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Campaign of Ideas
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Campaign of Ideas

BY Terrence Stutz

What the candidates for lieutenant governor say is their most creative idea: Republican David Dewhurst Wants to curb insurance premiums by placing new restrictions on civil lawsuits, limiting attorney fees and establishing new state supervision of insurance rates. It would require legislative approval. HOW IT WOULD WORK A cap would be established for punitive, non-economic damages in lawsuits brought by homeowners against insurance companies and by medical patients against doctors. Those damages would be limited to a maximum $ 300,000, including $ 250,000 to the homeowner and $ 50,000 to a new state fund to monitor insurance industry practices. The same limits would apply to medical malpractice cases, but the $ 50,000 would go to a new state fund to pay premiums for doctors in underserved and low- income areas. Also, state supervision of rates would be established for auto, homeowners and medical malpractice insurance, with all premium increases subject to approval by the state insurance commissioner within 120 days of a rate filing. THE COST No estimates are available. CRITICS SAY "This plan will not solve the insurance crisis in Texas," said Dan Lambe of Texas Watch, a consumer group. "It is largely the insurance industry that has caused the crisis, and to reward them by limiting their responsibility to homeowners is one of the most ridiculous ideas I have heard. The only people you punish are consumers, and the only people you help are insurance companies." THE CANDIDATES SAY "There is a crisis in homeowners insurance and in medical malpractice insurance. The rates are spiraling out of control. It is threatening the right of Texans to own a home and to have access to affordable health care." Democrat John Sharp Wants to offer a free college education to every Texas student who graduates from high school with a B average. The program also would offer a free college education to children of veteran public school teachers. It would require legislative approval. His proposal is aimed at middle-class students who sometimes have a more difficult time financing a higher education than students from high-income families and low-income families - who often have access to numerous grant programs. It is patterned after the Hope Scholarship program in Georgia, where thousands of students have taken advantage of it. Students would have to maintain a B average to keep their scholarship, which would pay tuition and fees for up to 120 credit hours at any state university or college. The scholarships would pay part of the tuition at private schools. For children of teachers, the teacher would have to agree to work in a public school for at least 10 years. About $ 850 million. Mr. Sharp said the program would be considered only after legislators deal with the projected deficit in the state budget. "We would support and like to see more people go to college, but there has to be a better way than paying for it out of taxpayers' pockets," said Peggy Venable of Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, a self-proclaimed conservative group active in textbook selection and other education issues. "I am not sure Texas can afford it. We should be shrinking government programs, not expanding them." "Nobody is doing anything for middle-class kids. Nowhere is that more true than paying for a college education. After we fix this financial mess we're in, we're going to do this for middle-class kids in Texas."

09/08/2002
Business Digest
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Business Digest

MANUFACTURING Company opens branch ASHEVILLE -- Heat Transfer Sales of the Carolinas has opened a Western North Carolina branch office located at 70 Woodfin Place, Suite 117B. HTS is a manufacturers representative firm specializing in commercial, industrial and institutional hydronic HVAC equipment and engineered plumbing systems. HTS has been covering the Carolinas for more than 30 years and stocks a wide variety of TACO and Weinmann hydronic pumps, Raypak boilers, steam condensate pumps and many hydronic and steam specialty items in the 17,000-square-foot Greensboro warehouse. The WNC branch office covers Hickory, Boone, Asheville, Hendersonville and counties west to the Tennessee state line. The office telephone number is 225-6608 and is staffed by Randy Mills, PE. BUSINESS GROUPS Freedom luncheon set ASHEVILLE -- The John Locke Foundation and Citizens for a Sound Economy will sponsor a "Freedom Agenda 2002" luncheon featuring Roy Cordato, the foundation's vice president for research. It will begin at noon Friday at the Renaissance Hotel, One Thomas Wolfe Plaza. Cordato will discuss river-buffer regulations, the new Clean Smokestacks bill and other policies he says sacrifice property rights and sound economics. Cost is $10. For reservations, call Thomas Croom at (866) 553-4636 or e-mail tcroom@johnlocke.org. Tourism group to meet ASHEVILLE -- The Asheville Area Tourism Association will meet at noon Wednesday at Blue Ridge Motion Pictures, 12 Old Charlotte Highway. Members will tour the facility, which is being developed as a production location for the motion picture, television and sound recording industries. For information about the meeting or joining, call Doug Sherry at 298-3719. For lunch reservations call the Comfort Inn at 298-9141. The cost is $12. SEMINARS Investment program WEAVERVILLE -- Bill Boughtton, an Edward Jones representative, will host a live program on stock investment opportunities broadcast on the company's private satellite network. It will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Jones' office in Weaverville. To reserve a seat for the free program, call Boughton at 645-0341.

09/08/2002
Educators Say System is on Brink
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Educators Say System is on Brink

BY R. A. Dyer

AUSTIN--Increasing expenses coupled with an inability to increase revenues could lead the Texas public school system to its doom, according to warnings issued Thursday by two education groups pushing for more funding for schools. In a report aimed at Texas lawmakers in advance of the 2003 legislative session, the Texas Association of School Boards and the Texas Association of School Administrators say that the school funding system cannot continue absorbing the escalating expenses of enrollment, utilities, fuel, insurance and supplies. Key lawmakers said there is little chance of a school finance overhaul in the upcoming session. But without more help from the state, "Texas' entire public school system as we know it today will collapse," says the "Report Card on Public Education," which the organizations began distributing this week. "As those who are closest to the education system, we are trying to call attention now to the fact that Texas education, as successful as it has been in recent years, is running headlong toward disaster," the report continues. "No public school district will escape. ... The scenario we describe is imminent. It will transpire over the next two or three years. This report card is not an exaggeration." But Peggy Venable, director of Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, questioned the organizations' conclusions. "The so-called report card ... is long on hype and short on reality," Venable said. "The apocalyptic gloom-and-doom report projects disaster in our schools but claims no responsibility by the education community." The state's $24 billion-a-year school funding system depends on a combination of revenues from local school district property taxes and revenues provided by the state. The organizations say that that complicated system can't meet increasing demands. For instance, a tax cap limits the ability of local districts to increase revenues through local property taxes. At the same time, the state's proportional share of funding for schools has decreased through the years. The groups say that districts could eventually begin making severe cuts just as students begin taking new high-stakes tests. Citing comments by Texas Education Agency Commissioner Felipe Alanis, the groups say that test failures will increase. "With classrooms that are overcrowded today and a growing shortage of qualified teachers, Texas schools will become increasingly ill-equipped to prepare students for the [new test]," the organizations say. "As fall 2003 approaches, the problems will spiral out of control. ... If the Texas Legislature doesn't come to the rescue, the fate of Texas public schools will be doomed." An organization spokesman said the report is meant to widen legislative and public support for education spending growth. The organizations also call upon lawmakers to pledge support for such increases. Bill Miller, a spokesman for both organizations, said the situation will only worsen if lawmakers wait beyond the 2003 session. Several lawmakers have said a sweeping funding overhaul is unlikely next year given an expected multibillion-dollar budget shortfall, as well as a possible change in political leadership. Acting Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, architect of the school funding system and the only lawmaker to propose a specific plan to overhaul it, questioned whether the Legislature would ever act without the threat of court action. "We haven't done it [overhaul the system] before -- not until the Supreme Court threatened to shut off all the funds and close the schools," said Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant. "What it will finally take is for the political pain of not doing something to become worse than the political pain of doing something." State Sen. Teel Bivins, co-chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance, also downplayed the possibility of action in 2003. "Before we have a clear picture of the state's fiscal situation, it is impossible to predict what action the Legislature will take," said Bivins, R-Amarillo.

09/06/2002
Oregon Ad Airs the Facts: “Taxing Ted” Kulongoski’s Record
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Press Release

Oregon Ad Airs the Facts: “Taxing Ted” Kulongoski’s Record

Oregon Citizens for a Sound Economy, an Oregon-based grassroots issue advocacy organization with 12,000 members, has launched a $150,000 advertising and grassroots campaign to educate citizens about Democratic candidate Ted Kulongoski's record in support of higher taxes. On numerous occasions, Kulongoski has told media outlets like The Oregonian that he favors higher income taxes and higher car taxes. He's just one more typical tax and spend politician looking for higher office.

09/05/2002
CSE Mailbag Sept. 10, 2002
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Press Release

CSE Mailbag Sept. 10, 2002

Restoring America

09/04/2002
Taxpayer Relief Pledge
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Press Release

Taxpayer Relief Pledge

TAXPAYER RELIEF PLEDGE On May 26th the U.S. Congress passed one of the largest tax cuts in history. This bill marked the first time in a generation that Americans have had their tax burden reduced by any significant amount. Although an excellent first step, Congress cannot allow their hard won efforts to be watered down or undone.

09/04/2002
CSE Mailbag Sept. 4, 2002
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Press Release

CSE Mailbag Sept. 4, 2002

Federal Workers

09/04/2002
Bad Taxes at Home Cause Trouble Abroad
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Press Release

Bad Taxes at Home Cause Trouble Abroad

As the global economy becomes more integrated and capital flows more freely around the world, the need for fundamental tax reform in the United States becomes more evident. Just recently, the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced that the European Union could move forward with $4 billion in sanctions against the United States. The sanctions are a response to current tax policy in the United States, which provides tax credits to companies doing business overseas. These tax credits were claimed to be an unfair export subsidy for American companies. What’s really unfair is the federal tax code, which has become so burdensome and complex that other countries are becoming more attractive to investors.

09/04/2002
A Tough Row to Hoe
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Press Release

A Tough Row to Hoe

This Week. Both the House and Senate resume legislative business this week after a month-long August recess. The Senate, which reconvened on Tuesday, will focus on legislation to create a Department of Homeland Security, S. 2452 and the 2003 Interior appropriations bill. The House, which does not begin work until today (9/4) has eight bills to be considered under suspension of the rules, a dam safety measure (HR 4727), a measure to make permanent various education tax breaks included in last year's big tax-cut package and motions to go conference on two spending bills. On Friday, both Houses will be conducting a special meeting in Federal Hall in New York, New York in remembrance of the victims and the heroes of September 11, 2001. A Tough Row to Hoe This will be a tough couple of weeks for legislators. Looming over them is the November 5th election currently only 8 short weeks away. Despite their best efforts to the contrary, any decision or legislation they undertake will be rife with the underlying politics. It is impossible to separate the two – with an almost evenly divided Senate and a single digit majority in the House – there is too much at stake.

09/04/2002
Monkeys With Darts
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Press Release

Monkeys With Darts

When George W. Bush was sworn in as the 43rd President of the United States the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the federal budget for fiscal year 2002 would be in surplus by an eye-popping $405 billion. Last week, the CBO issued its latest estimate for 2002: a $157 billion deficit. In just over 19 months in office, President Bush has overseen a $552 billion swing in the 2002 budget and an estimated $7 trillion deterioration of the federal government’s 10-year fiscal outlook.

09/04/2002

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