Category Archives: Articles

A simple truth: 22-1 classroom ratio works

When a family hits a financial rough patch, they are forced to prioritize by separating the wants from the must-haves. State government is no different.

This session, the Texas Legislature will wrestle with how to close a record-breaking $27 billion budget shortfall. In an effort to reduce spending, numerous critical state services will face the chopping block, including education, criminal justice, and health and human services.

As the Legislature weighs unprecedented budget cuts, it too must prioritize: What areas of state funding should be reduced before others? What are the moral priorities for the state, and how can they best be pursued given the severe limitations?

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In just a few weeks, on April 1, we will all be counted by the twenty-third U. S. census. Then the fun starts.

Congress will reapportion. Texas will gain three or four seats in Congress and electoral votes in the next three presidential elections. Texas will also be eligible for billions of more dollars of federal aid. Whether Governor Perry lets us collect it is, of course, another matter! If at first you don’t secede don’t try again.

Then the legislature will redraw 232 districts: thirty-six congressional, thirty-one state senatorial, 150 state house, and fifteen State Board of Education. Counties, cities, and school boards will redraw thousands more.

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Texas, once the Lone Star State, first became the Let’s Secede State (Rick Perry), and is now the Laughing Stock State (State Board of Education), Once a two-party state, Texas has become a tea-party state.

What does it tell you that Libertarian Debra Medina was showing close to 30% in the Republican Primary polls and dropped to 18% when she said she wasn’t sure that President “Dubya” Bush bombed New York on 9/11? And Bush was a Republican President!

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Robocalls—A Public Nuisance

Enough, already!

During the last political season we have all been harassed in our homes by countless robocalls from rude people who want us to vote for them because they invaded our privacy.

Let’s put a stop to it! We can protect ourselves from computer spam by blocking the sender. Let’s do the same for our telephones.

Here’s how it could work:

Telephone companies have “star codes” that mostly don’t work. “*67” is supposed to block the calling number from calling in the future. It doesn’t.

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Open Government – with no strings attached

In Texas the law is clear. Governing bodies must conduct the people’s business in public or else face some serious penalties. This statute has protected the public and elected representatives alike for the past 42 years with a basic premise: Public bodies should deliberate in public.

The days of making backroom good ol’ boy deals in private are a thing of the past because the Texas Legislature outlawed it by passing the Open Meetings Act in 1967, and strengthening it in 1973 after the infamous Sharps-town scandal.

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Test 1: Before Saving the Nation’s Banks, Jones Bailed Out Houston

As the world struggles to come to grips with the global financial crisis, it might be instructive to look at how Jesse Jones and other Houston leaders dealt with an earlier banking calamity.

The Chronicle’s Loren Steffy recently published an interview with Jones biographer Steven Fenberg describing how Jones, chairman of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, saved the nation’s banking system.

Before he went to Washington in 1932 to serve on the RFC board, Jones saved Houston’s banks. In effect he created a Houston Deposit Insurance Corporation before Congress created the federal version (FDIC).

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Fraudulent voting in the Texas House of Representatives has been going on for a long time. It reached a new low last year when the House passed the “voter ID” bill to prevent fraudulent voting at the polls, of which there is little evidence.

Of fraudulent voting in the House there is ample evidence. It’s called “button-pushing.” Channel 42 in Austin filmed Texas House members voting fraudulently to keep other people from voting fraudulently. Google “You-Tube-Texas Legislation” and see the action.

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I had no Republican opponent when I first ran for Lieutenant Governor in 1972 and was re-elected in 1974 and 1978 without much opposition, but in 1982 the Repubs decided my free ride was over. My opponent was George Strake, a Houston oilman who had been appointed Secretary of State by Governor Bill Clements.

Little did I know what dark forces confronted me! Karl Rove was Strake’s campaign manger!

Strake came after me with the usual Rove stuff—I spent too much state money and I was soft on illegal aliens. Worse than that, the state budget had grown! It certainly had, but not by nearly enough. Texas, then as now, was one of the fastest growing states and trails the nation in public education and public services.

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The Hobbys and the Johnsons have been friends for three generations now, bound together by broadcasting and government.

Mrs. Johnson was the broadcaster in the family.

Luci Baines Johnson grew up in both businesses, as did I.

Sam Ealy Johnson, President Johnson’s father, and I.W. Culp, my grandfather, served together in the Texas House of Representatives.

Mrs. Johnson began her broadcasting career as the owner of a radio station in Austin then bought a television station. Of course the call letters of both stations were and are KLBJ. Mrs. Johnson later bought stations in other Texas cities.

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The poll tax was eliminated by the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it was used by former Confederate States to keep poor people, black and white, from voting.

But the Texas Legislature never ratified the amendment. It almost, but not quite, did so in the last session. The proposed legislation was sponsored by two black Houston legislators: Representative Alma Allen and Senator Rodney Ellis. House Joint Resolution 39 passed the House unanimously (Speaker Craddick abstaining). It passed the Senate State Affairs Committee unanimously and was put on the Uncontested Calendar.

But, somehow, it never passed the Senate.

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