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January 20th, 2005:

More CHIP carping from KBH

Once again without directly attacking Governor Perry, Senator Hutchison is talking about how much money Texas has lost in CHIP funds.

Texas forfeited $104 million in federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program when it failed to spend all that was allocated to the state in 2002, according to recent figures from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[…]

“I regret that another significant allotment of Texas taxpayer dollars that could have helped local governments pay for their health care bills has again been voluntarily forfeited,” Hutchison said. “As a simple matter of fiscal conservatism, this does not make much sense.”

[…]

Jennifer Harris, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, said the unspent federal money is mostly a result of Texas starting its CHIP program late.

Congress allowed states to begin drawing down CHIP money in 1998, but Texas did not start its program until later, Harris said. Texas has received federal money every year since 1998 even though the program didn’t start in the state until 2000.

Gov. Rick Perry’s office criticized Hutchison and Congress for not passing legislation that would allow the state to keep all the money allocated to the program.

“This is a problem of the senator’s own making,” said Perry spokesman Robert Black. “Texas didn’t lose this money, the federal government took it away because we have no effective voice on the federal health subcommittee looking out for the interests of Texas uninsured.”

States have three years to spend each year’s CHIP allotment before the money is redistributed to other states.

We’ve already heard a lot about CHIP, mostly from Comptroller Strayhorn, and I expect we’ll keep hearing a lot about it as the pre-primary campaigning intensifies. The issue of CHIP funding was a big factor in the defeat of Arlene Wohlgemuth, and it was a factor in Talmadge Heflin’s loss as well. The fact that restoring CHIP funding has been a stated priority of quite a few Republicans in Austin this year tells you they know that Wohlgemuthian stinginess on CHIP is a loser. Everybody who runs against Rick Perry from now until next November will hammer away at his responsibility for those cuts. If there’s any justice, he’ll suffer the same fate for pushing them as the others have.

Jackson v. Perry, Take Two

The Supreme Court-ordered review of the federal lawsuits filed against the Texas re-redistricting of 2003 is scheduled for tomorrow. SCOTUS has ordered the lower court to reconsider its ruling in light of the Vieth v Jubelirir case that it decided subsequently. Rick Hasen gives some background.

The case puts the lower court in a really tough position, because four Justices in Vieth ruled that partisan gerrymandering cases are non-justiciable, four dissenters proposed (at least) three different standards for judging the constitutionality of partisan gerrymander, and Justice Kennedy simply could not decide: he left the door open for future challenges, but rejected all the proposed standards that have been set forth so far.

If I’m reading Hasen correctly, it’s unlikely that the lower court can or will do anything different this time around. Regardless of that, the Texas cases will wend their way back to SCOTUS in good time. What’s very interesting is his suggestion that the ultimate key to determining what a justiciable standard for partisan gerrymandering is (or even if there is one) could hinge on William Rehnquist’s replacement. Check it out.

One other thing to note is that the federal court is supposed to take the result of the 2004 elections into account. It seems to me that if at some point the new boundaries are eventually tossed on the grounds that they’re too partisan to be legal, that could be a fatal blow to Tom DeLay (assuming he hasn’t been indicted or voted out of office by then). His role in pushing for the new boundaries, and the fact that the GOP would have lost seats in the House otherwise, was frequently cited as a reason to support him during the DeLay Rule dustup. So what happens when that stone is removed from his foundation? Maybe we’ll get to find out.

Hasen link via Kimberly, who is also the author of this AusChron story which notes another new development in the case.

Attorney General Greg Abbott released a series of briefs late Friday afternoon, including a response to an amicus brief filed by University of Texas law professors, Travis County, and the League of United Latin American Citizens, who wrote that mid-decade redistricting should take into account the “phenomenal growth” and population shifts in Texas between 2000 and 2003.

[…]

The UT professors, along with Travis County and LULAC, argued that the state’s redistricting plans violated “one person, one vote.” As the minority population shifts and changes, those groups are no longer accurately represented by 2000 census data. The amicus brief argues that the state did not make a “good faith effort” to take those population shifts into account when the map was redrawn in 2003.

In its response, the state argues that a “one person, one vote” argument is “an undisguised attempt at a backdoor judicial prohibition on ‘mid-decade’ redistricting” that the court has already concluded was both legal and permissible. Decennial census data is considered “presumptively valid for redistricting,” absent a substantial showing to the contrary. The state goes on to say the claim failed because the plaintiffs failed to meet the burden of pointing out any equal-population violation the new map created.

The brief cites a number of Supreme Court cases that support the use of decennial data as the ‘best population data available,’ lacking any replacement data of equal validity. The fact that the census data is the “best available” is undisputed, according to the state’s brief, and the plaintiffs didn’t offer an alternative or provide a map that demonstrates how the lines could have been redrawn for a fairer balance.

“That the University Professors and Travis County have not offered legal authority is no slight on their research skills,” wrote the state in its brief. “Rather, it reflects that the rules they propose are both novel and contrary to law. Their arguments – by demanding a presumption of unconstitutionality – ask this Court to overrule binding Supreme Court precedent establishing that the burden of proof in equal-population claims falls on the plaintiff and the requirement that the plaintiff offer a means of achieving a lower population inequality.”

It’s an interesting argument, but I don’t think it will get anywhere. The Daily Texan has more.

The bottom 100

Norbizness dares us to list all the movies in the IMDB Bottom 100 that we’ve seen. This one is easy for me:

Jaws 3-D

That’s it. Sometimes not being a big moviegoer has its advantages.

In case you missed it last time around, my personal Bottom 10 is here. Read the comments at your peril – you will be forcibly reminded of many, many really bad movies.

UPDATE: Both Michael in the comments, and The Chunk note that the IMDB list is skewed towards recent bad movies. This is true, which is why the staying power of a flick like Jaws 3-D is so impressive to me. Too recent to be an MST3K-style classic, too old to be on anyone’s mind, too irrelevant to warrant a DVD release, and yet still crappy enough to be a Bottom 100 movie. You just have to respect that.

One thing leads to another

Parole, probation violators add to prison overcrowding

Scarce Texas prison beds are increasingly being used by offenders who have violated a condition of their parole or probation, often for something as minor as missing a meeting or failing to pay a fee.

Parents weigh in on zero tolerance

As Texas lawmakers ponder ways to revamp the law on student discipline both to ensure fairness and keep schools safe, parents are frustrated and worried about the pervasiveness of so-called “zero tolerance” discipline.

Critics say this policy gives school districts the green light to impose strict, uniform penalties for misbehavior without considering extenuating circumstances such as the students’ intent to do harm or prior disciplinary records.

Am I the only one who thinks these two problems might be connected somehow?