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June 10th, 2005:

Texas Supremes rule against Bill Hammond

Also from the Quorum Report:

TEXAS SUPREME COURT DENIES BILL HAMMOND’S WRIT OF MANDAMUS IN 2002 ELECTION CIVIL TRIAL

Had sought to avoid answering specific questions about Texas
Asssociation of Business contributors posed by plaintiffs in civil discovery

Questions must be answered. Documents must be turned over. A more complete story with attorney comments will follow.

Can’t wait. Stay tuned.

HD47: Keel drops out

From the Quorum Report:

TERRY KEEL ANNOUNCES RUN FOR AN APPELLATE COURT SEAT

Leaves open seat in HD47

This afternoon, Rep. Terry Keel (R-Austin) told reporters, “I am here today to announce my intentions for the 2006 election cycle.

HD47, which was already a potentially winnable seat for the Democrats in 2006, is now more so due to its sudden status as an open seat to be. Greg, in crunching the precinct data, tantalizes us by saying that Keel would have been very vulnerable, but he doesn’t have the exact numbers up yet. I’ll try to do that myself, but as my cable modem is currently DOA it won’t happen until at least Sunday.

Nothing on the wires about this yet. Andrew D has some details, including a longer Quorum Report quote. Keel had a strange session – he’s far from a monolithic partisan foot soldier. The judicial pay raise flap (nicely summarized here) is what he’ll be remembered for, and may bite him in his new race as well. Oh, and he supposedly made this session’s Ten Worst list in Texas Monthly, too. Keep an eye on this one, it ought to be fun.

Revisiting the I-45 tunnel

Also in the This Week section is an article on the proposal by engineer Gonzalo Camacho to redo I-45 from Greenspoint to downtown as a tunnel. He gave a presentation on this at the I-45 town hall sponsored by Rep. Jessica Farrar. You can see his presentation here, but be warned – it’s an 8.2 MB PowerPoint file, so be sure you have the right software and a fast Net connection.

Anyway. The story itself is a nice overview of Camacho’s idea. Maybe it all sounds pie-in-the-sky, but look at the presentation for yourself before you make any judgments. More importantly, remember that TxDOT is going to demand alternates to its proposals in order to even contemplate the possibility of doing something else. If you don’t like their plan to widen I-45 and you don’t think Camacho’s idea has any merit, then you’d better come up with something else for them to consider.

Analysis of the latest re-redistricting ruling

Rick Hasen reads the federal court decision from yesterday so you don’t have to. He has some interesting thoughts on what it all means. Check it out. Thanks to Seth for the tip.

Ray Hill to retire

Local activist Ray Hill, the founding father of Houston’s GLBT Political Caucus, is retiring from the activist life.

Hill’s extended activist career irreverently will be celebrated today at “The Well Deserved Roast of Ray Hill,” set for 7:30 p.m. at the 1415 Grill, 1415 California. Sponsored by the Stonewall Law Association of Greater Houston and the Houston GLBT Community Center, proceeds will benefit the center’s programs for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.

“I’m just going to leave it to another generation to take on those responsibilities,” said Hill, 64. “I’ve spent 40 years in the movement, first as the first openly gay political activist in Houston, then for years as someone who exercised more influence on decisions than anyone should.”

Hill cited health concerns and a desire to develop his career as a monologuist and prison activist as reasons for stepping aside.

“I meant to do this a long time ago,” he said earlier this week. “I raised a generation to take my place and they all died of AIDS. Now there’s another generation ready to step in. Most of them are women. They are every color of the rainbow — black, brown, Christian, Jew, Muslim, nonbelievers, and they speak a cacophony of languages. They are better able to represent this diversity than I.”

Hill’s long and colorful career is nicely profiled in this story. I first heard of him in the early 90s when then-Council member Helen Huey pushed through tighter restrictions on sexually oriented businesses. Hill ran for an open Council seat (I forget the circumstances around this – what I recall was that it was a free-for-all) on a platform opposing Huey’s new SOB laws. He lost, of course, but it was a fun campaign.

There was another story on Hill’s retirement in the This Week section for the Heights/Montrose area. Ray Hill’s retirement deserved a spot in the main paper, so I’m glad he got it. Enjoy the rest, Ray.

Creative accounting in the Lottery Commission?

Yesterday, the Star-Telegram reported on a complaint filed by Lotto watchdog Dawn Nettles that the state Lottery Commission had inflated the advertised jackpot due to slow ticket sales.

Lottery officials re-jected the allegations but acknowledged that because of lagging ticket sales, for the first time in the game’s history they would be unable to boost their jackpot estimate for Saturday’s drawing even though no one won Wednesday night.

Dawn Nettles, publisher of the online Lotto Report and a persistent critic of lottery commission policies, first raised the red flag that ticket sales were running far behind the estimated jackpot when she sent a letter to Attorney General Greg Abbott on Monday accusing officials of false advertising.

On billboards across Texas and on the lottery’s Web site, officials had touted an $8 million jackpot for Wed-nesday’s drawing.

“They only have enough to fund a $6.5 million jackpot at best,” Nettles said.

Bobby Heith, spokesman for the lottery, did not dispute that the jackpot would have been less than advertised, but not because anyone was skewing estimates.

But a spokeswoman for Abbott said Nettles’ concerns would be addressed.

“We will treat this complaint like we treat all complaints that come into the agency,” said Angela Hale, Abbott’s communications director. “We’ll examine it and determine whether there is something [we need] to do about it.”

Today’s edition reports that the Commission has taken action, and that this has satisfied the AG’s office, though not a different prominent critic.

C. Thomas Clowe, the commission chairman, said the three-member panel will discuss this month whether to guarantee the advertised jackpot or continue basing the grand prize on a percentage of ticket sales.

Clowe said Thursday that he is concerned that miscalculating the lotto jackpot could undermine confidence in the game.

“We want the public to have confidence in the lottery,” Clowe said. “This is the people’s business.”

The commission came under fire this week when it was accused of overestimating Wednesday night’s jackpot even though the pace of ticket sales would not support the advertised $8 million payout.

The complaint brought calls from state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, for new legislation to compel the lottery to comply with the state’s truth-in-advertising laws.

Nelson, who is vice chairwoman of the legislative panel that reviews the performance of state agencies, said that Texans must have full confidence in the lottery’s integrity.

“Clearly, this is an example of the pitfalls associated with government-sanctioned gambling,” said Nelson, an outspoken opponent of gambling. “We have to be absolutely sure that everything that goes on there is open and aboveboard. The public needs to know what’s going on. I need to know what’s going on.”

[…]

Lottery officials have acknowledged that the jackpot was overestimated but said it was an honest miscalculation.

Lottery spokesman Bobby Heith said the chief reason for the miscalculation was that ticket sales did not increase as expected as the deadline for Wednesday’s drawing approached.

To make sure that another overestimation did not occur, lottery officials did not advertise a higher jackpot for Saturday’s drawing even though there was no grand-prize winner Wednesday.

It was the first time in the Texas lottery’s history that the jackpot was not increased after a drawing without a winner.

On Thursday, Abbott spokeswoman Angela Hale said the attorney general’s office examined the complaint and was satisfied that lottery officials “were addressing the issue raised in the allegation.”

Clowe said that weak lotto sales can be attributed at least in part to the lottery commission’s decision in 2003 to join the multistate Mega Millions game, which is similar to lotto but often generates jackpots that are far higher.

Yes, well, some of us were pretty well convinced that Mega Millions would cannibalize existing Lotto sales when we first adopted it back in 2003, but that’s not important right now.

There’s an under-the-surface story here that’s not being reported sp far. Save Texas Reps has the details.

Rumors are flying around Austin that Reagan Greer, Executive Director of the Texas Lottery, is boosting jackpot numbers despite lagging ticket sales and the advice of his staff in order to make himself look good for future political office. That kind of self promotion by Greer would come as no surprise considering his name and signature was added to the back of all scratch-off tickets.

But who is this Reagan Greer, anyway?

Prior to heading the Texas Lottery Commission, Greer was a District Clerk and Rick Perry’s Bexar County campaign coordinator in 2002. Following the election, Perry allegedly changed the official requirements for the TLC Executive Director so that he could appoint Greer – who does not have a college degree – to the position in a blatant move of cronyism.

There’s more, so click over and read it. Or, if you prefer, Sarah connects the dots for you with pictures. Check it out.