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May 26th, 2007:

Afternoon update on the mess in the House

I’m about midway through the season finale of Lost (thank prime for my in-laws’ TiVo) and wanted to pause for a moment for a brief House update. The anti-Craddicks are still trying to make a motion to vacate the Speaker’s chair, and they’re still not being recognized. The dirty work today is being done by Sylvester Turner and Terry Keel, while Craddick works the room. When DPS troopers have to be stationed at the door of the House chamber, you know things have gone to hell in a handbasket. Meanwhile, an ethics complaint has been filed against Ron Wilson, Sen. Dan Patrick resorts to name-calling, and you can add Sen. Kyle Janek to the list of potential budget filibusterers. Finally, in the spirit of equal time, Quorum Report has the anti-Craddick response (PDF) to why his behavior is unconstitutional. Oh, and Grits is disgusted. I think that about covers it for now. Back to the TiVo for me.

And the fun begins again

I know, it’s the Saturday of a holiday weekend, but the Lege is back at it, and who knows what will happen today. At some point, bills will be considered and maybe even passed. Here’s one that’s dead, killed by the delays last night, for which I’m grateful. Glen Maxey thinks Craddick’s supporters should say “enough!” and call on him to step down, but his lieutenants appear to be as loyal as ever. As for the budget, the CHIP bill, and other matters of importance, they’re all pretty much background items now. If only Molly Ivins were still here to enjoy the spectacle. Stay tuned.

So what happened last night?

Short answer: Several members attempted to make a motion to vacate the Speaker’s chair. Craddick refused to recognize them, refused to allow an appeal of his rulings, and declared that he had sole and total discretion in the matter. If that sounds to you like he promoted himself from Speaker of the House to Supreme Dictator For Life, I’d say you’re on the right track.

For the long answer, I recommend reading the accounts of the people who stayed up much later than I did to watch it all:

BOR: Rep. Hill Takes the Podium- Motion to Vacate

BOR: Picture Worth A Thousand of Terry Keel’s Words

BOR: Todd Smith (R-Euless) Plays Key Anti-Craddick Role

BOR: House Adjourns, What A Night

Texas Observer: His House, His Rules

Capitol Letters: Wonder what the heck just happened?

Capitol Letters: In case you’re wondering…

Capitol Letters: The Craddick Rationale

Capitol Letters: Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy

Chron Blog: A view from the wrong side of the door

Chron Blog: Thoughts on the night

Chron Blog: I say it here, it comes out there

EOW: Otto Craddick application of Rule 5 Section 24

PinkDome: The Craddicktator

The Muse: Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen Co-Speakers of the Texas House

And I’m sure there will be plenty more today. Stay tuned.

UPDATE Missed Postcards from the Lege, Craddick’s Legal Rationale Released, Craddick ruling splits Centex supporters, and Rose talks about decision to leave Craddick camp.

Grits on the death of HB13

It’s official – HB13 is dead. Grits explains what that means in practical terms.

The Governor already had authority to accept federal homeland security grants, so that doesn’t change (his homeland security director Steve McCraw is the agent who receives and distributes those funds), and he certainly has authority to delegate that task to DPS or whomever he chooses. But this does mean a couple of things offhand:

1. A provision in current law (which would have been deleted in the Senate version of HB 13) limits the Governor’s authority over the TDEX database and he may have to pull his thumbs out of the criminal intelligence pie anyway.

2. The Governor will still not be accountable to anyone for how he spends the $100 million given him by legislative budget writers for border security. But then, HB 13 would have only ratified his authority, not restricted it. This is a wash – no change from the status quo.

3. Because there is no accountability or oversight, it will be up to the media and nonprofit watchdogs to use open records to study how the governor spends pork barrel money legislators gave him. This will be a labor intensive task, one I hope the MSM will undertake with the same zeal they’ve covered the border during the election season.

If the Governor wanted to avoid the rightful criticism he faced over ham-handed political appointees mismanaging law enforcement resources like TDEX, he should transfer grant making authority to DPS. They in turn should be charged with funding projects that implement the state’s existing, overall border security strategy, not just dole out pork like candy to border politicians with little regard for improving public safety.

Sen. Carona could still revive the bill with a 4/5 vote by stripping off all the Senate amendments, but at this point I hope the thing just dies. Better for now to monitor what the Governor does with his new border pork and start anew to rein in the whole mess 18 months from now.

I join Grits in saluting Rep. Lon Burnam for driving the stake through this sucker.

West 11th Street Park saved!

Assuming we do eventually get a budget passed, it looks like it will contain a provision to pay off the debt for the West 11th Street Park. Jeff Balke has the details. Major kudos to Sen. John Whitmire for making this happen.

UPDATE: Here’s the Chron story.

“I’m so excited,” said Councilwoman Toni Lawrence, whose district includes the park in the Timbergrove Manor neighborhood in northwest Houston. “I’ll give (Mayor) Bill White all the credit in the world, because it started with him,” when White announced last year that the city would contribute $4 million toward the purchase price of the land.

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, inserted the funding for the park in the state budget for local parks grants. It was part of the overall state budget approved by House and Senate conferees Friday and scheduled for votes in both chambers this weekend.

“There has been so much effort to preserve this 20 acres for neighborhood parks,” Whitmire said. “But all the stakeholders came up short. I saw an opportunity to solve the problem.”

Preserving the land was important to Whitmire because he has represented the area for more than 30 years, as a state representative and senator.

[…]

Whitmire announced that he sealed the deal once the budget was voted on in conference committee and the report was printed.

“If I weren’t confident about its chances, I wouldn’t have made it public. I’m happy to be in a position to help those who worked longer and harder than I have on this project,” Whitmire said. “It seemed like the natural thing to do.”

Damn fine news. Kudos all around.

Cleaner cement for Dallas

Very cool.

The Dallas City Council voted late Wednesday to direct construction contractors to include the price of dry kiln-processed cement in their bid packages to the city. Cement produced in dry kilns generally produces less pollution than traditional wet kilns.

“This is a giant step forward for us to tackle our [nitrous oxide] problem. It’s going to be the beginning of a national trend,” Dallas Mayor Laura Miller said. “We can start buying from clean plants and make it an incentive for businesses to operate and build clean plants that we’ll buy from.”

The city staff will spend the next several weeks crafting rules for cement purchasing, said Mark Duebner, Dallas’ director of business development and procurement.

Mr. Duebner estimates the city has 150 to 200 construction bids a year that would be affected by the change.

[…]

The mayor added that she’ll urge cities involved in the Texas Cities for Clean Air Coalition – which has fought for the last year to prevent TXU Corp. from building new, traditional-style coal-fired power plants – to adopt similar cement-purchasing practices.

“We’ll start to reach out to other cities soon to see if they’re interested in joining us,” Mr. Duebner said.

That coalition includes Houston. I look forward to hearing that we are following Dallas’ lead on this.

One more thing:

Cement companies in nearby Midlothian could most be affected by the rule change, particularly Texas Industries, which uses one dry kiln among its five.

If this nudges the notoriously noxious Midlothian plants to change how they do business, that will exponentially increase the benefits of this plan. Here’s hoping.