Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Message from Tom Love

Posted by Faith for Tom Love for U.S. Congress District 24 Campaign - Nov. 4, 2008
As we enter the final stretch of this incredible race, I want to take a minute to thank you.

This nation is built on the hard work and "elbow grease" of the American people. I have traveled District 24, meeting my neighbors. I've seen the dedication of North Texans. Despite personal struggles, I've witnessed neighborhoods and communities come together to help neighbors and strangers. You solve problems, care for your families, and work for a living, while serving others - like those who had to evacuate the Texas Gulf Coast. For some this would seem heroic, but for the "extraordinary people here in North Texas, "it's normal -- it's what we do."

It is my honor to be the Democratic nominee for U.S. Congress for the 24th District. I have grown as I've traveled and listened and learned from you.

I give each voter, encourager, volunteer, and donor my heartfelt thanks. If the voters decide to send me to Washington, I will continue listening to you. Our nation is especially challenged right now but I am confident that the spirit which exists here in North Texas and the ingenuity and dedication of the people will prevail.

The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today. If you have not voted yet, PLEASE GO VOTE TODAY.

If you send me to Washington, I promise that I'll be the working man on the hill fighting for the good of the folks here in North Texas.

Thomas P. Love
Democratic Candidate for U.S. Congress District 24

Friday, August 8, 2008

Elected or Designated: Democratic Nominee in Historical Perspective

OPINION: By Faith Chatham - DFWRCC - August 8, 2008
Howard Dean and some so called "party leaders" are demanding that Hillary Clinton not have her name entered into nomination. News pundits have referred to the prospect of her being nominated as "unprecedented." Others discuss how having her name in nomination will take the spot light off of Obama.

The voice of 18 million voters seems inconsequential to Howard Dean and those who are threatening Senator Clinton, trying to force her not to allow her voters to be represented democratically at the Democratic National Convention.

A look at historical data shows that the "presumed nominee" does not always win the nomination. In fact, the "underdog" sometimes goes straight to the White House.

Instead of splitting the party, entering her name into nomination and allowing her delegates to represent the preference of 18 million Democratic Voters will unify the party. Unless her name is entered into nomination, a signification number of her 18 million voters will either 1. sit the election out, 2. vote only for down ticket candidates, or 3. vote for a candidate of a different party.

Democratic voters demand that the party treat every candidate fairly. Neither Senator Obama nor Senator Clinton should be marginalized or discriminated against. A fair, legitimate, honest election at the National Democratic Convention is necessary to energize and sustain the party. Howard Dean should step down as chair of the DNC because he just does not understand the importance of upholding the sacred American principal of one person one vote.

Jimmy Carter - 1981 delegates
Ted Kennedy - 1225 delegates
Uncommitted - 122
No way Kennedy could win, but his name was placed in nomination.

John Kerry: 2192.5 Pledged delegates
Howard Dean: 114.5 Pledged delegates
Dean had already dropped out with no chance of winning, but his name was placed in nomination.

Barack Obama: 1766.5 Pledged delegates
Hillary Clinton: 1639.5 Pledged delegates
The contender is being told to shut up for the sake of the party.

In addition, Teddy Kennedy has had his name on that first ballot in 1968 (12 votes), 1972 (12 votes), 1976 (1 vote), 1980 (1150 - he lost some supporters along the way).

Jesse Jackson has had his name on that first ballot twice: 1984 (465 votes), 1988 (1218 votes).

Howard Dean fails to lead. Instead he dictates and manipulates. In addition to threatening viable candidates, he appointed a third of the members of both the Rules and By Laws Committee and the Credentials Committee. Decisions by these committees to strip her of a significant number of her delegates through imposition of penalties for A RULE VIOLATION while similar penalties have not been imposed on other states where there are MANY DOCUMENTED RULES VIOLATIONS created a false perception that Senator Obama is the inevitable Democratic Nominee for president.

These committees have violated the trust of the members of the Democratic Party. Their role is not to DETERMINE who the nominee will be but to insure that there is a fair and honest process which honors the votes of American citizens.

The Chair of the Democratic Party is not elected to be a "king maker." Howard Dean's actions during this election cycle more closely resemble that of Josef Stalin than of an American leader. Chairman Dean should retire. Democrats deserve better. The American people deserve better.

Every candidate deserves to be treated fairly and respectfully.
In order to "unify the party" the nominee must win FAIR AND SQUARE. The manipulations of the Democratic Party to curtain fair electoral processes representing all candidates at the Democratic Party violate the precepts upon which the party was created.

This op-ed was posted on Daily Kos and has attacted a lot of heated comments by Obama supporters. The attitude shown by many on that site is what many Clinton supporters face in the community. There is a lack of understanding of the process and a lack of respect for the process.
If you want to join in on the discussion, register as a user of Daily Kos. Twenty four hours after you register you can comment and post.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Campaign and family business mix draws criticism

Associated Press Writer

AUSTIN — It's been almost a year since the Legislature made it illegal for lawmakers to use political funds to rent property from themselves or their spouses, but some legislators have managed to still keep campaign business in the family.

Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, has campaign space in an office building his wife owns, and records show he makes payments to her company for computer usage and paper.

Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, meanwhile, has reimbursed from campaign funds nearly $600,000 to two of his companies in recent years. He doesn't pay rent anymore but still advertises the address and a phone number at his Dallas management company, Associa, as his campaign contact information, records indicate.

Neither Shapleigh nor Carona reported a donation of office space on their recent campaign reports.

"If the space has value, which it clearly does, and it's donated to the officeholder or the campaign, it needs to be reported," said Fred Lewis, an Austin-based political activist who favors stricter campaign finance laws. "That's as clear as can be."

Controversy over mixing campaign spending with personal business prompted the Legislature to clamp down on perceived abuses in 2007. Though elected officials were prohibited years ago from using campaign money to buy real estate, many made payments to their spouses for the use of homes and offices. Critics said the loophole allowed politicians to acquire second homes in Austin and benefit from fat campaign accounts.

The Legislature closed the loophole last year and made it illegal for elected officials to rent property from companies they own or control.

Sens. Kim Brimer, R-Fort Worth and Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, quit paying campaign rent for luxury condos listed in their spouses' names, records show. Both had made more than $150,000 each in rent payments and related expenses to their spouses since 2000, records indicate.
Nelson's husband and Brimer's wife have since sold the condos, located in the tony Westgate building next to the state capitol. Spokesmen for both senators declined to give additional information.

Elsewhere, Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, adapted to the new law by moving his campaign office out of his Townview Professional Building. Until early last year, while the new law was still being debated, West had rented space from his own company, Skyview Development Corporation.

As for Shapleigh, the El Paso Democrat said he saw nothing wrong with continuing to make payments to his wife's company for Internet service, computers and paper. Records show he has paid the company, 701 N. St. Vrain Joint Venture, $2,423 for those purposes since the law changed last year.

"I'm over there and I'm responding to something that has to do with Senate activities," Shapleigh said. "I think we've followed the law."

Carona, chairman of the powerful Senate Transportation committee, since 2000 has reimbursed two of his companies $582,000 for various services, including rent and corporate jet travel. Carona no longer charges his campaign for rent. However, the Dallas Republican's political headquarters, as listed on his campaign Website, has the same address and phone number as Associa, his successful Dallas-based property management company.

Neither Carona nor Shapleigh reported the office space as an in-kind, or non-cash, contribution on their campaign reports.

"I don't do campaign work out of my business office," Carona said.

Natalia Ashley, general counsel for the Texas Ethics Commission, said if candidates for elective office, their spouses or their business entities give their campaigns "something of value" — whether it's money or not — the gift must be reported.

It is not uncommon for elected officials to put family members on the campaign payroll.

House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, pays his daughter, Christi, thousands of dollars a month for consulting work, records show. But while the law allows payments to adult offspring and siblings, payments to dependent children and spouses living in the same household are heavily restricted.

Complaints were filed last year against two House members who paid their wives for accounting work. One of them, Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, acknowledged he had erred and has since begun paying the money back — more than $50,000 — out of personal funds.

"I found out it wasn't permissible," Eissler said. "When I found out it wasn't, I stopped."

But Rep. Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, continued to make payments in 2007 to his wife's company, Lubbock Bookkeeping Services, after the complaint was filed.
Isett told the Austin American-Statesman in late May he saw nothing wrong with paying her company a total of $39,158 last year.

However, when contacted by The Associated Press last week, Isett's consultant, Todd Smith, said the Lubbock Republican had decided to stop.

"Carl just thought it was better to end the practice altogether so there wouldn't be any questions," Smith said.

Ethics watchdogs say laws prohibiting or restricting the mingling of campaign and family business are in place for a good reason: to ensure that politicians don't divert money they get from donors and special interest groups into their family bank accounts.

"Texas law is designed to prevent campaign contributions from being used to enrich the officeholders or their spouses," said Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of the liberal watchdog group Public Citizen of Texas. "There are firewalls and clear standards that have been set."

Read more in the Austin American Statesman

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Clear Channel Completes Merger

By DFWRCC - July 31, 2008
Media conglomerate Clear Channel's owenership change was completed yesterday. In Texas, many of the billboards in entire markets are entirely controlled by this company. Clear Channel has a significant impact on many political campaigns in Texas. Noted for donating (and reseerving) many billboards to their owner's favored right wing conservative campaigns, Clear Channel is a media which has utilized its resources to change (or keep) the Texas Political landscape conservative.

The new owners
The managing directors of the Boston-based TH Lee Parnership equity firm are:

Todd M. Abbrecht, Richard J. Bressler, Charles A. Brizius, Margaret W. Covell, Anthony J. DiNovi, Thomas M. Hagerty, David V. Harkins, Charles P. Holden, Scott L. Jaeckel, Seth W. Lawry, Soren L. Oberg, Joseph F. Pesce, Scott A. Schoen, Scott M. Sperling, George R. Taylor, Kent R. Weldon, Gregory A. White, Shari H. Wolkon,

Joshua M. Nelson and Vivek Sharma

James C. Carlisle, Ganesh B. Rao, Jeff T. Swenson and J. Lucas Wimer.

Joshua D. Bresler, Hobart A. Cook, Alexandra L. DeLaite, Daniel G. Jones, Dhruv A. Prasad, Jeremy Tan, Douglas H. Vandenberg

Joseph N. Benevento, Michael Beregovsky, Garrett B. Bockenek, Warren W. Chia, Varun P. Chopra, Kemper Diehl, Andrew Mayer, Megan Melican, Justina Wang and Elizabeth C. Williamson

Thomas H. Lee Partnership own Nielsen, a leading global media company providing marketing and media measurement information. Many advertising buyers base their advertising decisions upon viewership/readership data provided by Nielsen.

Another holding of T.H.Lee is UNIVISION, the Spanish-language media company which has top ratings in several key U.S. media markets.

They also own WARNER MUSIC GROUP, the hird-largest recorded music and third-largest music publishing company in the world. and CUMULUS, the largest privately-owned radio broadcasting company in the United States.

See list of holdings.

Clear Channel Goes Private

SAN ANTONIO -- July 30, 2008: As expected, the $17.9 billion buyout of Clear Channel Communications closed Wednesday. The merger is with an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of CC Media Holdings, the corporation formed by private equity firms Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital to complete the transaction that takes Clear Channel private. CCU stock will cease trading with the close of the market today.

"Today is a great day for our loyal and patient shareholders and, importantly, puts our company in the financial and operational position to continue to lead beneficial change in both of our core businesses," said Clear Channel CEO Mark Mays. "We are deeply grateful to our loyal employees who have remained focused and generated terrific results through their hard work and dedication."

TH Lee co-President Scott Sperling said, "We are pleased to have closed the acquisition of Clear Channel in partnership with Bain Capital Partners, the Clear Channel management team, and major public shareholders such as Highfields Capital Management and Abrams Capital. Clear Channel's strong leadership position in the radio and outdoor advertising business provides advertisers with an unparalleled platform from which to cost-effectively reach their target audiences locally and nationwide. We look forward to working with our management partners to continue building this great company."

John Connaughton, a Managing Director at Bain Capital, added, "We are very happy to have completed the purchase of Clear Channel. We continue to be impressed with the company's strong management team and its leadership position across its markets and media formats. We look forward to working with Thomas H. Lee Partners, Clear Channel management, and major public shareholders such as Highfields Capital Management and Abrams Capital to continue to strengthen Clear Channel's competitive franchise and drive value over the long term."
Read more in RADIO INK.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Man takes law into his own hands: Dripping Springs resident shows how citizens can bypass law enforcement.

By Steven Kreytak - AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF - Sunday, July 27, 2008

Gary Conner is not a lawyer, and he's not a cop. He's a Dripping Springs food service truck driver who says he has a healthy respect for the law.

That was enough this year for the 53-year-old to ignite a Travis County grand jury investigation into so-called "ghost voting," the practice of lawmakers at the Texas Capitol voting electronically for colleagues who are not at their desks.

The investigation wrapped last month with the grand jury issuing a report, condemning the practice and calling on the legislators to stop or change their rules, which prohibit members from voting for each other.

Conner didn't see lawmakers given the criminal charges he thinks were warranted, but, he achieved a rare feat by getting his criminal complaint considered by a grand jury, bypassing law enforcement and the district attorney's office in the process.

He relied on a seldom-utilized Texas law that allows grand juries, bodies that meet in secret and decides whether there is probable cause to issue indictments charging a crime, to take up criminal allegations from ordinary citizens. Usually, the district attorney chooses the cases presented to the grand jury.

Conner's effort required persistence with the Travis County district attorney's office and help from a state judge. It appears to reveal avenues for citizens to have criminal complaints investigated and evaluated directly by a panel of fellow members of the community.

"Now, people realize that the grand jury belongs to us. It doesn't belong to the DA," Conner said. "If we're ever going to get our government back — if it's a government of the people, by the people and for the people — at some point in time, the people have to be respected."

House officials say that the practice of members voting for absent colleagues dates back to the 1920s, when electronic voting began. A KEYE television news report on the practice was posted on YouTube last year and has been viewed more than a million times. Lawmakers said it stirred up a storm of anger from constituents. One of them was Conner.

Instead of writing his representative, Conner researched the Texas penal code. Soon, he believed that the lawmakers shown in the news report were guilty of tampering with a government record and impersonating a public servant.

But Conner, a past delegate to a Republican party convention, was afraid that the issue was "too political" to be investigated by the Travis County district attorney's office, which has the authority to investigate state officials through its public integrity unit. Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle has been accused by some lawmakers of allowing politics to dictate whom he prosecutes, a charge that he has denied.

A defense lawyer Conner knows told him about a rarely-used part of the Texas Code of Criminal procedure that charges grand juries with investigating matters brought to them by any "credible person."

Article 20.09 of the code states: "The grand jury shall inquire into all offenses liable to indictment ... of which they shall be informed by the attorney representing the State, or any other credible person."

Armed with a copy of this law, an affidavit stating he is a credible person and a complaint he wrote that claimed 11 members of the Legislature violated the law, Conner in October went to the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center, where grand juries meet.

He approached Nancy Gayle, a longtime grand jury bailiff, and said he wanted to hand his complaint to a member of the grand jury when they were not deliberating. Gayle refused, Conner said, and sent him to the district attorney's office. (Gayle no longer works as a bailiff and could not be reached for comment.)

Conner said assistants to Earle would not allow him to give his complaint to the grand jury and encouraged him to make his complaint with them.

The assistant district attorneys insisted that their office is not afraid of political cases, Conner recalled, and reminded him that they sought an indictment of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Conner agreed to hand over his complaint to them, he said.

On Feb. 7, Assistant District Attorney Gregg Cox, head of the public integrity unit, wrote Conner stating that his complaint is under review and that "this office will not make any further comment ... until the review is completed." Prosecutors later determined that no crime was committed.

Conner later asked defense lawyer Paul Velte, whom he supported when Velte ran for Hays County district attorney in 2006, if Velte "knew any judges that had any kind of regard for the Constitution."

On Velte's recommendation, Conner called state District Judge Charlie Baird.

Baird, who has been applauded by defense lawyers for what they call standing up to prosecutors, reviewed Conner's complaint and determined that he had a right to give it to the grand jury.

Baird submitted copies of Conner's allegations and DVDs of the KEYE report to two members.

Baird said it would be ideal for such citizen complaints to go through the district attorney's office, or at least to be passed by the district attorney's office to the grand jury members. But in cases when citizens feel they are being denied the ability to make their complaints, he encourages them to approach the judge that has empaneled a sitting grand jury.

Claire Dawson-Brown, chief of the grand jury division of the Travis County district attorney's office, said that Conner's complaint was mishandled. She said her office should have reviewed the complaint to make sure it was "a viable complaint," something she said Conner clearly had.

She said without that minimal screening, "you'd have all kinds of people showing up with all kinds of complaints," such as "someone with paranoid schizophrenia saying, 'People are planting bugs in my head.' "

Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, which keeps watch on police and prosecutors, said the right of a citizen to have his complaint investigated by a grand jury without the consent of law enforcement "is one of the remnants we have of a real participatory part of the criminal justice system."

Harrington said he has previously mailed written complaints to grand jury members' by home addresses. Although the identities of grand jurors are not subject to open records laws, the minutes of their proceedings, which contain the name of the foreperson and any absent members, are publicly available at the district clerk's office.

Harrington said he cannot recall ever learning that his complaints were investigated.

Cutting law enforcement out of the equation "is a check to avoid corruption," Harrington said.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dallas County DA Watkins accuses attorney general of politics in mortgage fraud case

By TIARA M. ELLIS - The Dallas Morning News - Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins and the Texas attorney general's office are at odds over what Mr. Watkins calls a political maneuver meant to embarrass him.

Central to the conflict is the release of a letter by the attorney general's office concerning a real estate fraud investigation that Mr. Watkins' staff asked the attorney general to investigate and prosecute.

Mr. Watkins and his wife, Tanya, own a title company through which authorities believe a man scammed a Dallas family out of their home with forged documents. Mrs. Watkins could be called as a witness in the mortgage fraud case, which would present a conflict of interest for Mr. Watkins and his office.

Because the state released the letter to a news organization under the Texas public information act, Mr. Watkins refused Friday to deputize an assistant attorney general to work on a gambling case in Dallas County.

"It's apparent to me that the AG is using this opportunity to play politics," Mr. Watkins said. "I would hope that I'm wrong. But now I have an issue of confidence as to what they are doing over there."

But an official with Attorney General Greg Abbott's office in Austin said in an e-mail Monday that Mr. Watkins' ire is misguided.

"Craig Watkins is subject to open records laws just like all other public officials," Jerry Strickland, communications director for the Office of the Attorney General, said in an e-mail. "It is unfortunate that a criminal case has been impacted simply because Craig Watkins appeared to expect that public information concerning him would be withheld from disclosure."

But Terri Moore, first assistant district attorney for Dallas County, contended Monday that the letter is part of an ongoing investigation and part of attorney-work privilege. As such, she said, it is not releasable under the public information act.

In the letter to the attorney general's office that was released, Dallas County Assistant District Attorney Richard Zadina wrote that "Mr. Watkins apparently rendered some legal services for the title company ..."

Mr. Watkins denies performing any legal work for Fidelity National Title, the company he and his wife own, or practicing law in any other capacity. Mr. Watkins said he agrees that the AG's office needed to investigate the mortgage fraud case. But he plans to find out why Mr. Zadina wrote that the district attorney was practicing law, which is prohibited.

Mr. Zadina did not return messages Monday.

In the meantime, the attorney general and district attorney remain at an impasse. It's not clear if officials in the attorney general's office plan to continue their investigation into the mortgage fraud case.

"The best thing we can do is distance ourselves from them," Ms. Moore said. "We want to have integrity in our process."

Mr. Watkins said if it is necessary, his office has the resources to prosecute the gambling case and could have an outside attorney prosecute the fraud case.

"We wouldn't have had an issue, but for them playing politics," Mr. Watkins said. "This has nothing to do with dispensing justice."

MEDIA TALK: Study Finds Gender Imbalance on 3 Newspapers' Op-Ed Pages

By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA - The New York Times - June 23, 2008
In the great marketplace of ideas, the opinion pages of major newspapers offer nonjournalists — mainly academics — a rare chance to reach a big audience and influence public policy. So which college professors win the competition for that limited, coveted space?

Overwhelmingly, they agree with the editorial page, and they are men, according to researchers at Rutgers University. Unfortunately, those findings do not suggest the kind of forum for diverse views that newspapers say their opinion pages should be.

The authors of the study are Bob Sommer, who teaches public policy communications and is president of Observer Media, publisher of The New York Observer, and John R. Maycroft, a graduate student in public policy. They combed through 366 opinion articles written by college teachers or researchers and published by three newspapers: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Star-Ledger, the largest-circulation newspaper in New Jersey. Their study will be published in the journal Politics and Policy.

At each newspaper, 90 to 95 percent of the published articles agreed with the editorial page stance on the issue at hand, they wrote, and when the opinion pieces disagreed, “it was usually in a point/counterpoint format where at least one of the authors by definition had to take a view in opposition.”

The study says that men wrote 78 percent of the academics’ opinion pieces in The Star-Ledger, 82 percent in The Times, and 97 percent in The Journal. “Of all our analyses,” the authors wrote, “this is perhaps the most astonishing.”

They did not say whether the disparity was, in part, a reflection of the gender makeup at some university departments and institutes.

The study also found a pronounced tilt toward academics from a handful of high-prestige universities, including Harvard, Stanford and the University of Chicago.

Editors at The Journal and The Times declined to comment.

Josh McMahon, the op-ed page editor at The Star-Ledger, said he was surprised by the conclusions, adding that they did not reflect conscious biases.

“I’m often conscious of picking pieces I don’t necessarily agree with,” he said. “My only guideline is picking what I find interesting.”
Read more in the New York Times

Monday, June 2, 2008

Clinton Wins Puerto Rico Primary

By International News - June 2, 2008
U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton has won Sunday's Democratic presidential primary contest in the commonwealth territory of Puerto Rico, soundly defeating rival Senator Barack Obama by a two to one margin. VOA's Michael Bowman reports, the Clinton victory comes near the end of the U.S. presidential primary season, and will only slightly erode Obama's lead among party delegates that will determine the Democratic presidential nominee.

Conventional wisdom holds that, at this point, Hillary Clinton has only the faintest hopes of securing the Democratic nomination. Nevertheless, she is finishing the primary season on a strong note. In recent weeks, she has scored overwhelming victories in the states of West Virginia and Kentucky. Now, she adds Puerto Rico to her win column.

Exit polls in the island territory showed her winning among all age groups, and among both men and women. Puerto Ricans may vote in primary contests, but not in the presidential election in November.

Obama still holds a comfortable lead among party delegates accrued from states and territories that have held primaries and caucuses since the beginning of the year. But Clinton's recent victories have, by some calculations, put her ahead in the popular vote tally of all ballots cast in the primary season to date.

Clinton highlighted her popular vote totals in a victory speech to supporters in Puerto Rico.

"More people have voted for us than for any candidate in the history of presidential primaries," said Hillary Clinton. "We are winning the popular vote. And it is important where we have won. We are winning these votes in swing states and among the very swing voters [that] Democrats must win to take back the White House."

Clinton added that so-called "super delegates" - party elders and elected officials who may endorse any candidate - will ultimately decide who becomes the Democratic presidential nominee. She urged super delegates to pick the strongest candidate to go up against Republican John McCain in November, and said she is that candidate.

But the Obama campaign counters that Clinton's popular vote argument is flawed, since it does not take into account vote tallies from many caucus states.
Read more

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bank backs off from credit card policy: Chase Will No Longer Increase Rates Based on Credit-Bureau Information

By Chase-JP Morgan - Nov. 2007
WILMINGTON, DE (November 19, 2007) - Today, Chase Card Services announced the expansion of Chase Clear & Simple, an ongoing program designed to help Chase customers better understand and manage their accounts, with the adoption of new, clearer pricing practices.

Chase is eliminating a practice, commonly used in the industry, of increasing interest rates for individual cardholders when their credit-bureau scores decline. This change is effective on March 1, 2008.

"Chase's clear and simple approach has been developed to make us easier to do business with, helping us to build lasting, loyal relationships between ourselves and our customers," said Gordon Smith, CEO of Chase Card Services.

"As the founder of a leading consumer advocacy organization that has specifically focused on the card industry for about 10 years, I would like to commend Chase on taking such a strong stance on such an important and controversial industry practice," said Curtis Arnold, founder of U.S. Citizens for Fair Credit Card Terms and cardratings.com. "This is a major step forward for consumers. Chase's Clear & Simple program is a bright spot in the card industry and illustrates just how serious Chase is about being a consumer-friendly card issuer."

2 Voter Rights Cases, One Gripping a College Town, Stir Texas

By RALPH BLUMENTHAL - The New York Times - Published: May 28, 2008
PRAIRIE VIEW, Tex. — “Vote or Die,” exhorts the faded slogan on a roadway at Prairie View A&M University, where black students once marched for the right to vote here in the town where they attend school, on a former cotton plantation about 50 miles northwest of Houston

The students won that battle in 2004, long after the United States Supreme Court supposedly decided the issue in 1979. But disputes over minority voting rights — along with accusations of election fraud — continue to rouse Prairie View, home to one of the nation’s leading historically black colleges, and other Texas locales.

“The cold war’s not over — they just moved the fence from Berlin to the Texas border,” said DeWayne Charleston, Waller County justice of the peace, who maintains that local officials failed to record hundreds of students whom he registered to vote in 2006. The federal Department of Justice and the Texas attorney general’s office say investigations are under way here, but will not give details.

Meanwhile, the attorney general, Greg Abbott, is a defendant in a separate voting rights case that goes to federal trial on Wednesday in the East Texas city of Marshall, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision last month upholding Indiana’s tough voter identification law.

Arguing that antifraud provisions enacted in 2003 were being selectively enforced to intimidate minority voters who are largely Democrats, the Texas Democratic Party filed suit against Mr. Abbott and Phil Wilson, the secretary of state, both Republicans.

The suit, initially filed in 2006, contends that get-out-the-vote activists who help voters with mail ballots have been “interrogated, harassed and intimidated” by state investigators.

J. Gerald Hebert, the lawyer for the Democrats, said his first witnesses would be several elderly black women prosecuted on fraud charges for what Mr. Hebert described as help given other elderly voters in the mailing of early ballots in Texarkana, Fort Worth and Dallas.

Mr. Abbott and Mr. Wilson say they have a duty to prevent voter fraud. To complaints that any infractions at issue have been insignificant, they say that in pursuit of that duty, they must pursue violations of provisions like one that requires anyone mailing in a ballot to sign the envelope.

They say that “there is no evidence of any voters who have been unable to vote due to enactment or enforcement” of the provisions, which, they also note, were sponsored in the Texas House by a Democrat. Further, they say, there is no evidence that enforcement has intimidated anyone into stopping voter assistance efforts.

The Dallas Morning News reported on May 18 that all 26 cases of voter fraud prosecuted by Mr. Abbott had been brought against Democrats, almost all of them black or Hispanic.

But in their legal brief, Mr. Abbott and Mr. Wilson said that the state had brought voter fraud cases against Republicans as well and that “mere questioning” of people about activities that might have broken the law did not deprive them of a constitutional right.

The brief said the two officials’ position was strengthened by the Supreme Court’s Indiana ruling, on April 28, which allowed states, as a way of preventing fraud, to require voters to show photo identification.

The suit against Mr. Abbott and Mr. Wilson involves enforcement of provisions that make it a crime in certain cases to carry someone else’s filled-in early-voting ballot to the mailbox, to possess another person’s blank ballot or to provide early-voting ballot assistance to anyone who has not asked for it.

The case, to be tried without a jury before Judge T. John Ward, has put Mr. Abbott at odds with Judge Charleston and some campus activists at Prairie View, who say they once looked to the attorney general as a champion of their voting rights.

In 2004, Oliver Kitzman, then the Waller County district attorney, challenged the students’ right to cast ballots here rather than in their home communities, although the Supreme Court had long ago decided they could. Students, claiming that the county’s white residents feared the voting power of the predominantly black 9,000-member student body, marched in protest, and Mr. Abbott wrote an opinion supporting them. Mr. Kitzman soon retired, and students continued to cast ballots here.

But other voting rights disputes have since erupted. Before the 2006 election, Judge Charleston said in an interview, he personally registered about 1,000 students. But on Election Day, he said, hundreds of them were turned away as not registered to vote. The registration cards were later found in county offices, he said.

Ellen C. Shelburne, the county tax assessor and registrar, who took office in January 2007, said she had recently been questioned by investigators from Mr. Abbott’s office and had told them that she knew nothing about the matter. Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for Mr. Abbott, said, “We cannot comment on ongoing investigations.”

Jamie Hais, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said, “We do have an ongoing investigation into the matter,” but declined to comment further.

Judge Charleston said he had also complained to federal and state officials that Waller County had denied Prairie View students convenient polling locations. Further, he told them that for the May 10 school board election, not only did district trustees use public money to issue a voter guide, the guide also gave short shift to two black candidates, Jemiah Richards and Charli Cooksey, both Prairie View students, who subsequently lost to incumbents.

Patrick W. Mizell, a lawyer for the firm of Vinson & Elkins, which was hired to represent the school board, said that this was the first time the trustees had put out a guide but that he saw nothing wrong with it.

Anyway, Mr. Mizell said, “I don’t think a large number of Prairie View students have kids in the local school district.”

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Legislators may lose ghost employees: Full Time Work For Part Time Pay May Soon End At State House

Austin American Statesman TOPIX - Thursday May 8 “The House has allowed them to do that. Specifically (House rules) say that the House member has complete power over that aspect of their office funds.

"Those rules give the legislators so much leeway.”

The Legislature's long-standing practice of hiring full-time employees at part-time hours and pay may be nearing an end just as the issue becomes a political football for state lawmakers.

The Austin American-Statesman has reported that at least 12 House employees are paid less than $300 a month and work other jobs, but have been enjoying the insurance and pension benefits of full-time employment.

As lawmakers were asked to remove the so-called ghost employees from their payrolls, investigators began an inquiry into what rules or laws may have been broken after the newspaper report last week put the practice in the public spotlight for the first time. Read more

Also see coverage on KBTX
Texas House May No Longer Get To Hire Part Time, Pay Full Time
By KBTX - May 6, 2008
AUSTIN (AP) - The Texas Legislature's long-standing practice of hiring full-time employees at part-time hours and pay -- may be nearing an end.
The Austin American-Statesman has reported that at least 12 House employees are paid less than $300 a month and work other jobs. But those employees have been enjoying the insurance and pension benefits of full-time employment.
Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick has ordered a review by the House Investigations and Ethics Committee.
House Administration chairman Tony Goolsby asked lawmakers to review their records, noting that such arrangements would violateHouse rules and state law.
The newspaper reported that Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle also is investigating the practice for possiblecriminal violations. Earle's office would not confirm such aninvestigation.
Texas House rules allow each lawmaker to hire and supervise his employees, but the rules also define full-time status as 40 hours
per week.
-- At least two of the ghost employees employed by House Democrats were former lawmakers, whose pension is tied to years of service. That means the longer they remain a full-time employee,the more they get paid in retirement.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Texas officials criticized for cozy relationships

By BRETT SHIPP - WFAA-TV - Friday, May 9, 2008Are Texas Railroad Commissioners too cozy with the oil and gas industry operators they are supposed to be regulating?

It's a question being raised in the wake of a News 8 investigation into deadly natural gas fittings, fittings that some say Commissioners should have forced gas companies to remove years ago.

For most it's tragedy long forgotten. Three elderly people killed in a house explosion in Garland in January, 2000. Investigators ruled that a small gas pipeline had cracked and leaked, causing the explosion that killed Albert and Lillian Holbert and her sister Callie Hickerson. But the Holberts' daughter, Sydna Gordon, will never forget.

Still etched in her mind, the moment she found out that the faulty pipe that killed her parents had a legacy of failure and death in Texas dating back to 1983.

Only after her parents died, did State Railroad Commissioners order the faulty pipe removed from the ground. “The Railroad Commission is the governmental agency in this state that has the responsibility to make sure we are all safe and they don't do it," said Gordon.

West Texas rancher Jay Marcom is a frequent critic of State Railroad Commissioners. His ranch land is crisscrossed by a corroded, 80 year old natural gas pipeline which spring six leaks last year, polluting his soil and his wells.

When he tries to get Railroad Commissioners to protect him and his land he says they almost always side with the gas company... and he thinks he knows why. “As long as the Railroad Commission of Texas is funded and influenced by the oil and gas industry of the state of Texas there will never be a change," said Marcom.

According to the government watchdog group Texans for Public Justice, all three commissioners campaigns are heavily funded by the people they regulate.

Of the $1.6 million dollars raised by Victor Carrillo in 2004, 46-percent came from individuals connected to the oil and gas industry.

Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones raised just over $2-million dollars in 2006. Of that, 35-percent was oil and gas money.

And a News Eight analysis of Commission Chairman Michael Williams January campaign report shows of the $400,000 he raised, 42-percent came from individuals with ties to the oil and gas industry.

Critics say those percentages are hard to ignore. "With the Railroad Commission we don't know who these people are, nobody knows what they do for a living, except the oil and gas industry that they are supposed to regulate,” said Andrew Wheat, director of Texans for Public Justice. “But, at the same time that's the very industry that is paying for their political careers."

Chairman Williams says contributions do not buy influence. "I reject that notion,” said Williams. “I am very confident that I make decisions based on facts and based on good sound policy and based on what I think is the best interest of my fellow Texans."

Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones told News 8, "I've always called balls and strikes the way I see them, and I don't ever intend to stop doing that."

Commissioner Victor Carrillo rejects critics claims as well. "My personal integrity dictates that the decisions I make are based on sound legal, policy, and scientific reasoning and not based on who has contributed to my campaign," said Carrillo.

All three commissioners reacted quickly to our investigation into faulty gas couplings that led to two deaths in Wylie in 2006, and two more in Cleburne last year.

Just days after our reports aired Commissioners ordered the couplings removed from the ground.

But in the cases of the faulty couplings and the cracked pipe which killed the Holberts, past and present Railroad Commissioners had access to years of evidence that potentially deadly problems existed.

And for years no action was taken to force the removal of the potentially deadly products, a removal that would have cost industry officials millions of dollars.

To this day Gordon believes had Railroad Commissioners done their jobs her parents would still be alive. “The Railroad Commission is only interested in protecting the gas companies not the rest of us asleep in our beds," said Gordon.

Late last year a state audit criticized Railroad Commission inspectors for being too cozy with and accepting small gifts from the oil and gas operators they are supposed regulate.

Railroad Commissioners have pledged to discontinue that practice.
See more of News 8 Investigative Report

Monday, April 28, 2008

Texas could close four schools if they fail again

By Kate Alexander - AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF - Monday, April 28, 2008

Four low-performing Texas schools, including Johnston High School in East Austin, are facing the highest of stakes on this year's high-stakes tests.

Rated "academically unacceptable" for at least the past four years, the schools must be closed or turned over to new management if attendance and student performance on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills once again fall below state standards. Testing started for some grades weeks ago and will end in May.

The mandatory sanction is the most severe in the state's school accountability system and has not previously been imposed by the Texas Education Agency.

Despite ample public discussion about accountability, testing and standards, little attention has been paid to what happens when a school reaches the end of the line.

A dramatic move by the state, which could come as early as June, would serve as a cautionary tale to other low-performing schools and would also shake up the teachers, school leaders and district administrators.

Whether the students would benefit from a shake-up, however, is unknown, education experts say.

"We're trying a lot of stuff without having any kind of scientific research," University of Texas education professor Julian Vasquez Heilig said.

There is a "gut feeling" that tough sanctions will fix the problem, he said, and the sanctions allow political and education leaders to say they have done something to hold failing schools accountable.

But if the accountability does not work as advertised, Vasquez Heilig said, the students will bear the brunt of the adults' bad decisions.

"The real question is what do you do to ensure that you providea sound academic program to the kids there," said Eric Hanushek, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University who has done research on Texas schools.

"The current kids don't have the luxury of waiting while someone else figures out how to better manage the schools."

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott, who could not be reached for comment, said at a recent conference that no decision has been made on the future of the schools but that "we're going to do better for these kids."

The Legislature sharpened the teeth of the school accountability system in 2006 by mandating closure or outside management when a campus reaches its fifth year with an "academically unacceptable" rating.

Five years is a long time for students to be stuck in a failing school, so the Legislature added the mandatory provision to show the gravity of continued failure, said state Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, chairman of the House Public Education Committee. "You have a drastic penalty, and you admit that it is drastic so that everybody will know it and they won't get in that situation."

That penalty is stalking mostly urban schools with large populations of low-income students, many of whom are new to the schools. Eissler and others are considering ways to change the accountability system during the next legislative session to recognize the particular challenges of those schools.

The changes might include incentives to attract the best teachers and administrators to the struggling schools as well as altering how the state measures progress.

Any future changes will not help the schools that might pass the five-year threshold now.

Those schools can avoid the tumult by earning an "acceptable" rating — the third-lowest of four rankings in the state accountability system — based on the 2008 tests as well as meeting certain standards for attendance and the dropout rate. At least two of the schools have made strides over the past four years that have gotten them close to the mark.

Officials at Sam Houston High School in the Houston district are confident that the school can break its five-year streak of being rated academically unacceptable, said Karen Soehnge Garza, chief academic officer for the district.

Last year, the school missed the "acceptable" standard because of the performance of African Americans on the math test. The state granted a one-year waiver of closure or new management because the struggling group was very small — 59 test-takers in the subgroup out of more than 2,500 students.

In recent years, the district has pumped resources into the school to reduce class size, provide tutoring from college students and make other changes, Garza said. This year, that effort cost an additional $675,000.

"It is going to pay off," Garza said.

G.L. Wiley Middle School in Waco has experienced "phenomenal gains," district spokesman Dale Caffey said, and an "acceptable" rating is expected this year.

There is similar optimism at Oak Village Middle School in the North Forest district near Houston, spokeswoman Nakisha Myles said in an e-mailed response to questions.

The students struggled last year on the math and social studies tests, and the school also had a problem with dropouts.

North Forest's troubles extend far beyond one school. The district has a host of financial and management problems that have prompted Texas Education Agency intervention and talk of dissolution.

Of all the schools, problems appear the most pervasive at Austin's Johnston High.

Every demographic group that figures into the rating missed the state standards last year on every test. The passing rates largely dropped — many by double-digit percentage points — even with three years of the intervention and overhaul that is mandated by the state. Substantial gains will be necessary on this year's tests to meet the so-called required improvement standard and avoid state action.

Administrators acknowledged in a recent communication to the Austin district's Board of Trustees that closure was "probable," wording that was suggested by agency officials to underscore the dire situation.

A previous closure plan had most Johnston students going to Reagan High School, which has been rated academically unacceptable for the past two years. Other students would head to Austin, LBJ, McCallum and Travis high schools.

But the school board must approve a new plan in May, a requirement by the agency.

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said the state needs to keep in mind the main objective of the accountability system in dealing with Johnston.

"The goal is educating our children and creating the opportunity for them to be educated," Watson said. "It is not just to have the ability to say, 'We have held you accountable by shutting you down and padlocking your school.' "

If Johnston does not meet standardsthis year, the state should find a solution that does not punish the students, the community and the school district, Watson said.

Use Johnston as an opportunity to show how school turnaround can be done with minimal disruptions and without creating a bevy of unintended consequences, he said.

"I fundamentally believe that we have to be willing to experiment with how we're going to keep urban schools open," Watson said. "We can't just be saying, 'In the name of accountability, we'll close these schools.' "

Closure can be a solution for a long-dysfunctional school that has become impervious to change, said Michael Petrilli, a former U.S. Education Department official who helped implement the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

"In terms of achievement, I think it is still an open question and the devil is in the details," said Petrilli, vice president for national programs and policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education reform group in Washington that promotes school accountability.

For the closure strategy to succeed, a comprehensive and tested "new school" plan must be in place that allows for aggressive change, Petrilli said. He has not found many instances across the country in which schools have been systematically closed and then established as better schools.

The Texas law does allow for keeping the campus open and turning it over to a nonprofit organization or another school district to manage.

An alternative approach would allow for more flexibility and innovation in running the schools, Petrilli said.

Austin school board members have said they would like to use that alternative route to create an "in-district" charter school at Johnston, if necessary. That option is available when there is a "reasonable expectation" that the school will earn at least an "academically acceptable" rating within three years of the new management, according to the law.

State Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston and a member of the public education committee, said the challenges before these schools and the students will not be resolved by relocation.

Chronic failure of a school "is not a function of the walls or the building. It is a function of the people who allocate resources and who make hiring decisions," Hochberg said.

"Forcing those kids to go to a different school won't necessarily fix the problems that those kids have but might make those kids disappear in the larger numbers at another school."

kalexander@statesman.com; 445-3618

Population breakdown for the four schools

Johnston High (Austin)

African American 16%

Hispanic 82.1%

White 1.8%

Economically Disadvantaged 81.6%

Limited English Proficient 20.4%

Mobile students* 43.9%

Sam Houston High (Houston)

African American 4.1%

Hispanic 92.5%

White 3.2%

Economically Disadvantaged 73.7%

Limited English Proficient 16.4%

Mobile* 27.2%

Oak Village Middle (North Forest/Houston)

African American 66.7%

Hispanic 32.7%

White 0.4%

Economically Disadvantaged 99.1%

Limited English Proficient 10.2%

Mobile* 24.2%

G.L. Wiley Middle (Waco)

African American 76.2%

Hispanic 21.8%

White 1.9%

Economically Disadvantaged 97.1%

Limited English Proficient 4.4%

Mobile* 47.7%

* Students are considered mobile if they attended a school for less than 83% of the school year (i.e., have missed six or more weeks at a particular school).

Source: Texas Education Agency

Schools facing possible closure or alternative management

Johnston High, Austin district

Sam Houston High, Houston district

Oak Village Middle, North Forest district (suburban Houston)

G.L. Wiley Middle, Waco district
Read more in the Austin American Statesman

Saturday, February 23, 2008

President BIll Clinton scheduled in Arlington Sunday Feb. 24th

Join President Bill Clinton for an "Early Vote Rally" in Arlington!
Sunday, February 24, 2008 at 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
at Vandergriff Park
2800 South Center Street
Arlington, TX 76014
General Area: Near the Bob Duncan Community Center (an early voting site).

(This park is between I-20 and Pioneer Parkway. There is also an entrance on Matlock Road.)

Vote early for Hillary and then join President Bill Clinton for a rally in Arlington! Voting for Hillary early takes us one step closer to getting our country back on track. To find the early vote location nearest you.
For more information see website:

Host: Texas For Hillary

For decades most national Democratic campaigns have bypassed Arlington as too Republican and too costly to work.

Sandwiched between the Dallas and Fort Worth media markets, Arlington is viewed as one of the most costly cities to reach voters. Usually campaigns bypass Arlington and concentrate their dollars in communities which are viewed as less red.
Shifting demographics continue to make Arlington more attractive to Democratic campaigns. This year both the Clinton and Obama campaigns have devoted resources to reaching Arlington voters. Earlier this month Chelsea Clinton appeared at UTA and President Bill Clinton is scheduled to appear at a rally in Arlington tomorrow, Sunday, Feb. 24rd.

During the first three days of early voting, more voters have voted in the Democratic Primary at all Arlington early voting sites than in the Republican Primary in Arlington. Democratic turnout Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 19, 20, 21 in Arlington has exceeded the highest turnout of any party in the past decade.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Tarrant County Democrats outnumber Republican Voters during first three days of early voting

By Faith Chatham - DFWRCC - Feb. 22, 2008

On the third day of Early Voting, all Tarrant County voting sites except two reported more Democratic Voters than Republican Primary Voters.
At Benbrook City Hall 104 Republicans voted early on Thursday and 98 Democrats voted early. At Nance Elementary 16 Republicans voted early and 10 Democrats voted early. A significant number more Democrats than Republicans voted Thursday at all other Tarrant County Early Voting sites.

County wide, 5,733 Democrats voted early on Tuesday while only 2,605 Repubicans voted early. This year both parties in Tarrant County have exceeded the number of voters participating in their primaries during the first and second days of early voting in the 2000 and 2004 Primaries. On the third day, Republican turn-out was less than in 2000; Democratic turnout on the Third Day in Tarrant County this year is over 6 1/2 times greater than 2000 Day three turnout and over 7 1/2 times greater than in the 2004 Presidential Democratic Primary.

In Arlington this year, larger numbers of Democrats are voting than Republicans. Democratic turnout at the five Arlington early voting sites exceeded Republican turnout for the first time in decades. In Arlington, known as a "Republican stronghold", 1033 votes were cast the first day of Early Voting in the Democratic primary while only 496 Republican votes were cast.
County wide, 5,733 Democrats voted early the first day; 2,606 Republicans voted early in Tarrant County on Tuesday.

On Wednesday Feb. 20, in Arlington, 1112 Democrats voted early; 463 Republicans voted early at the five early voting sites in Arlington.

On Thursday, Feb. 21, in Arlington, 846 Democrats voted early; 421 Republicans voted Thursday in Arlington.

County Wide on Tuesday Feb. 19, 5,732 Democrats voted and 2,607 Republicans voted.
County Wide on Wednedsay Feb. 20, 5,602 Democrats voted and 2,583 Republicans voted.
County Wide on Thursday, Feb. 21, 4,554 Democrats voted and 2,204 Republicans voted.
Wednesday. 5603 Democrats voted early; 2583 Republicans cast early ballots.

During the first three days of Early Voting this year in Tarrant County 15,888 Democrats voted early and 7,394 Republicans voted early.


By the second day of early voting, Tarrant County Elections reported a total of 2,146Democratic Primary mail ballots had been received and 1,982 Democratic Primary Vote by Mail ballots were still unvoted; 536 Republican Primary voters have returned Vote by Mail Ballots; 849 Republican Vote by Mail ballots remained to be voted at the close of the second day of Early Voting.
By Thursday, Feb. 21st, 2,324 Democratic Vote by Mail Ballots had been returned and 1,935 Democratic Vote By Mail Ballots remained unvoted; 584 Republican Vote By Mail Ballots had been returned by Thursday and 856 Republican Vote By Mail Ballots remianed out and unvoted.

At the close of the third day of early voting 15,888 Democrats had voted early (in person and by mail) and 7,394 Republicans had voted early. In Tarrant County on each of the first three days of early voting, over twice the number of Democrats cast early votes than Republicans.

In 2000 in Tarrant County more Republicans voted early than Democrats during the first three days of Early Voting; In 2004 more Democrats voted early during the first three days of early voting than Republicans. However, this year a much higher percentage of Democrats are voting early than in 2004.

Tarrant County - 2000:

Democratic Voters: 372 - Republican Voters: 1,558
Tarrant County - 2004:
Democratic Voters: 396 - Republican Voters: 286
Tarrant County - 2008:
Democratic Voters: 5,732 - Republican Voters: 2,607

Tarrant County - 2000:

Democratic Voters: 558 - Republican Voters:2,518
Tarrant County - 2004:
Democratic Voters: 464 - Republican Voters: 387
Tarrant County - 2008:
Democratic Voters: 5,602 - Republican Voters: 2,583

Tarrant County - 2000:

Democratic Voters: 713 - Republican Voters: 3,319
Tarrant County - 2004:
Democratic Voters: 591 - Republican Voters: 496
Tarrant County - 2008:
Democratic Voters: 4,554 - Republican Voters: 2,204

SOURCE: Tarrant County Election 3-4-2008 Primary Elections Combined Early Voting posted Friday, Feb. 22, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008

TX House Elections Committee Public Hearing: Considers lobbyist fee ban and use of state funded e-mails for political communications


TIME & DATE: 1:00 PM, Monday, February 25, 2008

PLACE: E2.028

CHAIR: Rep. Leo Berman

The committee will hear invited testimony on the following charges:

Study the exemption in the Texas lobby contingent fee ban, which currently permits contingent fees and does not require lobby registration, for influenceing the purchasing of goods or servisces by a state agency.

Consider whether this exemption should be amended or repealed.

Research the current Texas law prohibiting the use of public resources
for political advertising, and determine whether the law needs to be amended to clarify that publicly funded e-mail systems may not be used for political communications.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Williams' Acceptance Of Super Bowl Tickets Highlights Need For Contribution Reform For RRC

By Vince Leibowitz - Dale Henry Campaign - Feb. 13, 2008

AUSTIN--Following revelations by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Railroad Commissioner Michael L. Williams accepted free Super Bowl tickets from a lobbyist for CenterPoint Energy in 2004, the Dale Henry Campaign released the following statement:
"This episode highlights the need for real campaign finance reform for the Texas Railroad Commission," said Dale Henry (D-Lampasas).

"The Texas Railroad Commissioners should not have such a cozy relationship with the industries they regulate. It just promotes the continued rubber-stamp culture of the Commission. Of course, given the culture of the Texas Railroad Commission, I suppose it should come as no surprise to us that a sitting Railroad Commissioner would take Super Bowl tickets from a CenterPoint Energy Lobbyist and then turn around and vote on cost-of-service rate increases that are passed on directly to consumers," said Vince Leibowitz, Campaign Director.

"This is exactly why I've proposed my "Texans First Campaign Finance Reform" package," said Henry. "The members of the Texas Railroad Commission should not take money from--and should not be beholden to--the industries they regulate. This is why I plan to, as Railroad Commissioner, ask the Texas Legislature to pass a campaign finance bill that will prohibit the practice of Railroad Commissioners accepting money from the industries they regulate," Henry said.

Dale Henry, a petroleum engineer with more than four decades of experience in the oil and gas service industry, is the most experienced candidate in the race for Texas Railroad Commission. Henry is endorsed by State Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio, The Harris County Democrats, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, The Austin GLBT Political Caucus, Stonewall Democrats of Austin, longtime progressive leader David Van Os and other individuals listed on his campaign website.

Henry faces Art Hall of San Antonio and Mark Thompson of Hamilton in the March 4 Democratic Primary. The winner of the March 4 Democratic Primary will face Commissioner Michael L. Williams in the general election.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Water Conservation Key Issue for Railroad Commissioner Candidate Dale Henry

By Sandra Cason - The Marshall News Messenger - Friday, February 08, 2008

It's all about water, said Dale Henry, Democratic candidate for Texas Railroad Commission.

"My campaign is important for one reason," Henry said, "and that is because the state of Texas is running out of water. It is an abused natural resource and the Railroad Commission has done nothing about it for the past 106 years."

If he is elected in this, his third bid for the seat, Henry said he will be the first commissioner with hands-on experience in oil and gas exploration, the industry for which the commission provides oversight.

Henry faces Art Hall and Mark Thompson in the March 4 Democratic Primary. If he is the party nominee, Henry will face Republican incumbent Michael Williams in the November general election.

A resident of Lampasas, 50 miles west of Austin, and a graduate of University of Texas, Henry is a retired employee of Schlumber J company, having worked in the oil fields of Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf.

"I spent a number of years in research and development and I hold several fracturing patents," Henry said.

"I've been out there and seen it all," he added.

While many people may not stop to think about it that way, Henry pointed out that oil and gas drilling operations have a tremendous impact on ground water.

"Oil and gas activity inherently produces a lot of water," Henry said. "Water is what is used to bring it to the surface, but on its way, the water accumulates contaminated materials."

A common disposal method for the liquid is "to put it back in the ground."

Henry said he learned of a DeBerry preacher whose church hasn't had water in a number of years. "One well was drilled too close to his church and all the wells in the area are contaminated with salt water. You can drill a hundred good ones, but it takes just one bad well to create a whole bunch of problems," Henry said.

Good drilling practices are particularly important at this point in time because so many production companies are now using a horizontal approach.

"There's an area called the Barnett Shale," Henry said. "It is a very thick layer of stone and breaking through it has never made the effort worthwhile until horizontal drilling. That's the key."

In this method, the pipeline goes down for a distance, "turns a corner," and goes under the stone, Henry explained.

This type of drilling uses "millions of gallons of water per day. Sometimes it will be as much as 275,000 gallons," Henry added.

With such large quantities to be disposed of, Henry said it is more important than ever that the Railroad Commission check all drilling permit applications thoroughly, a practice he claims is not currently followed.

"This rubber-stamping has to stop," he said.

Use of environmentally safe drilling practices are especially important to this area because of Caddo Lake, Henry said.

"I've done hands-on work for the Railroad Commission in Caddo — the plugging of abandoned wells. Ninety percent of those I plugged had not be plugged by Railroad Commission rules and regulations the first time around.

"I will make protecting our water a priority for the Texas Railroad Commission," Henry said in a promotional brochure.

"In dry West Texas, the ranchers have to work hard at salvaging water to grow grass with which to feed cattle and produce beef. At the ranch my wife and I have operated for years, we cut the number of production acres needed per cow and calf from 25 acres to 2.5 acres by getting our water to the right place.

"Water's my passion. I know how to do it," Henry said.

"I'm not a politician and I shouldn't have to be involved in this, but the oil and gas companies are polluting our water, soil, and air, and the Railroad Commission simply turns its back and lets it happen.

"Instead of regulating these industries, the three commissioners are raking in campaign contributions from their executives and political action committees and are burying their heads in the sand.

"It's time for change," Henry said. "I need to bring the knowledge I have back to the people, if they'd like me to share it.

"I can do the job. I want the job.

"The petroleum industry is a great benefit to our state's economy, but that should not come at the expense of our environment or our fresh water supply," he said.

Read more in the Marshall News Messenger

Tx RR Commission Candidate - Dale Henry: Protecting state's water a priority

By RANDY ROSS - Longview News-Journal - Friday, February 08, 2008

Protecting the waters of Texas is a priority for Dale Henry.

The 76-year-old Democratic candidate for the Texas Railroad Commission said the production of oil and gas in Texas does not matter if the industry destroys Texas' natural water sources.

"We have to stop wasting and contaminating our water," Henry said.

Henry faces Art Hall of San Antonio and Mark Thompson of Hamilton in the Democratic primary election on March 4.

Henry has more than 40 years of experience working in the oil and natural gas fields in the United States and abroad, according to his campaign Web site. He has a bachelor of science degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

"I've been hands-on from the top to the bottom," Henry said. "I more or less speak the language of the oilfield."

The Railroad Commission is the state agency that regulates the oil and gas industry, gas utilities, pipeline safety, safety in the liquefied petroleum gas industry and the surface mining of coal. Established by the Legislature in 1891, the commission is the state's oldest regulatory agency, according to the agency's Web site.

The self-described environmentalist from Lampasas is a former city manager and county commissioner. He also founded 4 Arrows, the first cementing service company contracted by the railroad commission.

Henry said his experience in the oil and gas industry make him an ideal candidate for the commission. He said he knows the commission's rules and regulations from working as a contractor, and he would be able to begin working on his first day.

The oil and gas industry has a strong economic impact on the state, he said. That impact has come at a cost to the public, he said.

Henry said the commission has for many years considered the economics of the industry more important than public safety. He said that philosophy has changed in recent years, but it needs to continue to change. He said the commission must consider what is in the public's best interest.

"Environmentally, we have a problem," Henry said.

He said companies often cut corners when installing casing in wells to save money. As time erodes sealing and concrete shifts, water begins flowing and drawing out contaminants.

By forcing companies to install casing properly, Henry said companies would save more money in the long-term by avoiding remedial and repair work.

"These are serious matters," Henry said.

Attempts to reach Republican incumbent Michael Williams for comment were unsuccessful Thursday.

Read more in the Longview News-Journal

Monday, February 11, 2008

Consumer issues likely to play large role in Texas Railroad Commission race

By R.A. DYER - Star-Telegram Staff Writer - Mon, Feb. 11, 2008
AUSTIN -- With North Texas residents feeling the economic pinch -- and home energy prices on the rise -- consumer issues could take center stage in the race for the Texas Railroad Commission.

Agency Chairman Michael Williams, 54, a Republican, is seeking re-election. Three Democrats are also running in their party's March 4 primary: former San Antonio Councilman Art Hall, 37; retired chemical engineer Dale Henry, 76; and Mark Thompson, 48, a mobility specialist for the blind. Thompson lives in Hamilton.

Set against the backdrop of the race are several home heating rate increases authorized by the commission. In at least two major North Texas cases, Williams joined with other commissioners in setting rates higher than the agency's own panel of experts had recommended.

Williams said that while he sometimes disagrees with those experts -- they're administrative law judges, and they conduct hearings and consider evidence in rate proceedings -- he nonetheless strives to reject unwarranted requests by utilities.

"But we can have a difference of opinion with regards to policy questions," he said.

The three Democratic candidates say the commission and Williams are too close to the industry they regulate. Each Democrat lambasted the panel for not doing enough to protect consumers.

"Citizens need to get upset -- they need to write the Texas Railroad Commission and talk to them," Thompson said.

The Texas Railroad Commission, an agency little-understood by the public, regulates the oil and gas industry and is charged with ensuring pipeline safety. It also makes environmental decisions regarding oil wells and authorizes cost-of-service rates for natural gas utilities.

Each of the Democrats gave the commission poor marks when it came to protecting ratepayers.

But it's also clear that not all the Democrats are well-versed on commission responsibilities.

For instance, Thompson has claimed that the agency lacks authority to set municipal rates. "When you think about it, they don't control rates in the cities," he said.

Actually, the commission has great authority over cost-of-service rates charged within cities.

Likewise, Hall stated at one time on his Web site that he would make railroad safety an issue in the race. Despite its name, the Texas Railroad Commission has no authority over railroads.

But Hall also said he has received an earful of complaints from North Texas residents about high utility rates. He described the commission as a "rubber stamp" for industry.

"I think it'll definitely be an issue during the general election," he said.

Henry, the retired petroleum engineer, said, "The Railroad Commission of Texas should not sit idly by as energy companies stick bills for hotel rooms and cases of wine to their ratepayers through cost-of-service rate increases" -- a reference to various luxury items put in a recent rate case by Atmos Energy.

The North Texas utility removed the items after reports appeared in the Star-Telegram.

Henry also said the commissioner has not done enough to ensure that Texans pay only the appropriate commodity price of natural gas and has "not done a credible job in reviewing and approving cost-of-service rate increases for natural gas companies."

A recent analysis by the Star-Telegram found that annual home heating bills are about the same now as they were in 2005, even though the commodity price of natural gas has come down dramatically since two hurricanes disrupted supplies that year.

The reason that bills remain high is related, in part, to repeated cost-of-service increases authorized by the commission.

"They need to keep down rates so that they're more reasonable," Thompson said.
Read more in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Saturday, January 19, 2008

HD 46: Hire Dukes, Get A Bill Passed?

By Vince Leibowitz - Capitol Annex - Jan. 19, 2008

Suppose a Legislator gets a contract to work as a “consultant” for a multi-million dollar land developer. The Legislator then passes a bill that increases the overall value of the entire development by providing millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded incentives for one of the land developer’s most high-profile, anchor tenants.
Sound ethical, or even legal?

Well, you’ll never guess who were talking about…again. Yep, increasingly ethically challenged, Republican-funded Craddick Democrat, Dawnna Dukes.

Apparently, when she’s not accepting contributions from GOP Contributors, or defending Tom Craddick, or helping her sister get a toll-road contract the day after she votes for toll roads, or running up $89,000 in illegally reported “campaign” credit card expenses, or missing a crucial vote on the house floor because of a vacation in France, or skipping an important Medicaid Reform Hearing for a conference in La Jolla with a weekend stay-over in Vegas, (to name just a few of her shortcomings) she is using her office to help get personal contracts with multi-million dollar land developers.

I’ve been told off the record by quite a few lobbyists that at the end of meetings about legislative initiatives with their clients Dukes will pop that most uncomfortable of questions…“what’s in it for me?” This is the point in the program where the testicles of the lobbyists shrivel up, the lobbyist turns beat red, and he starts to seek solace in a close corner behind a thick drape. The Southwest Airlines “wanna getaway” ding starts ringing in his head. And he starts to imagine what it will be like to testify in front of a grand jury after Ronnie Earle finds out about the meeting in which he probably just witnessed an act of legislative bribery. Oh, c’mon – there are a dozen of you who will read this post and know exactly what I’m talking about.

Well, folks are talking…

Here’s a fact pattern that would make any 1st year law student with the intent of becoming a District Attorney froth at the mouth. And every bullet is footnoted so that you don’t have to take our word for it, you can see for yourself.

*Dukes’s company, DM Dukes & Associates, gets hired by a company named Catellus Development Group sometime during or before 2006. (1)

*Catellus is the developer who is redeveloping the old Robert Mueller Airport, in Dukes’s East Austin district.(2)

*Dukes is listed on Catellus brochures as a contact. (3)

*Dukes’s company, DM Dukes & Associates is listed on the Robert Meuller web site as a contact for Catellus. (4)

*Dukes attends neighborhood association meetings, not in her capacity as a State Representative, but in her capacity as an agent of Catellus.(5)

*One of the anchor tenants and crown jewels of the new Mueller Development is The Austin Film Society. (6)

*During the legislative session in 2007, Dukes passed HB 1634, a bill that provided a mechanism for $22 million in incentives for the film industry and the Austin Film Society.(7)

*Dukes and one of her Republican pals, Rick Perry, appeared together at a press conference and bill signing ceremony at the Austin Film Studios.(8)

*Dukes issues a press release bragging about her bill that explicitly states that her bill will benefit the Austin Film Studios. “Film Incentive legislation will not only benefit the Austin Film Studios presently located at Robert Mueller in District 46 but also the planned $2.5 billion Villa Muse studio development to be located in District 46.” (9)

*Dukes potentially violates Texas House Rules and the Texas Constitution by never disclosing her personal or business interest with Catellus Development.

*Article 3 Section 22 of the Texas Constitution requires “A member who has a personal or private interest in any measure or bill, proposed, or pending before the Legislature, shall disclose the fact to the House, of which he is a member, and shall not vote thereon.”(10)

*Rule 5 Section 42 of the Texas House Rules sets out this same requirement

We are that the mainstream media has not picked up on this story!
Here you have an elected official working for a multi-million dollar developer as a consultant, who then goes and gets $22 million taxpayer dollars for an incentive program that benefits one of the developers anchor tenants.

How is that legal, moral, ethical, or right?
And I hear this isn’t the only unseemly contract…

Endnotes, links and sources:
(1) http://www.rmma.net/retail_pdfs/Mueller_LBOpacketRR.pdf
According to the document linked below, dated February 15, 2006, Dukes is working on behalf of Catellus Development Group, the same group responsible for the Robert Meuller Development project. On Page 8 of the above link, Dawnna Dukes of DM Dukes & Associates is clearly listed as the MWBE Outreach Consultant for Catellus Development Group. Her address, phone, fax and email are given.

(2) http://www.rmma.net/retail_pdfs/Mueller_LBOpacketRR.pdf and http://www.catellus.com/whats_new/news_4.aspx

EXCERPT – “November 2007, Catellus Development Group officially broke ground on November 14, 2007, on the Seton Family of Hospitals’ new headquarters at Mueller during a ceremony held near the site of Mueller’s future town center.

(3) http://www.rmma.net/retail_pdfs/Mueller_LBOpacketRR.pdf

(4) http://www.rmma.net/construction.html

EXCERPT – “For general inquiries about Catellus’ M/WBE policy and program, please contact: D.M. Dukes and Associates, dukesdm@aol.com.”

(5) I have this from a personal source who lives in her district and attended one of those meetings.

(6) http://www.rmma.net/retail_pdfs/Mueller_LBOpacketRR.pdf

On Page 3, the Austin Film Society is clearly located within the Meuller Development. On the 8th bullet – left hand side of page 3, the Film Society is clearly mentioned.

(7) In 2007, Dawnna Dukes passed HB 1634.
The bill set up a mechanism for $22 million in incentives for the film industry. The money was appropriated through the Trusteed Programs within the Office of the Governor – A.1.4. Strategy – Film and Music Marketing - $22 million increase relating to HB 1634. This is located on Article I page 52 of the conference committee report for HB 1. It is also mentioned in Rider 20 – Article I page 58 of the conference committee report on HB1.

(8) http://www.dawnnadukescampaign.com/photo-2.htm

(9) Dukes campaign continually brags about her legislative achievement in passing HB 1634.http://www.dawnnadukescampaign.com/Aboutme.html. EXCERPT “In 2007, Representative Dukes was the prime architect of legislation that will bring Texas into the forefront of the competitive Film Industry. HB 1634 by Dukes created the Texas Film Incentive program which provides an incentive to a project that produces at least 80% of it work and hires at least 70% of its workforce from Texas. Film Incentive legislation will not only benefit the Austin Film Studios presently located at Robert Mueller in District 46 but also the planned $2.5 billion Villa Muse studio development to be located in District 46.”

(10) Texas Constitution http://tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/txconst/sections/cn000300-002200.html

Read more on Capitol Annex

Friday, January 18, 2008

Prosecutor drops arson indictment against judge, wife

By John Moritz - Fort Worth Star Telegram - Jan. 18, 2008
AUSTIN -- Indictments were dropped Friday morning against Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina and his wife in the June 28 arson fire that the destroyed the family home in the Houston suburb of Spring.

The move came one day after a grand jury in Harris County charged the couple in the fire that had been ruled arson, and one day after Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal was quoted as saying that his office did not have sufficient evidence to move forward with prosecution.

Two members of the grand jury publicly rebuked Rosenthal, telling media outlets in Houston that the justice process had been thwarted.

"I've just never seen anything like the vigor with which these two defendants were defended by the Harris County District Attorney's Office,"’ Jeffrey Dorrell, the assistant grand jury foreman, was quoted in the Houston Chronicle as saying. "It was theater of the absurd. We knew before we handed the indictment down that the district attorney was going to refuse to prosecute, but we did it anyway."

Medina's 5,000-square-foot home burned after a fire started in a detached three-car garage. Neighboring houses also sustained heavy damage, and investigators found evidence of an accelerant where the blaze started. Medina, who was serving as Gov. Rick Perry's top lawyer when the governor appointed him to the state's highest civil court in November 2004, has maintained his innocence.

"He testified before the grand jury on Oct. 31 saying that neither he nor anyone in his family had anything to do with this," Medina's attorney, Terry Yates of Houston, said Thursday night. "This comes as a real shocker. We thought this was behind us."

The indictments accused Francisca Medina of arson and David Medina of tampering with the investigation.

According to news accounts, the fire broke out in the Medinas' garage and spread to their house and two neighboring homes, causing an estimated $900,000 in damage. The Harris County fire marshal's office ruled it arson.

Investigators discovered that a year before the blaze, the mortgage holder on the Medinas' $400,000 house filed suit to foreclose after five payments had been missed, according to the reports. The suit was settled in December 2006.

In an interview with The Associated Press late last year, Yates confirmed that David Medina, who is paid about $150,000 as a Supreme Court justice, had been dealing with financial problems. The family had also failed to keep up payments on the homeowner's insurance policy, Yates told the AP.

Perry's office had no comment on Thursday's events. Medina, a Republican who won a six-year term in 2006, was a corporate lawyer for Cooper Industries in Houston and served as a state district judge in Harris County before joining Perry's administration. He is a native of Galveston and graduate of the South Texas College of Law in Houston.

The last sitting Texas Supreme Court justice to face indictment was Don Yarborough, who took office in 1977 while under charges of forgery and perjury. He resigned seven months after being sworn in. He was convicted and then fled to Grenada. Yarborough was apprehended in 1983 and returned to Texas to begin his five-year prison sentence.

Under the indictment, Medina could have faced from two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

ACTION ALERT: Tx House Committee on Transportation Public Hearing on role of MPO and Rural Planning Authorities within COGs

Texas House of Represenatives Meeting Notice - Jan. 18, 2008


COMMITTEE: Transportation

SUBCOMMITTEE: Planning Authorities

TIME & DATE: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, February 06, 2008

PLACE: E2.012

CHAIR: Rep. Fred Hill

The Subcommittee will meet to consider the following:

Charge #5: Examine the role of metropolitan planning authorities in state law, as well as the creation of rural planning authorities to address the planning needs outside of metropolitan planning organizations but within council of government boundaries.

Hearing on Wendy Davis' Candidacy for Sen. Distict 10 Scheduled Monday, Jan. 23

By Tarrant County Democratic Party - Jan. 18, 2008
Hearing on Wendy Davis' Candidacy for Sen. Dist. 10
Scheduled for Monday, January 23rd, 11am

The Firefighters' appeal to Chairman Art Brender's decision to declare Wendy Davis eligible as a candidate in the Senate District 10 Primary will be heard by the Court of Appeals on Monday, January 23rd, at 11am.

The Hearing will take place on the 9th Floor of the Tarrant County Justice Center.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Governor's appointee indicted - Texas Supreme Court justice, wife indicted

By Houston Chronicle, Jan. 17, 2008
Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina and his wife were indicted today by a Harris County grand jury in connection with a fire that destroyed their Spring home last summer, the judge's attorney said.

Medina is charged with evidence tampering, attorney Terry Yates said. His wife, Francisca Medina, is charged with arson, Yates said.

Flames gutted the Medinas' 5,000-square-foot house, destroyed a neighbor's home and damaged a third home on June 28.

In an interview last October, David Medina said he didn't know how the fire started and that he, his wife and four children were innocent.

"Nobody in my family has done anything wrong and we continue to cooperate with investigators so that this matter will come to a conclusion," David Medina said at the time.

District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said in October that David Medina was not a suspect in the arson.

Read more in The Houston Chronicle

The Supreme Court of Texas website
Justice David Medina, Place 4

Justice Medina, a former Harris County state district judge, succeeded Wallace B. Jefferson in Place 4 after Jefferson's appointment to be chief justice. Gov. Rick Perry appointed Justice Medina, who was the governor's general counsel since January 2004.

Before that, he was associate general counsel for Cooper Industries Inc. in Houston and served on the Harris County bench in 1996-2000 after appointment in May 1996 by then-Gov. George W. Bush. He was elected in November 1996 and again in November 1998.

Justice Medina was born on Galveston Island, attended public schools in Hitchcock and graduated with a bachelor science degree from Southwest Texas State University in 1980 (now Texas State University-San Marcos). In college he competed on the university's karate and baseball teams and was on the Dean's List. In 1989 he earned his law degree from South Texas College of Law. He was on the Dean's List and a member of the American Bar Association Regional Moot Court National Championship Team.

He joined Cooper Industries in 1987 and was promoted to litigation counsel upon his graduation from law school. Governor Bush appointed him to the 157th State District Court. The Houston Bar Association voted him as one of the top jurists in Harris County.

He rejoined Cooper in 2000 as associate general counsel for litigation, responsible for supervising Cooper's litigation and product-safety matters throughout the world.

Justice Medina is a former Board Member of Habitat for Humanity and Houston Metro. He currently serves on the Board for the Spring Klein Baseball Association. He is also the manager of his son's Select baseball team and has served as an adjunct professor for South Texas College of Law, where he taught advanced civil trial litigation.

His term ends December 31, 2012.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

TAKS testing moved from election day to another date

January 16, 2008


To resolve the conflict created by having Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) assessments scheduled for March 4, 2008, the same day as primary voting in Texas, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has developed a revised testing calendar. Two changes are being made to the original schedule: first, the TAKS exit level social studies retest is being moved from Friday, March 7, to Monday, March 3; and second, the TAKS tests that were scheduled to be administered from March 4 through March 6 are now scheduled to be administered from March 5 through March 7. As a result of these changes, no test administrations will occur on the day of the primary election, Tuesday, March 4.

This new testing schedule will address the following:

Districts will not be burdened with planning the logistics of serving as testing sites and polling places on the same day and at the same location.

Moving the exit level social studies retest from Friday, March 7, to Monday, March 3, affects the fewest number of students, approximately 10,000 statewide.

Three of the four exit level retests––English language arts, mathematics, and science––will be administered one day later but in the same order as originally scheduled.

The grade 10 English language arts primary and make-up administrations are still separated by one day. The primary administration is now scheduled for March 5, and the make-up is scheduled for March 7.

The Student Success Initiative (SSI) reading administrations are now scheduled for March 5, leaving March 6, 7, and 8 for make-up opportunities.

Out-of-school examinees taking an exit level retest in March will not be negatively affected by this schedule change. Students who have already registered for one or more retests will receive a follow-up letter from Pearson with the revised test administration date(s). Out-of-school examinees who plan to register for the retest onsite and arrive at school on the originally scheduled days will be permitted to take the retest needed.

Attached to this letter are the original and revised test administration schedules for the week of March 3; in addition, TEA will update the 2007–2008 testing calendar on the Student Assessment Division website. Pearson is revising the calendar of events to reflect this schedule change and will post the new calendar as soon as possible.

The Student Assessment Division will work with district testing coordinators on a case-by-case basis if there are problems with testing on either Monday, March 3, or Friday, March 7. Districts should submit a request in writing using the Request for Alternate Dates, Modified Scheduling, and Off-site Testing form located on the TEA website at:


I apologize for any inconvenience this change may cause; however, I hope that this schedule change will allow your students to demonstrate their best performance on TAKS. I believe it will also demonstrate to your students and community the importance of voting.


Robert Scott

Commissioner of Education


cc: District testing coordinators

ESC directors

ESC testing coordinators