' maneuver is not without precedent. Twenty-four years ago, 12 Texas state senators went on a similar strike, refusing to work at the Capitol. They hid in an Austin apartment for several days while Texas Rangers and other law enforcement authorities searched for them.

05/13/2003
CSE Holds Massive Rally with President Bush
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Press Release

CSE Holds Massive Rally with President Bush

Over 175 NC CSE grassroots activists traveled on an overnight trip to Washington, DC to join a hundred more CSE members in cheering support of President Bush’s tax-cut package. The President detailed his plan to over 700 people at the US Chamber of Commerce. “You all can make a difference in this debate.Not only the people present in this room can make a difference, but people who are listening across the country can make a difference. That's why they've got emails or telephones, or in some cases, buses. People on the Hill are responsive to the voice of their fellow citizens,” stated Bush during his speech. After the President’s speech, NC CSE activists attended a press conference at the Dirksen Senate Office Building. NC CSE activists Martha Jenkins and Bob Bateman testified before House and Senate leadership about how the jobs & growth package would affect their families and business. Following the press conference, NC CSE activists visited Senator John Edward’s Office to advocate for the President’s tax-cut plan. North Carolina congressional representatives joined NC CSE activists for a luncheon to discuss key issues including tax and budget and Social Security Reform.

05/13/2003
The House of Bloat
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Press Release

The House of Bloat

Perhaps it is fitting that the House Administration Committee would wait until the day last week when White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels resigned to release its new spending plan. Daniels is an impassioned believer in fiscal discipline, and was known around policy circles as “The Blade” for his knife-edged approach to fat budgets and Congressional negotiators. The big spenders in Congress disliked Daniels and his tough approach, his departure is another sign that spending restraint has collapsed in Washington.

05/13/2003
Stop Wasting Taxpayer Dollars in New Jersey
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Press Release

Stop Wasting Taxpayer Dollars in New Jersey

New Jersey faces a $5 billion budget deficit and lawmakers in Trenton want to spend millions on a program the federal government will provide for free. Assembly Bill 727 would establish a state “do-not-call” list for consumers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in Washington is developing a national “do-not-call” database, which will be functional in October. We support “do-not-call” lists for consumers. We do not support politicians in Trenton wasting taxpayer money.

05/13/2003
Texas House Members Who Are Playing Hooky at Taxpayer Expense
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Press Release

Texas House Members Who Are Playing Hooky at Taxpayer Expense

05/12/2003
STATEMENT BY PEGGY VENABLE Director, Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy On the House Walk-out
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Press Release

STATEMENT BY PEGGY VENABLE Director, Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy On the House Walk-out

Around 50 Texas Democrats are taking a vacation on taxpayer expense, bringing the work of the legislature to a standstill and jeopardizing getting a state budget passed. By playing their game of hide and seek, these “yellow dog” legislators have walked out on their constituents as well as the taxpayers and schoolchildren of Texas. It is unacceptable for these House members to abdicate their responsibilities.

05/12/2003

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