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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Thursday Roundup - Rep. Juan Garcia on Who's Blue

This week's episode of Who's Blue? features State Representative Juan Garcia. Tell your friends and neighbors. Also, you may want to fill yourself in on what House Democrats did yesterday on health care, with Representative Garnet Coleman leading the charge. Republicans didn't really show up, but with an expanded and active Democratic minority, CHIP may be a central issue this session, whether the GOP wants it to be or not.

Sprint has apparently been passing on the cost of the new Texas business tax to the consumer by way of something on their bills called the "Texas margin fee reimbursement." The Comptroller's office is investigating whether Sprint should be charging 1%, as they are, or .7%, which is what they will actually end up paying the state. Honestly, when I first saw this story, I expected it to be Verizon. The Comptroller is also concerned with the appearance from the bill that the tax is being assessed directly on the consumer rather than being charged for it by the business, although with conduit-style charges I'm not sure what the distinction is.

David Dewhurst reported that 4,000 more prison beds will be needed within two to four years, which is the equivalent of three more prisons. State Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) plans on talking to Dewhurst about alternative rehab programs that would decrease the need for the new beds and their costs, estimated at about $50 million a year. So that's an argument against the idea that Democrats are always trying to spend your money, I guess. The "hard or soft on crime" argument won't go away anytime soon, and this is representative of the cycle that partisan politics creates - spending to be tough on crime is protected because you're being tough on crime, but you can't raise taxes so you take money from social programs that might help people avoid a life of crime in order to punish people that turned to a life of crime. Oh, governance!

In another odd partisan turnaround, State Representative Charles Anderson (R-Waco) filed a non-binding resolution calling for a 180-day moratorium on the construction of Perry's coal plants. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality could pretend like it never happened, but the Star-Telegram postulates the passage of the resolution would send "a strong message." I wouldn't hold my breath, unless the coal plants get built, and then I guess I'd better.

Speaking of Perry, Operation Wrangler is in the house! Along with the weirdness of increasing the presence and law enforcement role of the National Guard along the US-Mexico border, an upshot is that El Paso has will be getting about $400,000 in additional border security funding.

The city of Lakeway is fighting the retail corporate monolith and taking the struggle against big-box stores to the old school. Although, to put it correctly, the citizens of Lakeway are fighting against city leadership, which would really like to put a Wal-Mart or a Lowe's or something on some city-owned land to bring in sales tax revenue. Citizens argue it would be opening Pandora's box, and soon every square foot of open land would be covered in Fuddrucker's and Super Targets, and Dress Barns, just like Burleson. Okay, well, I added in the Burleson part, but you get my point.

A couple of Defense items: first, The Hill tells us that military officials were instructed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to quit using stop-loss, the practice that allows the Pentagon to require military servicemen and women to stay deployed longer than their original agreements provided for. So that at least acknowledges a problem, if not exactly offering a solution.

Second, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is still sort of hanging out at the Pentagon, doing some stuff, and things. He isn't getting paid, but he's got seven staffers working for him in a "transitional" office, the necessity for which no can quite nail down. It is not uncustomary for departing Secretaries of any department to have a transition office through which papers are organized and filed for posterity, and with the DoD, military personnel are often involved in the more complicated process of arranging and sorting classified materials. However, Clinton's last Defense secretary, William Cohen, had two staffers. Rumsfeld has seven. He was there for a while, but still.

Finally, Newt Gingrich is still on track to run to the right of everybody, as his latest activities in pushing English as the official national language will show.This will play well in the South, but it is likely or even certain to anger the rising tide of Hispanic voters in America. I doubt Newt cares, though. I wouldn't be surprised if he put out pamphlets come summer saying things like "ATTILA THE HUN - TOO LIBERAL FOR HISTORY?!"

Money, money, money, money......MONEY

Grace, with a g

I have a particular affinity for the people trying to rehabilitate prisoners instead of throwing them time and time again into an unproductive, violent setting. I know no politician can run on the "spend more money on criminals" ticket, but I have a feeling it would lower costs in the long run ,i.e. police, probation officers, insurance claims, prison fees for triple offenders that cost people thousands. Reform THIS repubicans!!!

Also, I tought it said 'Perry's coal pants'. I was like, what?

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