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July 3rd, 2010:

Saturday video break: Fireworks

At times like this, we turn to Schoolhouse Rock for answers:

Happy Third of July, everybody.

Supremes give Greens a reprieve

They’re on the ballot for now.

The Texas Supreme Court today stayed a district judge’s order blocking the Green Party of Texas from certifying its candidates for the general election ballot.

The order allows the Green Party to legally establish a list of candidates for the general election. But the court also set a series of deadlines for lawyers for the Texas Democratic Party and the Green Party to argue whether a ballot petition drive illegally used corporate money. The Supreme Court still could knock the party off the ballot.

Democratic Party lawyer Chad Dunn said he does not believe the fight is over.

“The effect of the order is to give the Supreme Court time before they open up an enormous loophole for potential election fraud,” Dunn said.

Green Party lawyer David Rogers said, “We get to put our candidates on the ballot today. We don’t know if we get to keep them there.”

Coverage of the Tuesday court session is here. At the risk of giving the all-Republican Supreme Court too much credit, I think it’s reasonable for them to ask for further arguments. If it weren’t for the deadline, that’s what they would have done anyway. I think the evidence we’ve seen is pretty damning, enough to get the Texas League of Conservation Voters to publicly call out the Greens for taking aid from the GOP, but I’d rather the Supremes get it right slow than wrong fast. I just hope they do eventually get it right. BOR, the Trib, PDiddie, and the Lone Star Project have more.

LSG hearing on expanded gambling

The Legislative Study Group held a hearing on Wednesday to start the discussion about the various proposals for expanded gambling in Texas that will be brought to the Lege next year.

Racetrack and casino interests that want to expand Texas gambling dangled promises of new tax revenue before lawmakers Wednesday, but faced tough, skeptical questions from Democrats about the economic benefits and social costs.

“Could I make a suggestion to you? Don’t pretend like there’s not a downside. Somebody needs to talk about how we’re going to mitigate the downside,” Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, told Jack E. Pratt Sr., chairman of the Texas Gaming Association, which is pushing a proposal that would include destination resorts with casinos.

[…]

Their questions ranged from details of the $1 billion to $1.5 billion projected annually in new state tax revenue to the likely bidding process for casino licenses, as well as the people likely to play and whether they can afford it.

Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, said the hearing was meant to make public the private conversations that are occurring about the possible legislation for the 2011 session. He said he would like to get updated revenue figures besides those generated by the interests involved.

Racetrack and casino interests testified, as did gambling opponents from the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission. At this point, I’m just glad to see decent information getting out there. If people are going to be called upon to vote on this next year, they should have as much accurate data at their disposal as possible. Texas Politics and First Reading have more.

We have a new illustration of “chutzpah”

From Sen. John Cornyn, who knows a thing or two about shamelessness.

Sen. John Cornyn pinned Democrats with the failure of a plan to extend jobless aid for millions of unemployed workers, only a day after Democrats fell a vote short of pushing through their version of the legislation.

“The blame for what happened has to lie at the feet of Sen. Harry Reid,” Cornyn said. “I don’t have any concerns about backlash.”

Just as a reminder, Cornyn and his cohort have consistently voting to prevent a vote from taking place. Had this been one of those “up or down” votes I used to hear about, it would have passed long ago. The latest measure had a 59-37 majority, which is more than 60% of the vote in favor, but by the Senate’s bizarre rules, that’s not enough. If Cornyn or any Republican other than Sens. Snowe and Collins, who finally budged on this last vote, gave a damn about the unemployed, they’d have quit filibustering these votes long ago. It’s not like there’s some compromise position that Cornyn and the rest of the GOP would be willing to vote for.

Putting it another way, the technical term for what Cornyn is doing is lying. Lying about who’s to blame for this ongoing debacle, lying about the Republicans’ motives, lying about pretty much everything. We should be clear about that.

The community college crunch

Increasing enrollment and decreasing funding is a bad combination.

Community colleges, like most other state agencies and institutions of higher education, faced a 5 percent cut in state funding for 2010 and 2011. That was about $3.2 million each year for Lone Star and about $3.5 million a year for HCC. The future may bring a bigger hit, as Gov. Rick Perry has asked colleges and agencies to prepare for an additional 10 percent cut in 2012 and 2013.

Across the state, community college enrollment was up 13 percent last fall. Next fall, enrollment is predicted to be up even more.

“It’s unprecedented, in that you see growth in all the (community college) districts, and in this kind of a budget environment,” [Steven Johnson, a spokesman for the Texas Association of Community Colleges] said. “Most colleges are seeing this as the beginning of a long process, trying to manage that enrollment growth with shrinking resources.”

I presume part of the reason for the increase in community college enrollment is the increasingly unaffordable cost of a four-year university, especially in this economic environment. It may also be the start of a new trend, with more students preferring this route either as a pathway to a cheaper four-year degree, or as a perfectly acceptable alternative to one. Whatever the reason, it seems clear we’re as bent on screwing it up for those who need it as we are for those who aren’t college age yet. The budget situation for this biennium is just an excuse. You’ll note that we never did anything to make public universities more affordable after the deficit-inspired tuition deregulation of 2003. I fear that whatever we do now to make community colleges less accessible will never be undone, either. Hell of a way to pave the way for the future generations, that’s all I know.