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Curtis: Say ‘no’ to Proposition 6

BY LINDA CURTIS

The constitutional amendment Proposition 6 is the result of the clever maneuvering of Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, House Speaker Joe Straus and Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, to get better borrowing terms for the governor’s special-interest friends on water projects. These well-heeled corporate interests do not need a government subsidy.

This explains why a prerequisite for getting Prop 6 passed by the Legislature was the “streamlining” of the Texas Water Development Board to three paid appointees by Perry. Democrats bought in to Proposition 6 in a political deal to get education funding.

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Photo courtesy of www.twdb.state.tx.us

Only a few environmental groups, like Save Our Springs Alliance, have had the independence to stand up and urge progressives to vote “no.” Only a few genuine fiscal conservatives in the Legislature like Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano, and Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, took great risk to their political careers by standing up to the speaker and challenging this dangerous amendment. The fact is that Prop 6 is all about throwing money — also …Continued here: http://www.indytexans.com/wp-content/uploads/Op-Ed-Prop-6-Statesman.pdf

Former TWDBers spill the beans on Prop 6

PRESS RELEASE FROM INDEPENDENT TEXANS

Nix Prop 6 Coalition Gets Big Boost
from Former Texas Water Development Board Appointees and Senior Staff

*  Former TWDBers tell Nix 6ers:  Prop 6 is a Trojan Horse for influence peddling, not water or drought.

*  Former TWDBers tell Nix 6ers:  Governor-appointed TWDB to pick winners and losers; special interests and political cronies win, taxpayers and ratepayers will pay the price.

*  Former TWDBers tell Nix 6ers:  Prop 6’s $2B down payment on State’s $27B-$30B share of $53B capital cost ($213B actual cost) of state water plan’s 500+ projects, indicates how much money is at stake and how much influence will be peddled.

*  Former TWDBers tell Nix 6ers:  Governor’s team and Legislature push Prop 6 funding from Rainy Day Fund because taxpayers would never approve astronomical cost of state water plan if State’s $27B-$30B share paid with general revenues instead.

*  Former TWDBers tell Nix 6ers:  No assurance Prop 6’s $2B will pay State’s share of state water plan; they will be back for more money.

*  Nix 6ers say:  As long as cronies control TWDB, massive state water plan projects will be built with Prop 6 subsidies, whether or not the projects make sense, economically or in human cost.

*  Nix 6ers say: Worthy, properly vetted projects should be subsidized the old fashioned way to make them affordable for borrowers who can’t finance on their own – either directly with general revenues, or with TWDB loans, like Prop 2 promised, with subsidies from general revenues.

*  Nix 6ers say:  Conservation and rural agricultural, especially agricultural conservation, should be prioritized, the money appropriated to subsidize them (except for cities that can afford on their own) and done yesterday.

*  Nix 6ers say:  Mammoth boondoggles for urban centers, like reservoirs, that throw off millions of dollars to special interests should have to prove their need for subsidies, after they prove they are affordable, and after intensive conservation is instituted, not before. _________________________________________________________________________________

October 24, 2013

The opposition to Prop 6 has begun to achieve the media attention it deserves, but the Nix Prop 6 cross-partisan coalition has received a big boost in its efforts to expose Prop 6’s true purposes and shortcomings. Members of the coalition were able to speak with former (volunteer) Board members and senior staff of the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). They were among those who abruptly lost their appointments or their jobs last August 31, as a direct result of House Bill 4 (HB 4), the enabling legislation for the Prop 6 constitutional amendment.

Texas-Water

Photo from HardHatters.com

One such source described our concerns as “dead on accurate” that the genesis of Prop 6 was crony politics and special interest favoritism, not drought or water emergencies.  The cross-partisan coalition (from the more independent greens to tea partiers) has exposed the Prop 6-created State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT as a thinly disguised political slush fund of public money for the benefit of special interests. Prop 6 and HB4 will encourage campaign contributions for legislators who play ball, but do not assure SWIFT’s viability as the solution to our water needs. And Prop 6 probably means more State debt, rather than less, as some Prop 6 supporters argue.

Under HB4, political cronies at TWDB will take over prioritizing and financing the construction of projects included in the state water plan. “Many of these projects have not been adequately vetted and are hugely expensive, in both economic and human terms, but Rick Perry’s cronies will pick the winners and losers,” said Linda Curtis of Independent Texans. Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), Senate Natural Resources Committee Chair, with the backing of the Governor and Lt. Governor, rewrote the original House legislation, to wipe out TWDB’s management structure and replace it with three… Continued here: http://www.indytexans.com/2013/10/24/former-twdbers-spill-the-beans-on-prop-6/

Obama admin. knew millions could not keep their health insurance

By Lisa Myers and Hannah Rappleye
NBC News

President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that after the Affordable Care Act became law, people who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it. But millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under Obamacare, say experts, and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years.

This story has been republished here

Four sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act tell NBC NEWS that 50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a “cancellation” letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law. One expert predicts that number could reach as high as 80 percent. And all say that many of those forced to buy pricier new policies will experience “sticker shock.”

None of this should come as a shock to the Obama administration. The law states that policies in effect as of March 23, 2010 will be “grandfathered,” meaning consumers can keep those policies even though they don’t meet requirements of the new health care law. But the Department of Health and Human Services then wrote regulations that narrowed that provision, by saying that if any part of a policy was significantly changed since that date — the deductible, co-pay, or benefits, for example — the policy would not be grandfathered.

Buried in Obamacare regulations from July 2010 is an estimate that because of normal turnover in the individual insurance market, “40 to 67 percent” of customers will not be able to keep their policy. And because many policies will have been changed since the key date, “the percentage of individual market policies losing grandfather status in a given year exceeds the 40 to 67 percent range.”

That means the administration knew that more than 40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them.

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Larry Downing / Reuters

President Barack Obama walks out to deliver remarks on the Affordable Care Act in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on Oct. 1, 2013.

Yet President Obama, who had promised in 2009, “if you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan,” was still saying in 2012, “If [you] already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance.”

“This says that when they made the promise, they knew half the people in this market outright couldn’t keep what they had and then they wrote the rules so that others couldn’t make it either,” said  Robert Laszewski, of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, a consultant who works for health industry firms. Laszewski estimates that 80 percent of those in the individual market will not be able to keep their current policies and will have to buy insurance that meets requirements of the new law, which generally requires a richer package of benefits than most policies today.

The White House does not dispute that many in the individual market will lose their current coverage, but argues they will be offered better coverage in its place, and that many will get tax subsidies that would offset any increased costs.

“One of the main goals of the law is to ensure that people have insurance they can rely on – that doesn’t discriminate or charge more based on pre-existing conditions.  The consumers who are getting notices are in plans that do not provide all these protections – but in the vast majority of cases, those same insurers will automatically shift their enrollees to a plan that provides new consumer protections and, for nearly half of individual market enrollees, discounts through premium tax credits,” said White House spokesperson Jessica Santillo.

“Nothing in the Affordable Care Act forces people out of their health plans: The law allows plans that covered people at the time the law was enacted to continue to offer that same coverage to the same enrollees – nothing has changed and that coverage can continue into 2014,” she said.

Individual insurance plans with low premiums often lack basic benefits, such as prescription drug coverage, or carry high deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. The Affordable Care Act requires…Continued here: http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/10/28/21213547-obama-admin-knew-millions-could-not-keep-their-health-insurance?lite

Texas Seeks To Stop Human Trafficking

The fact is, most Texans probably do not realize that Human Trafficking is a huge issue in the Lone Star State.  On the surface it sounds like an issue that far away countries deal with, not good ol’ Texas.   It’s something we see in movies or on TV, but we forget it actually happens here.   However, recent raids by the FBI and State Agencies in Houston are probably just the tip of the iceberg. 

According to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, Texas is widely considered a major destination, and corridor, for human traffickers because of its major cities and the way the interstate system, specifically I-10 runs from Houston to El Paso.  In addition to this, we have a very large, and very open international border.  At the 2006 Department of Justice National Conference on Human Trafficking, the I-10 corridor between Houston and El Paso was identified as one of the main routes for human traffickers.

After factoring in the porous border with Mexico, the port area around Houston, the other major cities in Texas, and the interstate system, makes for difficult logistics with law enforcement.   In response, the Texas Legislature has created the Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force.

This Task Force was developed by Attorney General Greg Abbott Office to help criminal justice professionals dismantle human trafficking operations through training and awareness.  The Task Force has also developed a training manual for law enforcement to help them identify possible human traffickers and their victims.    The attorney general has said, “The manual is a key tool for law enforcement officers, prosecutors, parole officers, social workers and others who are positioned to make a difference in the lives of the vulnerable and the victimized. The criminal justice manual is one more step we are taking to fight back against the scourge of human trafficking.”…Continued here: http://www.hardhatters.com/2013/10/texas-seeks-stop-human-trafficking/

State of Texas moves to dismiss voter ID litigation

The State of Texas filed a motion this afternoon asking Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos to dismiss pending voter ID suits on several grounds.

First, the motion argued that elected officials like Congressman Marc Veasey, governmental bodies like Dallas County, and community groups like the Texas League of Young Voters “lack [legal] standing to assert the third-party rights of voters.”

The motion said that under case law on standing, a “plaintiff cannot sue to vindicate the right of third parties unless he clearly alleges and demonstrates that the third-party rights-holders face a ‘hinderance’ to protecting their own rights.” In this case, the motion argued that “[a]ny voter who suffers injury in fact as a result of Senate Bill 14 can sue to challenge it, and there is no shortage of capable and highly motivated attorneys willing to provide representation free of charge.”

The motion also argued that three of the individual plaintiffs had failed to assert an injury sufficient to create standing to sue under Article III of the Constitution.

The motion said that the state’s voter ID allows people to vote as long as the name on their ID is “substantially similar” to the name on voter rolls and that the three plaintiffs had failed to “plead facts showing that the names on their photo identification and voter-registration certificate are not ‘substantially similar’ under the standards established by the Secretary of State.”

The motion also broadly challenged the substantive merits of the suits, telling the court that each of the plaintiffs – including the Justice Department – had failed to state a claim on which …Continued here: http://txredistricting.org/post/65086716509/state-of-texas-moves-to-dismiss-voter-id-litigation

Split over $2B State Water Infrastructure Fund

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Early voting is underway on whether to tap the state’s rainy day fund to create a $2 billion water infrastructure fund, but while the constitutional amendment enjoys widespread support, there is vocal conservative opposition that could derail it in a low-turnout election.

Listed on the ballot as Proposition 6, the measure would allow the state to use the money to buy down the cost of bond financing for massive water development projects. The Texas Water Development Board says the state’s share of developing new water resources over the next 50 years is $27 billion and Proposition 6 will supply the seed money to meet that need. Local authorities would borrow from the fund and repay it with interest, allowing the fund to be used repeatedly to lower borrowing costs.

Gov. Rick Perry, House Speaker Joe Straus, and dozens of business and environmental groups support creating the State Water Infrastructure Fund. The current drought spurred the Legislature into action after decades of failing to adequately fund water projects needed to keep up with population and business growth.

“The water crisis impacts every part of our great state, from our growing cities and industries to our farming and ranching communities,” Straus said. “By casting a yes vote today for Proposition 6, Texans can help address this crisis and ensure our state has an adequate supply of water for the next 50 years.”

Yet one of the most vocal conservative groups in the state — Empower Texans — oppose the measure because they feel it would “incentivize new local-government debt without providing sufficient protections.” Fiscal conservatives have raised concerns about local governments piling up large amounts of bond debt and this could add to that.

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Tim Graham

Longview Rep. David Simpson, a top tea party leader in the Legislature, is urging voters to oppose Proposition 6 because he believes the money will be used to distort the bond market.

“Intervention in the market by the state will no doubt favor some at the expense of others, such as East Texans,” he said in a statement. “Because East Texas is blessed with more water resources than other parts of the state, it is likely those resources will be sought after by others and this proposal jeopardizes the ability for East Texas to protect its resources.”

Conservative opposition to tapping the rainy day fund led lawmakers to give voters the choice of whether to withdraw the cash. The Republican-controlled Legislature ignored Democrats and less conservative Republicans who thought the Legislature should have used its authority to spend the money rather than rely on a referendum.

The main concern is the low turnout for constitutional amendment elections. Without candidates campaigning, most people don’t even know there is a vote on Nov. 5. Houston is the one exception, because of the mayoral race and a referendum to turn the Astrodome into a convention center.

In 2011, only 695,052 people cast ballots out of 12.8 million registered…Continued here: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/texas/article/Split-over-2B-State-Water-Infrastructure-Fund-4930287.php

2 arrested at Texas Capitol gun-rights rally

By PAUL J. WEBER, Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — State troopers arrested two men said to be carrying antique pistols outside the Texas Capitol on Saturday during a demonstration by a gun-rights group that also helped spearhead a rally of openly armed supporters last week at the Alamo.

The two men were arrested for criminal trespass and have refused to identify themselves to authorities, Department of Public Safety spokesman Tom Vinger said.

“The men were openly carrying suspected deadly weapons and were given the opportunity to leave the area, but refused,” Vinger wrote in an email. He said no other information about the arrest was available.

Leaders of the gun-rights group Open Carry Texas said their members did not provoke troopers and were within their legal rights to carry the pistols. Victoria Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the group, described the weapons as black-powder revolvers made before 1899.

Montgomery said the group doesn’t go looking for trouble but instead wants to educate the public that the kind of antique weapons carried by the men arrested Saturday can legally be open carried. Long guns can also be openly carried, though Texas law prohibits open carrying of handguns.

“We’re proud of us educating the public. We thought it was an admirable endeavor,” Montgomery said. “But DPS obviously has an issue with that.”

C.J. Grisham, the president of Open Carry Texas who said he originally wanted to bring an assault rifle to the rally, scoffed at authorities’ description of the pistols as…Continued here: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/texas/article/2-arrested-at-Texas-Capitol-gun-rights-rally-4928872.php

DEMOCRATIC HEAVY HITTER JOINS DAVIS TEAM AS CAMPAIGN MANAGER

Johanson is a veteran of the DCCC and Tammy Baldwin Senate campaign. Some say it speaks volumes that national players are paying attention and Davis could benefit from that infrastructure.

From the Davis Campaign’s release:

“The Wendy R. Davis Campaign for Governor today announced Karin Johanson would join the team as campaign manager. A veteran of political campaigns, Karin managed the historic 2012 campaign of United States Senator Tammy Baldwin.

“Karin has proven that she can win tough races. She has taken on and beaten a full arsenal of failed leadership, despite millions in negative ads,” said Davis Communications Director Bo Delp. “Karin will be an excellent and outstanding addition to this historic and exciting campaign. We are honored that Karin will be joining us as we continue our fight to make the promise of Texas available to all families.”

Karin has more than 25 years of electoral and legislative experience, including: serving as Chief of Staff and Press Secretary to Congressman Steny Hoyer and as the executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006. Karin comes to the Davis campaign from the Dewey Square Group – where she served as a principal.

As the executive director of the DCCC, Karin designed one of the largest congressional voter turnout operation ever, an effort covering…Continued here: http://quorumreport.com/quorum_report_daily_buzz_2013/democratic_heavy_hitter_joins_davis_team_as_campai_buzziid21129.html

Texas and Oklahoma May Redraw the Border, Again

LAKE TEXOMA — Inside a dimly lit water-pumping station that juts over choppy waters, Denise Hickey toes an imaginary line that has fueled real disputes over water, oil and property taxes, dating back to the Louisiana Purchase.

“You’re in Texas, and I’m in Oklahoma,” said Hickey, a spokeswoman for the North Texas Municipal Water District, to a reporter standing five feet away.

The boundary, marked by three orange circles painted on the concrete floor, passes through two of the largest water pumps. Four pumps sit squarely in Oklahoma, while one, a smaller structure resembling the Star Wars robot R2-D2, lies in Texas. So it is, and will always be across this vast reservoir along the Red River.

Or will it?

Thirteen years ago, Texas and Oklahoma thought they had redrawn their 540-mile border for the last time, ending nearly two centuries of squabbling that fueled two U.S. Supreme Court cases and spurred a revolver-toting Oklahoma governor to declare martial law and “invade,” as 1930s newspapers put it, a narrow strip of disputed territory. (No shots were fired.) Now, Texas is poised to reopen those discussions — if just a crack — after an episode involving a mollusk invasion, an idle water supply and a 74-year-old map that might be lost forever.

“The Texas-Oklahoma border has a unique and colorful history, and we may be living out another chapter of it,” said Andy Hogue, a spokesman for the Texas General Land Office.

Largely unnoticed, Gov. Rick Perry signed legislation in June that created a Red River Boundary Commission to study — and possibly redraw — the border along Lake Texoma, bringing the pump station fully into Texas and fixing an unintentional boundary error that has caused headaches for water managers. Perry’s appointments to the commission are due Dec. 1.

Changing the boundary would require Texas and Oklahoma lawmakers to agree on an interstate compact, which would then need congressional approval.

For its part, Oklahoma is aware of the issue and waiting for word from Texas. Steve Mullins, general counsel for Gov. Mary Fallin, said the Oklahoma Water Resources Board is “looking into it.” But a board representative says that the agency knows little about the situation and that Texas officials have not called.

In 2009, the North Texas Municipal Water District unwittingly stumbled into the border’s tangled history when Texas wildlife officials discovered a zebra mussel infestation in Lake Texoma. It was the first Texas sighting of the tiny invasive bivalve, which has wreaked havoc on underwater food chains throughout the nation and clogged power and water plants.

North Texas did not pump Texoma water as it studied the issue. It kept the pumps off when it discovered that federal law prohibited the cross-state transfer of certain “injurious” species like zebra mussels. The 113-year-old Lacey Act sets out harsh penalties, including massive fines, and possible jail time for anyone who knowingly transports the species across the border. As the district discovered from a Google Earth map, its pumps are in Oklahoma, meaning that it was piping its water across state lines.

That shutdown eliminated 28 percent of the supply used by a drinking water provider that serves a population of 1.6 million and growing. Mother Nature added another insult: a historic drought that further shrank supplies.

Now, as the cobwebs grow in a quiet station that had for years rumbled under the pressure of heavy machinery, Hickey eyes the orange circles. “Everybody that comes up here says, ‘This is ridiculous,’” she said.

It appears the state line sneaked up on the pump station in 2000, when Texas and Oklahoma thought they had ended their jockeying. That is when Congress ratified the Red River Boundary Compact, which set the boundary as the vegetation line along the south bank of the Red River. But that excluded Lake Texoma, constructed in the 1940s, where water hides the original riverbank. That stretch of the border was more confusing than contentious, perplexing officials trying to investigate crimes in the no man’s land.

“It’s been so ambiguous in the past that it’s created a real burden in taking cases to court because you have to prove jurisdiction,” Jeff Rabon, a former state senator of Oklahoma, told The Dallas Morning News in 1999. “There are actual cases where poor counties didn’t have the resources to put on a case to prove where a crime occurred.”

The states did not intend to move the Texoma line; they merely sought to define it. Ideally, they would have followed the United States Geological Survey map from 1939, which showed the boundary before the states dammed the river, said Bill Abney, a lawyer who led Texas’ volunteer 1997 boundary commission. But no one could find the map.

Instead, the commission referenced a series of geological survey “quad” maps printed in the 1970s and 1980s. On those maps, dotted lines labeled “indefinite boundary” snake across a blue expanse representing the lake. From those lines, surveyors plotted a series of 325 coordinates — simple for law enforcement to plug into a global positioning system — that would become the official border.

But those maps did not include the Texoma pumping station, which was built in 1987 after crews sought to make sure it was in Texas. The few people following the issue guess the quad maps were wrong by a few dozen feet.

“It’s pretty clear to me that there’s a little error there,” Abney said. “I’m sorry that we made the mistake, but it was not our intention to move the border.”

Could that error spark issues outside of the Texoma pumping station? Observers do not anticipate any but acknowledge others could arise.

The district is putting the finishing touches on a $300 million pipeline system — financed by ratepayers — that will pump Texoma water directly to a water treatment plant in Wylie, which will kill and filter out the mussels. The closed system will bypass a lake that used to hold the water before it reached the plant. Water officials had to lobby Congress to gain permission to turn on the system once it is complete. In December 2012, President Obama signed legislation exempting the district from the Lacey Act.

The exemption raises the question: do the states need to bother — again — with the border? Abney and others say yes. “If you find out something’s a problem,” he said, “you have to go and fix it.”

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2013/10/25/texas-and-oklahoma-may-redraw-border-again/.

U.S. border agent jailed for improper arrest of suspected drug smuggler

By Jerry Seper

The Washington Times

A U.S. Border Patrol agent has been sentenced to two years in prison for improperly lifting the arms of a 15-year-old drug smuggling suspect while handcuffed — in what the Justice Department called a deprivation of the teenager’s constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force.

Agent Jesus E. Diaz Jr. was named in a November 2009 federal grand jury indictment with deprivation of rights under color of law during an October 2008 arrest near the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas, in response to a report that illegal immigrants had crossed the river with bundles of drugs.

In a prosecution sought by the Mexican government and obtained after the suspected smuggler was given immunity to testify against the agent, Diaz was sentenced last week by U.S. District Judge Alia Moses Ludlum in San Antonio. The Mexican consulate in Eagle Pass had filed a formal written complaint just hours after the arrest, alleging that the teenager had been beaten.

Defense attorneys argued that there were no injuries or bruises on the suspected smuggler’s lower arms where the handcuffs had been placed nor any bruising resulting from an alleged knee on his back. Photos showed the only marks on his body came from the straps of the pack he carried containing the suspected drugs, they said.

Border Patrol agents found more than 150 pounds of marijuana at the arrest site.

The defense claimed that the smuggling suspect was handcuffed because he was uncooperative and resisted arrest, and that the agent had lifted his arms to force him to the ground — a near-universal police technique — while the other agents looked for the drugs.

The allegations against Diaz, 31, a seven-year veteran of the Border Patrol, initially were investigated by Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which cleared the agent of any wrongdoing.

But the Internal Affairs Division at U.S. Customs and Border Protection ruled differently nearly a year later and, ultimately, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas brought charges.

The Law Enforcement Officers Advocates Council said the government’s case was “based on false testimony that is contradicted by the facts.”

In a statement, the council said that because the arrest took place at about 2 a.m., darkness would have made it impossible for the government’s witnesses to have seen whether any
Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/oct/25/border-agent-jaile-arrest-teen-drug-smuggler/#ixzz2j2ZUuo71
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