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June 26th, 2009:

Governor’s race reaction roundup

Rachel rounds up a bunch of bloggers’ reactions to the various happenings among Democratic candidates, potential candidates, and former candidates for Governor. Couple of things to note: One, as KT points out, Ronnie Earle is still in the mix. And two, I think Burka’s take on Kirk Watson is very sharp. I realize there’s a certain amount of pessimism in the air right now concerning the state of the Governor’s race. But what strikes me is how many people experience and capability are currently considering running for something statewide. That’s a real change from 2006, and reflects a shift in the perception of winnability by Democrats. I see plenty of reasons to be optimistic about that.

On a side note, Stace announces his support for Bill White for Senate. I realize that John Sharp has repeatedly denied any interest in the Governor’s race despite national speculation that he’d shift. I’m thinking the window for him to make that shift in any event is narrowing. Just a thought.

Friday random ten: Little bits

We’ve got big songs, and we’ve got little songs:

1. Little Beggarman – Great Big Sea
2. Little Brown Jug – Glenn Miller
3. Little By Little – Southside Johnny and The Jukes
4. Little Fallen Angel – Austin Lounge Lizards
5. Little Geneva – Muddy Waters
6. A Little Is Enough – Pete Townshend
7. Little Liza Jane – Hot Club of Cowtown
8. Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong – Spin Doctors
9. Little Willy – Sweet
10. Little Wing – Stevie Ray Vaughan

What little things have got you going today?

Voting right on climate change, part 3

Here we go again.

The late-stage whip count on the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 has produced a particular political irony. A measure crafted by two Democrats in the House of Representatives — Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) — over the course many years could hinge on the willingness of members of their own party to compromise.

At the heart of the issue is a belief among some progressives that the bill’s standard for carbon emission reductions have been set too low, and that the measure itself is too easy on both the coal industry and farmers. Already, according to Hill aides, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) has said that he will not support the bill regardless of whether his own amendments are approved. High-ranking officials involved with whipping votes tell the Huffington Post that there are at least three or four other liberals who are withholding their support. Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Lloyd Doggett (D-T.X.) were two names put forward by multiple sources, the latter issuing a floor statement on Friday saying that without significant improvements he couldn’t support the bill. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) whose vote remains up in the air, is said to be leaning towards backing the measure, according a Democratic source.

For a bill that could be decided by one or two votes, holdouts could make all the difference.

“The irony here is that this bill, which people like Waxman and others have been working on for years, could be derailed, not by the right wing,” said one high-ranking Democrat, “but by members of their own party. This could be the classic case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

I’m going to say the same thing to Congressman Doggett that I said to Congressmen Gene Green and Charlie Gonzalez: The right thing to do is to vote for this bill. We can always make things better going forward, but if we don’t take this first step now, after all this time, who knows how long it will take just to get this far again? Please do the right thing and vote for this bill, Congressman Doggett.

UPDATE: According to Politico, Rep. Doggett is now a Yes vote. Good for him.

UPDATE: Here’s Rep. Doggett’s statement.

Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) spoke on the House floor today about the pending climate legislation.

“I struggled deeply about whether to support this flawed bill, but I finally determined that voting for it was my best hope for making it better,” Rep. Doggett said.

“Earlier today I voiced my strong objections to this bill. I voted against the rule to permit this debate because of its rejection of some amendments that I thought would have improved this legislation.

“For three reasons, I’m voting for final passage. First, I’ve been listening to the debate; not so much to those who support a bill that I’m not all that enthusiastic about, but listening to the flat earth society and the climate deniers, and some of the most inane arguments I have heard against refusing to act on this vital national security challenge.

“Second, I believe there is still some hope to make improvements once it gets out of the House – better to have a seat at the table to try to influence the change that is needed in this legislation.

“Third, I am convinced that unless we act today, the Senate will not act, and unless we act in this Congress, we will not get the international agreements we need to address this serious challenge. I’m voting yes in the hope that we will have a better bill and we will have the international accord that we so desperately need to deal with this critical matter.”

To view a video of his floor statement, please click here.

We’ll see what happens in the Senate.

More on the special session

Governor Perry speaks about the upcoming special session.

All were left unaddressed when the Legislature adjourned June 1. Perry told reporters he expects lawmakers to finish their work in “72 to 96 hours. I think that’s three to four days, right? My Aggie math — y’all kind of check me on that.”

Perry said he won’t place the contentious issue of voter identification before lawmakers, even though the call for stricter voter identification is a priority for GOP leaders and lawmakers.

A fight over the issue stalled action in the regular session and undoubtedly would tie up the special session, which can last up to 30 days. The governor sets the agenda for special sessions and determines when they start.

“Look, we clearly believe that the issues that we’re going to address are the ones that have to be taken care of,” Perry told reporters after a separate speech. “We’re talking about people’s lives and livelihoods here when you talk about the Department of Insurance, when you’re talking about TxDOT (the Texas Department of Transportation) … I want those employees to understand that we’re going to get this bill passed and we’re not going to take a chance on … any legislative mischief from some other piece of legislation.”

Agencies that need legislation to continue also include the Texas Racing Commission, Office of Public Insurance Counsel and Texas State Affordable Housing Corp.

When I first read this, I felt a twinge of paranoia, because there was nothing in here to indicate that voter ID would not be taken up after these issues have been dealt with. I know I’ve opined that if Perry were going to do this, he’d be telegraphing his position, but that doesn’t mean I’m feeling at ease. However, someone must have asked about this, because Perry did address it:

Perry said even if the issues he specifically listed are wrapped up, he won’t expand the scope of the special session to include voter ID.

Well okay then. I doubt I’ll completely shake that nagging feeling, at least until sine die, but that does help. Now how likely is it that this thing really will last only 3 or 4 days?

“To get this done in three days is very ambitious and requires the cooperation of a lot of people,” says rules expert Hugh Brady. “You’re really going to have to bust a hump if you’re going to get this done by Friday afternoon.”

More contested legislation like the Voter ID Bill and CHIP expansion have been kept off the agenda, and Perry says he doesn’t anticipate adding anything new while the session’s underway. But even with such a narrow set of issues on the call, lawmakers have a lot of leeway about what amendments they can add to bills.

True, the House Parliamentarian could always adopt a very strict interpretation of what amendments are germane to certain bills, but that would be going against several judicial and legislative precedents, Brady says. “If the House or the Senate really wants to, they could take a narrow bill and try to expand it to add consumer protection or whatever they’d like to add onto it.” So lawmakers could still add amendments that substantially reform TxDoT and the insurance department, and it may take more than a few days to do so: just passing a bill in a three-day period would require suspending certain rules, he added.

But will they really want to? In that sense, at least, Perry timed his session well. As Brady points out, “it’s the middle of the summer and nobody really wants to be here.”

Sounds about right to me. We’ll see how it plays out. Rep. Pena has more.

Council Member Gonzalez

Now that he has been officially sworn in to represent District H, new City Council Member Ed Gonzalez has hit the ground running.

He was called upon by City Councilwoman Sue Lovell to speak first about the death of Officer Henry Canales, who he knew as an 18-year veteran of HPD. Then, he got council to postpone for three weeks consideration for a contentious item in District H that would involve selling the land occupied by the Heights Recycling Center and moving the center to the First Ward. Gonzalez also went on to complain that a company being awarded additional city work had failed to meet its goal for contracting with minority-owned businesses.

Being ready on Day One was one of the things CM Gonzalez ran on, and I’m not at all surprised to see him live up to it. This is the first I’ve heard of the recycling facility – I assume they mean the one at Harvard and Center Streets. I guess the land it’s on is worth some money, but I’d hate to see it move, as it’s very convenient for dumping our accumulated glass. On the other hand, if single stream recycling comes to our neighborhood soon, that would mitigate the loss. In any event, thanks for looking out for that, CM Gonzalez. Stace has more.

Inflatable gorillas win one in court

How often do you get to write a headline like that?

U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore ruled that a 1993 city ordinance restricting the use of attention-getting devices, such as the giant balloons atop businesses, violated the due process and equal protection rights of Houston Balloons & Promotions. The judge awarded the company, owned by Jim Purtee and his wife, $927,841 plus an additional $187,000 in expenses and attorneys fees.


After a two-day trial earlier this month, Gilmore ruled the Houston sign ordinance section about attention-getting devices such as banners, pennants, streamers, strobes, spotlights, whirligigs and inflatable objects violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

She ruled that there was no rational relationship between the regulation that banned balloons with nongeneric messages, like logos, and the city’s stated goals of traffic safety and visual aesthetics, especially because balloons with generic messages like “Sale” were allowed.

The judge found that the city violated the due process clause because the regulations were vague and the city enforced them arbitrarily and inconsistently.

Houston City Attorney Arturo Michel said the city will take a close look at the judge’s decision to see if it should appeal the case.

Michel said he does not think this ruling has implications for the new ordinance that bans the balloons.

My advice would be to drop this case and pay the man, and to give a lot of thought as to the implications for the new ordinance, which Purtee says will be challenged in court. I’ve said before that on balance I think the new ordinance is a good thing, but I’m sufficiently ambivalent about it to feel that this development changes things. The risk of losing in court is now a lot higher, and unlike with billboards, I don’t think this is a big enough issue to take that risk. It won’t bother me if the city decides to cut its losses and not enforce the new ordinance.

As for Mr. Purtee, what else can one say but this?

Go ahead and crack open that cold one, dude. You’ve earned it.

RIP, Nerd Bird

The economic slowdown claims another victim.

When the Statesman’s business desk got a tip from a reader that American Airlines was grounding the Nerd Bird, I was more than a little dubious.

The twice-a-day nonstop flight between Austin and San Jose, Calif., is more than just a convenient way for engineers, executives, salespeople and marketers to get to Silicon Valley. It’s something of an Austin high-tech institution, and its demise seemed unfathomable.

Since the first Nerd Bird took off in October 1992, the 3½-hour trip had become a place for techies to swap résumés and rumors, make new contacts, rehearse sales pitches and, on occasion, surreptitiously read what’s on a competitor’s laptop screen.

“The beauty of the Nerd Bird is, you get on, and you never know who you’re going to see, who you’ll meet, what you’ll learn,” says Steve Vandegrift, a longtime Austin software entrepreneur and co-founder of Internet startup who has taken the flight numerous times over the years. “It’s like a full Rolodex of connections every flight.”

But now the ride is coming to an end. American confirmed it is discontinuing the flight, citing the recession and a slowdown in business travel. The Nerd Bird will stop flying Aug. 25.

Spokesman Tim Smith said the route might return one day, “but we’re not in a position to promise it.”

Man, I don’t even live in Austin and that bums me out. I’ve got a lot of friends who have taken that flight a bunch of times. For their sake, at least, I hope this does come back some day.