Contact FreedomWorks

400 North Capitol Street, NW
Suite 765
Washington, DC 20001

  • Toll Free 1.888.564.6273
  • Local 202.783.3870
Outgunned, Texas Democrats Vamoose
null
http://d7.freedomworks.org.s3.amazonaws.com/styles/thumbnail/s3/te_social_media_share/fw_default_0.jpg?itok=mX_C44GW

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
null
http://d7.freedomworks.org.s3.amazonaws.com/styles/thumbnail/s3/te_social_media_share/fw_default_0.jpg?itok=mX_C44GW
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
null
http://d7.freedomworks.org.s3.amazonaws.com/styles/thumbnail/s3/te_social_media_share/fw_default_0.jpg?itok=mX_C44GW
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
null
http://d7.freedomworks.org.s3.amazonaws.com/styles/thumbnail/s3/te_social_media_share/fw_default_0.jpg?itok=mX_C44GW
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
null
http://d7.freedomworks.org.s3.amazonaws.com/styles/thumbnail/s3/te_social_media_share/fw_default_0.jpg?itok=mX_C44GW
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
null
http://d7.freedomworks.org.s3.amazonaws.com/styles/thumbnail/s3/te_social_media_share/fw_default_0.jpg?itok=mX_C44GW
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
A More Deliberate, Broader Review is in Order
null
http://d7.freedomworks.org.s3.amazonaws.com/styles/thumbnail/s3/te_social_media_share/fw_default_0.jpg?itok=mX_C44GW

A More Deliberate, Broader Review is in Order

A Texas Senate plan to overhaul the "Robin Hood" school-finance system appears to be swimming against both time and tide, as the June 2 end of the legislative session looms. The plan being pushed by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is floundering in the House, where Speaker Tom Craddick, bolstered by Gov. Rick Perry, is angling for a special session to focus on school finance later this year or next. With so little time left and so many major pieces of legislation to work out in the waning session, the speaker's call for less haste and more deliberation is the better course. Particularly given the complexities, legalities and political sensitivities involved. The Senate voted 30-0 for its plan that would slash school property taxes by about $ 8 billion a year and recoup the lost revenue by increasing the state sales tax rate and expanding the sales tax to many services that are tax-exempt. If the House and Texas voters approved, the plan would replace local school taxes with a statewide property tax and cut the current $ 1.50 per $ 100 valuation cap for school operations to 75 cents. Critics say there's been too little time for debate and public understanding of the measure, and they have a point. In the meantime, Perry and Craddick are launching a $ 1 million study of school finance and other public education issues. Harrison Keller, the House speaker's senior policy analyst on education, said recently that the study will also take a broader look at the state's tax structure. That's a much-needed exercise that should be no-holds-barred and carefully consider all options, including the possibility of a state income tax. School finance has been much studied here in recent years, however, and the time for postponing reform is not limitless. Dewhurst deserves credit for showing leadership on the issue and stirring the pot that needs to be stirred. The Robin Hood school finance system faces legal challenges and is under deserved fire for allowing the state to shift ever more of the burden onto ever-rising local property taxes. But the Senate's proposed "tax swap" comes with a set of its own problems. It doesn't add sufficient new monies to the school system to cover the costs of rapid growth in the student population. Nor would it cover other anticipated increases in the cost of public education. If the rate of inflation were to return to 3 percent a year and the Legislature did not adjust state school funding for this inflation, says an analysis by the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin, "it would take a property poor school district under this plan about eight of the 10-cent local enrichment tax to make up the inflation in a single biennium, which puts our schools right back where they are now, capped out." A sales tax is one of the most regressive forms of taxation. The Senate plan would let thousands of low-income Texans who use the Lone Star Card to receive food stamps and other benefits to use their electronic card to get a 40 percent sales tax reduction. Owners of apartments would be required to pass much of their tax savings to renters. But many low-income Texans aren't eligible for the Lone Star Card, and the question of tax equity merits a much closer look. The idea of expanding the tax base in exchange for lower property taxes is appealing. But Massachusetts followed that route in 1990 and quickly repealed the measure out of concern for the impact it would have on the state's economy. Florida in 1987 also broadened its sales and use tax and shortly repealed it after the increase triggered protests. "Higher sales taxes and taxing services each have consequences that affect taxpayers, jobs and the state economy," said Peggy Venable, director in Austin of the Citizens for a Sound Economy group. "The Senate school tax plan, while well-intentioned, may have some devastating unintended consequences on the state's economy. Let's take a careful look at the Massachusetts and Florida experiences. Let's look before we leap." Furthermore, the House approach will allow an opportunity to look at cutting costs and gaining efficiencies, such as consolidating small school districts and/or decentralizing massive, bureaucratic districts. One other point. There are constitutional questions about the Senate legislation. The Texas Constitution says tax bills should originate in the House.

05/11/2003
Dueling school finance plans in Texas -- which should prevail?
null
http://d7.freedomworks.org.s3.amazonaws.com/styles/thumbnail/s3/te_social_media_share/fw_default_0.jpg?itok=mX_C44GW
Press Release

Dueling school finance plans in Texas -- which should prevail?

CSE’s message to the Texas Senators: Not Now! Two School Funding Plans in Texas: Two plans to address the school finance are at battle in the Legislature. Voters need to know how each would impact them. Here is an overview of the plans:

05/11/2003
Rockefeller Unhappy About Tax Cut Vote
null
http://d7.freedomworks.org.s3.amazonaws.com/styles/thumbnail/s3/te_social_media_share/fw_default_0.jpg?itok=mX_C44GW

Rockefeller Unhappy About Tax Cut Vote

BY Karin Fischer

WASHINGTON -- Standing near the front of the audience, Alice Click got the chance to shake President Bush's hand. "Mr. President, West Virginia supports you. We want tax cuts, and we want jobs," the conservative activist says she told Bush. Bush wants tax cuts, too, and on Friday, Congress moved a step closer to passing its second round of tax breaks in as many years.

05/10/2003
Copyright Versus Privacy: The RIAA Cracks Open the Internet
null
http://d7.freedomworks.org.s3.amazonaws.com/styles/thumbnail/s3/te_social_media_share/fw_default_0.jpg?itok=mX_C44GW
Press Release

Copyright Versus Privacy: The RIAA Cracks Open the Internet

In 1787, as the Founders crafted the Constitution, they took particular care to include special protections to promote innovation in “science and the useful arts” by establishing protections to allow individuals to be rewarded for their efforts. Today, however, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is wielding copyrights in ways that stifle innovation. Even worse, it has abandoned innovation in favor of a political club that now threatens the privacy of virtually every user of the Internet.

05/09/2003

Pages