Thursday, April 30, 2009

Carona's SB 1570 high-speed rail authority goes to full Senate

Sen. Carona's SB 1570 "relating to the facilitation, analysis, and implementation of high-speed passenger rail" in Texas has just been reported favorably as substituted, meaning the full Senate will vote on it. See our previous coverage at

We reported the problems with the T-Bone plan being pushed by the South Central High-Speed Rail Transportation Corporation, the Obama Federal plan, and the conflicts between them.

Help Farm Bureau to push for SB 18 eminent domain protection

The Texas Farm Bureau has sent out an action alert to help SB 18, and I have forwarded it to the ACRE group.

Please call or email now to support SB 18 for better eminent domain protection! We can make a difference if enough of us contact our Senators!

The Texas Farm Bureau is asking people to ask their State Senator to support SB 18, which is a good eminent domain bill. It is expected to be voted on by the whole Senate this week. The Senator of many of us is Steve Ogden, who is not a coauthor of this bill. His Capitol office phone is 512-463-0105. Or send an email from his home page on the Senate Website:
Visit Home Page on Texas Senate Website
Or click on "Take Action!" in the message below to respond through the Texas Farm Bureau's website.

Here are some neighboring Senators:
Sen. Hegar, who represents Bastrop County, is a coauthor of the bill, so please thank him for this.
Sen. Kirk Watson of Travis County is not a coauthor.
Sen. Troy Fraser, who represents Bell County, is not a coauthor.
You can see how to contact them by going to the Legislature Online.

From the Farm Bureau:
Date: Thu, 30 Apr 2009 12:42:20 -0400
Please Contact Your State Senator in Support of SB 18-Eminent Domain Reform
Eminent Domain Reform to be voted on in Texas Senate

Take Action!

Contact Your Senator to Support SB 18 by Senator Craig Estes

Senate Bill 18 will be voted on by the Texas Senate this week. Senate Bill 18 is a strong eminent domain reform bill that protects property owners.

It ensures property owners receive a good faith offer before their property is condemned, and it provides property owners with fair compensation, including diminshed access.

Please contact your Senator and let them know you need their support for this historic property rights legislation.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Amendment to override governor's veto has passed the House, will be heard in Senate

HJR 29, by Rep. Gary Elkins (Republican of Houston), would place a constitutional amendment before the voters in November "to allow the legislature to override a veto of the governor following a legislative session." This measure would fix the problem of the governor waiting to veto legislation until after the session is over, thus making it impossible for the Legislature to override his veto, even if the votes are there.

HJR 29 has already passed the House with only token opposition: 131 Yeas, 16 Nays, 1 Present, not voting. Our HD 52 Rep. Diana Maldonado voted yes. HJR 29 now will be heard in the Senate State Affairs Committee on Thursday, April 30, in the Senate Chamber at 1 p.m. or upon adjournment of the full Senate.

Gov. 39% has used this tactic in the past to veto popular legislation that had overwhelming support of the legislators and their constituents, such as the strong eminent domain bill in 2007. Organizations like the Texas Farm Bureau worked hard on this bill all during the session, and it was greatly desired by property owners such as those threatened by the Trans-Texas Corridor. It passed the House 143-0 and the Senate 29-1. After the legislators went home, Perry vetoed it.

The progress of HJR 29 to authorize a way to override late vetoes is the result of Perry's past vetoes that annoyed enough legislators to bring things to this point. In other words, his past actions might come back to bite not only him, but future governors, who will have lost this power of their office due to Perry's abuse of it.

NO homestead exemption amendment on May ballot

With local elections coming up, an incorrect email that refers to something from a few years ago has started going around once again. It begins:

"Please pass the word and VOTE for the following constitutional amendment. Early voting: April 30 - May 8
Election Day: May 12 from 7 am to 7pm.
Texas Homestead Exemption Tax Amendment Please read and pass on to all your Texas email friends as this applies to all voters.. You must vote in May to keep the Homestead tax cap for 65 and over, even if you are not 65 yet. If you are a Texas homeowner then this is important to you. If not, it is important to your friends who are. Please send this email to everyone on your email address list that lives in Texas . We want to be sure everyone is aware of a constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot at the May election."

This correction has already been made. Even if a further amendment is ever needed, it won't be on the ballot in May, which will be only local elections. State constitutional amendments are on the November ballot.

So, it is good to be aware and send around alerts for good things to vote for, but this is one that we don't have to worry about right now.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Could Specter switch affect Texas governor's race? To whose benefit?

Today, Pa. Sen. Arlen Specter changed from the Republican to the Democratic Party, in order to avoid a possible loss to Pat Toomey in the Republican primary and improve his chances for retaining his Senate seat by winning as a Dem. in the general.

If Dem. Al Franken is declared the winner in the Minn. senate race, the switch by Specter will give the Democrats the 60 seats for a filibuster-proof majority. Minn. Republican Norm Coleman is appealing his case to the state Supreme Court; arguments may be heard in about a month.

Experts think that Franken will eventually prevail, making it imperative that Kay Bailey Hutchison stay in her seat to prevent the 60 seat majority, in case a Dem. might win in a special election for her Texas senate seat--given the situation before the Specter switch.

Gov. 39% would blame KBH for the 60-seat Dem. advantage in the gubernatorial campaign, if she resigned to concentrate on the governor's race and the Dems took the seat. However, if Franken is declared the winner, and with Specter switching, the Dems will already have their 60, thus placing this beyond the control of KBH. Not her fault!

If the experts are wrong, and Coleman wins the Minn. seat, or if no winner is declared for several months, the pressure stays on KBH to remain and not take the chance of losing that seat. With Perry's recent publicity-hound antics, she may be hoping to get to Texas soon to make more of a presence here herself. On the other hand, she may think that when your opponent is making a fool of himself, the best strategy is to get out of the way and let him do it.

The Dallas Morning News has taken away one of Perry's big issues--that KBH is part of the culture of DC, reporting, "Perry regularly rails against Washington, D.C., but when it comes to campaign cash, he has raised far more than rival Kay Bailey Hutchison from the nation's capital. Perry has collected $2.7 million from Washington since becoming governor — four times more than Hutchison's $670,000 from Washington during the same period, a Morning News analysis found."

Monday, April 27, 2009

Carona's SB 1570 promotes Texas T-Bone high-speed rail--bad idea for taxpayers

John Carona, chair of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, has a bill left pending in his committee designed to get state-wide high-speed rail up and running. SB 1570 gives actual authority to the South Central High-Speed Rail and Transportation Corporation to design and fund the Texas T-Bone plan. Right now, the organization is a not-for-profit corporation that advocates for the plan. SB 1570 will turn it into a governmental authority.

There are several problems with the T-Bone design. The T-Bone runs from DFW through Temple and Austin to San Antonio. A leg heads west from Houston through Bryan and meets the north-south leg at Temple. A map is at the THSRTC website

This is NOT the plan announced by Obama that is on the Federal Railroad Administration website.

The Federal government has designed one plan, and Texas would be designing a different one. Even if a state-wide high-speed rail project was a good idea, which it is not, a major problem with both plans is that neither has a direct connection between the state's two largest centers--DFW and Houston. In the T-Bone plan, travelers would have to go out of the way, through Temple. The Federal version shows Houston on a separate line coming through New Orleans--again, no direct route to Dallas.

An additional roadblock could eventually be the airlines. Back in the 90's, we rural residents organized "De-Rail" groups along the route of the Ben Barnes/French bullet train, and we had some impact. At the same time, Southwest Airlines was fighting the project. Eventually, financing for the project did not come through.

Right now, the T-Bone boosters point out that the airlines are not opposing the T-Bone project. One might say the airlines are not opposing it--YET. This could change.

Based on high-speed rail that is running elsewhere in the world, it's a bad idea for taxpayers. The systems are not self-supporting; they are supported by government funds. In Texas, like the Trans-Texas Corridor, the ultimate goal is not cost-effective transportation for the tax-paying public. The ultimate goal is dipping into the taxpayers' pockets once again for funds for construction companies, consultants, and officials. As always, follow the money.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Speed bump in the path of the 290 East Injustice

News 8 Austin reports that a formal complaint about tolling 290 East has been filed with the Federal Highway Administration by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, joined by Save Our Springs and the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment. The complaint explains that a tolled 290 East violates the Civil Rights Act by having "a disproportionate impact on minority and low-income people living in neighboring communities."

The complaint is against TxDOT, CTRMA, and CAMPO. Yay!

See the complaint at

See the ACRE post from March 22 that explains that using stimulus funds to begin construction of the 290 East tollroad is hurting, rather than helping the disadvantaged.

It will be very interesting to see how this plays out now that a formal complaint has been made--it is now more than just ordinary citizens trying to point out this injustice.

A tip of the hat to Mary Anderson, Texans Against Tolls, for this news.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

HB 9--companion to Carona's SB 855 for local transportation taxes--heard on April 21

During the Tuesday hearing, after the relatively short time spent on HB 11 and 13, the Transportation Committee heard several hours of testimony on HB 9 by Vicki Truitt, Keller. This is the companion bill to Sen. Carona's large complicated SB 855 to allow some of the largest urban areas in the state to vote among several possible taxes and fees to raise money in their local area to pay for local transportation projects.

Teams of boosters from the areas that want this power testified up into the evening. (I left before it was over.) Testifiers included elected officials and business people. The most unexpected sighting for me was Nolan Ryan, who joined other witnesses from North Texas to advocate for HB 9. I was sorry that my husband the big baseball fan was not there to see him.

Ryan's main point was that the traffic congestion in the vicinity of the Ballpark at Arlington is keeping fans away, especially during the week, including Friday evening. I don't know if any of the projects that the North Texas leaders want most will help that traffic problem, but it was interesting to see and hear him in person.

I had thought that the Transportation Committee members would give all the HB 9 testimony a favorable reception so was surprised by the close questioning of the bill's author Rep. Truitt, especially by Reps. Harper-Brown and Davis. Both are from the DFW area, but they are not sold on the HB 9 approach. They and other members also questioned other witnesses at length on the details of the bill, and it certainly has many complicated details. The menu of taxes that the areas can choose from even varies from area to area!

Chairman Joe Pickett left HB 9 pending in committee and according to Rodger Jones, Dallas Morning News, Pickett seemed skeptical that HB 9 was the right approach, saying, "We do need a plan. We need a statewide plan." The author Rep. Truitt responded, "If you don't mind, I'm going to keep working on this bill." Maybe making changes that were discussed during the hearing will bring more representatives on board, but it looks like local transportation taxes may face more trouble getting through the House than the Senate.

HB 13 to prohibit free lane to toll lane conversions heard on April 21

In addition to HB 11 to kill the Corridor, the House Transportation Committee heard HB 13--like HB 11 authored by Leibowitz with one of the coauthors our HD 52 Representative Diana Maldonado.

HB 13 would plug the loopholes in a similar plan from Sen. Nichols--SB 220. The loopholes or exceptions in SB 220 would allow the tolling of 290 East to go ahead. HB 13 does not have these exceptions and would save 290 East as a free highway.

The Statesman's Ben Wear says "the legislation would effectively kill what used to be called the Phase 2 toll road plan." He opines that since there is still political support in Austin for the Phase 2 toll roads and since Kirk Watson, the CAMPO chair, is in an influential member of the State Senate, HB 13 probably will not pass the legislature.

Many members of the public at the hearing who spoke or filled out witness forms in favor of HB 11 also registered their support for HB 13. Like HB 11, 13 was left pending in committee.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

BILL to KILL the TTC gets hearing

A landmark event occurred yesterday. Rep. Leibowitz’s (D-San Antonio) HB 11 to totally kill the Trans-Texas Corridor was heard in the House Transportation Committee. HB 11 may not make it past this point this session, but after fighting the Corridor for years, it is very encouraging to me, and an important symbol of how far we have come, to witness this bill given a hearing and to hear every single witness testify in favor of this bill, with no one who cared or dared to publicly oppose the Corridor-killing bill.

Corridor must be wiped from the books

As we know, the pronouncements during the last few months that the Corridor is dead may reflect the reality that the Corridor is very sick, that the people of Texas don’t want it, and that it has become more and more politically risky. However, Gov. 39% declared that the name might have changed, but that his “vision” of the almost quarter-mile wide, multi-modal network criss-crossing Texas would continue by segments. The name was changed to protect the guilty, but the essence of the project would continue piece by piece.

Rep. Leibowitz said, “Rural land will still be taken by cross-state tollways if we don’t repeal the authority to create the TTC. [with the passage of HB 11] If the state leadership wants to come up with a new multi-modal transportation corridor, they will need to start from scratch.”

Krusee creates Corridor, Maldonado tries to kill it

An ironic twist--we must observe that our previous HD 52 representative Mike Krusee was the author and prime mover behind HB 3588 that created the Corridor in the 2003 session. Our current Representative Diana Maldonado is a coauthor of HB 11 to destroy the Corridor.

Testimony in favor of HB 11

The hearing room was almost full, and Chairman Pickett announced that overflow capacity was available in another room. Many testified in favor of HB 11 and many more handed in testimony forms supporting HB 11. Staffers kept running out of witness forms and had to go out to get more.

Leading off the testimony was the president of the Texas Farm Bureau, Kenneth Dierschke, who, representing 425,000 member families, testified in favor of HB 11.

Representing other groups around the state were Terri Hall of TURF; Hank Gilbert of TURF and former Democratic nominee for Ag Commissioner; Beki Halpin, Fix 290; Margaret Green, Blackland Coalition; Bruce Burton, Texans Against Tolls; and citizens representing themselves and their families. Mary Anderson. Texans Against Tolls, did not speak publicly, but was all around the hearing room, supplying information and helping others get their witness forms. Citizens from all over the state testified to the committee and handed in witness forms.

About his HB 11 to kill the Corridor and HB 13 to prohibit the conversion of free lanes to tolled lanes, Rep. Leibowitz observed, “Nobody testified against them.” He said that HB 11 “takes TTC off the books. TTC is sucking the very life blood out of the heart and soul of Texas. We need to drive a stake through its heart—if it has a heart.”

Status of HB 11

Chairman Pickett left HB 11 and HB 13 pending. This means that the Transportation Committee may or may not vote these bills out to go to the full House. We will try to get an idea of what is going on with HB 11 in the committee and see if the anti-Corridor groups need to mount a campaign to communicate with the legislators to get HB 11 out of committee and to the House floor.

Filming the proceedings

Making a complete record of the proceedings was Bill Molina of Storm Productions. Bill has produced two award-winning documentaries against the Corridor—the “Truth Be Tolled” films. When history decides to go back and look at all the meetings and hearings around the state and at the Capitol on the Corridor, the entire record will be there in the work of Bill Molina. The Coupland Civic Organization hosted a showing of his first Corridor film two years ago—just one of the community groups around the state that have done so. Both of Bill’s films can be seen for free now on YouTube. Go to and click on YouTube on the top line.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Action AGAINST eminent domain needed now!

NOW is the time to contact the House and Senate committees where the two best bills with protection against eminent domain are still stuck. HB 1483 by Pitts is left pending in the House Land and Resource Management Committee. SB 18 by Estes is left pending in the Senate State Affairs Committee. Both of these bills are endorsed by the Texas Farm Bureau as the best protection for rural landowners.

Below is information, including contact information, from several groups.


Important eminent domain bills stuck in committee with only a few days left to get them passed and still have time to override a Perry veto. CALL NOW! Forcibly taking OUR private property and handing it to foreign corporations like Cintra or ACS, are the centerpiece of Perry's Trans- Texas Corridor and network of tollways. Landowners need protection and Perry vetoed a good bill last session. We MUST get this passed in time to override him.Tell these committees we want HB 1483 AND SB 18 voted OUT of committee NOW!
Email them here: - Senate State Affairs Committee- House Land & Resource Committee


What can we do? Help get the eminent domain reform bills out of committee! We need to hammer the Committee offices (don’t be mean, but be firm) now!!

Easy Steps!

1. No matter where you live in Texas, call the Committee offices below and urge them to get House Bill 1483 and Senate Bill 18 out of their respective committees right away!

Senate State Affairs Committee: 512-463-0380 (Senate Bill 18)
House Land & Resource Committee: 512-463-1623 (House Bill 1483)

2. Call the Committee chairs and vice chairs no matter where you live in Texas.

SENATE State Affairs Committee (C 640)
Clerk: Kelsey Erickson Tel: (512) 463-0067 Sam Houston Building - Room 445
Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, Chair (512) 463-0128 & Fax: (512) 463-2424, *call regardless of where you live
Robert Deuell, R-Greenville, Vice-Chair (512) 463-0102 & Fax: (512) 463-*call regardless of where you live
HOUSE Land & Resource Management Committee (C360)Clerk: Trey Burke Phone: (512) 463-1623 Room: EXT E2.136
Chair: Rep. Dennis Bonnen #25 (R)
512-463-0564 & Fax (512) 463-8414, Brazoria County * call regardless of where you live
Vice Chair: Rep. Jessica Farrar 148 (D) 512-463-0620 & Fax (512) 463-0894, Houston, * call regardless of where you live

3. Forward this email to all you know in Texas.

4. Optional, but can be VERY helpful. Write a very brief letter to the editor of your favorite or local newspaper!

Get after it y’all!
Linda CurtisIndependent Texans


ACTION Alert: SUPPORT Eminent Domain BILLS

WHY NOW? The URGENCY grows greater as the days in this session grow shorter… making an effort to OVERRIDE the expected PERRY Veto impossible. PERRY played the stall game and won in 2007 when HB 2006 was PASSED with massive support and KILLED by his Veto.

Monday, April 20, 2009

New high-speed rail idea a BAD idea

The Quorum Report has just reported "High-Speed Rail Could Make a Comeback in Texas." I was very sorry to read that "Hope for a statewide high-speed rail network may be revived this session--courtesy of the mammoth stimulus package"--sorry for the landowners in the way and sorry for the taxpayers who will be saddled with yet another white elephant burden for who knows how many decades to come.

Others are concerned, says Quorum Report, that the rail proposal will be like the Trans-Texas Corridor--a "big unwieldy state-run project with little oversight and unquenchable eminent domain demands."

ACRE is following the misguided effort to force UP freight off the line through Austin to a new line that would tear up the valuable Blackland Prairie in our Eastern Williamson Co. area. There is hard data from other countries with extensive high-speed rail that the economics are not there for this scheme to be workable in this country. The facts and figures don't seem to matter to the people who are pushing it. Again, like the Corridor and other such projects, I'm afraid that a lot of land will be condemned and the construction started, or even finished, before it becomes obvious to all that the system really won't take that many vehicles off the roads, that it will never be self-supporting, and that it will have to be heavily tax-payer subsidized always.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

More on April 21 hearing on HB 11 to kill the Corridor

Helpful info from TURF's Terri Hall about the procedure and timing of Tuesday's hearing for HB 11--to KILL the CORRIDOR, plus the other important bills HB 13 and HB 9/HJR 9.

Terri says:

HELP US FINALLY KILL THE TRANS TEXAS CORRIDOR & TOLLS ON EXISTING ROADS! We need you and your organizations' help in spreading the word to help us get people to Austin Tuesday for a House Transportation Committee hearing. Some very important bills will be heard: a bill to strip the Trans Texas Corridor from the transportation code (HB 11), a bill that would prevent tolls on existing roads (HB 13), and a BAD BILL dubbed a "local option" tax bill (HB 9/HJR 9) that literally can enact a tax on every mile you drive, a tax for driving during congested hours, and even a tax on a parking space (there are about a dozen total potential tax increases in this bill).

We need folks to testify or at least register in support of HB 11 and HB 13 and AGAINST HB 9/HJR 9 at the House Transportation Committee hearing Tuesday. Unfortunately, emails and phone calls do not make it into the official record (though they certainly let our representatives know where we stand). So if we don't show up for the actual hearing, our voices will be drowned out by the heaps of lobbyists who are paid to oppose the citizens' agenda.

The Committee office believes these bills will be taken up in the afternoon when the House adjourns. Plan to get there around 12 noon. If not at noon, come as soon as you can to register FOR HB 11 and HB 13 & AGAINST HB 9/HJR 9.

Hearing location: RM E2.014 in the Capitol extension building

More on Perry's funds transfer--House takes money away

According to the Quorum Report, at the end of the House passing its budget, an amendment from Yvonne Davis was added that would take away the funds from Perry's enterprise fund. This is the fund that earlier this session was in the news when Perry gave $50 million that had come at least indirectly from unemployment insurance funds to A&M for a medical research building. The project might have been worthy, but legislators objected to Perry bestowing the money unilaterally instead of going through the usual procedure.

The House seems to be telling Perry directly that it has ultimate budgetary control by passing this amendment that, as the Quorum Report says, "would zero out the budget's funding for the Guv's enterprise fund." The amount that legislators transferred out of the enterprise fund to the job skills development fund is $136 million.

Friday, April 17, 2009

HB 11 to abolish TTC set for hearing April 21--also HB 13 re free lane to toll lane conversion

Two of the bills that we have been following this session have been scheduled for a public hearing before the House Transportation Committee on April 21. Here is the link to the hearing announcement:

HB 11 by Leibowitz is intended to abolish the Trans-Texas Corridor once and for all. Its official description is “Relating to repeal of authority for the establishment and operation of the Trans-Texas Corridor.” It would take away TxDOT’s authority to create the Corridor. One of its coauthors is our HD 52 Representative Diana Maldonado.

HB 13 is also by Leibowitz; our Representative Diana Maldonado also is a coauthor on this bill. HB 13 is “Relating to the operation of a state highway or segment of a state highway as a toll project.” TURF, an anti-Corridor anti-toll group, praises HB 13 as “the RIGHT bill to truly STOP freeway to tollway conversions. Contact your State Representative and ask them to vote NO on SB 220 and YES on HB 13!” SB 220 by Nichols will not stop some free lane to toll lane conversions, including tolling 290 E, because of its exceptions or loopholes. The better bill HB 13 by Leibowitz does not contain these loopholes.

Maldonado says that HB 13 “should prevent some of the problems we face with the Trans-Texas Corridor.”

Transportation Committee Hearing on April 21

HB 11 and HB 13 will both be heard by the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday, April 21, in Rm. E2.014 in the Capitol Extension. The hearing begins at 8 a.m. The committee chair is Rep. Joe Pickett. Vice Chair is Rep. Larry Phillips.

Comment to the Committee on One or Both of These Bills

If you wish give either written or oral comments to the committee during the hearing, you must fill out a witness affirmation form when you arrive. You may write your comments on the form and hand it in without speaking to the committee. If you want to testify before the committee, you must indicate that on the witness affirmation form.

You can mail comments to the committee at:
Texas House of Representatives
Transportation Committee
Ext. E2.122
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768-2910

or call the committee office at 512-463-0818. You may email comments to Jonathan Sierra-Ortega in the committee clerk’s office at,
but handing in a form at the hearing or sending a written letter will have more impact than an email.

Thank Rep. Maldonado for Coauthoring These Bills

If you want to let our Representative Diana Maldonado know that you support her coauthoring one or both of these bills, you can email her by going to her webpage

and clicking on “send email.”
Or you can reach her office at:
Room E2.802 Capitol Extension
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768
(512) 463-0670
(512) 463-1469 Fax

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rick Perry talks secession--national media goes gaga

Gov. 39% is NOT for the citizen against big government--he's on big government's side

Hard to know whether to laugh or cry, seeing all the coverage that Gov. 39% has gotten as being a small-government conservative (whether or not this is viewed favorably) because of his remarks at April 15 Tea Parties, resulting in appearances on national radio and TV and favorable comments on widely read blogs. He has been a major story, “Rick Perry: Tea party darling,” with a picture, no less, on

Texans know that mentioning “secession”—in jest or seriously--is not that rare in the Lone Star State, given our unique journey from sovereign nation to statehood and the discussion over the rights given to Texas in exchange for becoming a state—whether Texas can just up and leave or can divide into several states.

However, the rest of the country evidently has never heard about this, so Perry really got their attention by mentioning the “s” word. Unfortunately, the rest of the country has not paid that much attention to the details of Perry’s governance, so took him at his word when he said things like, “shrink the government; reread the Constitution.”

They have never heard of Perry’s “vision” as he says, and “nightmare” as residents say, of the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), a network of quarter-mile wide road lanes, rail lines, and utility-pipeline zones. The TTC would wrest 600,000 acres from Texas landowners through eminent domain and turn their private property over to Cintra, a Spanish corporation. Perry rammed his TTC authorization through the Legislature in 2003 before legislators had time to read it.

When Perry says, ungrammatically, “But Texas is a very unique place, and we’re a pretty independent lot to boot,” and when he decries government “intrusion into the lives of our citizens,” the rest of the country doesn’t know that HE has been the enemy of Texas landowners—trying to take over citizens’ land unnecessarily to benefit the road lobby and foreign corporations. HE hasn’t been fighting for Texans; Texans have been fighting HIM.

In fact, the TTC/toll issue has become a defining difference in the 2010 gubernatorial race between Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who has asked, “Are you concerned that our state government ignores private property rights and property owners in a quest to cover our state with massive toll roads?” Up until now, KBH has led Perry in most polls. This is at least one reason that Perry tried to perform the old trick—and apparently somewhat successfully—of seeing the Tea Party parade starting and running around to get in front of it.

Additionally, this became another opportunity for Perry to test the national waters, as he has done from time to time. His camp probably realizes that the country is not ready yet for another president from Texas, but they may think that if he starts rising now through the ranks of possible presidential candidates, he may be prominent in 2012 and be positioned for 2016.

When I hear Gov. 39%, I hear arrogance (“Why don't you let us get on down the road,” “Mofo,” etc.) and phoniness. Will the rest of the country hear that?

Perry is not an advocate for the small businesses, the farm and ranch families—the people who are the backbone of the nation. He is an advocate for the corporative state where large private concerns are able to take over and use the power of government to oppress the individual and take his private property. Will the rest of the country realize that?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Eckhardt's insights on Williamson County in SB 855

Thanks to Travis County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt, who spoke to a community meeting last week in the New Sweden Church fellowship hall. I will have more on her comments later, but I wanted to report her insights on an issue we have been covering: John Carona's SB 855 on allowing local transportation taxes for the state's largest urban areas.

On March 26, we noted what seemed to be a contradiction. At the same time, the Williamson County commissioners unanimously voted to join the Central Texas transportation taxing authority that would be created by SB 855, while our Senator Ogden added an amendment to the bill that excludes Williamson Co. from joining such a taxing district.

SB 855 has now passed the Senate and is headed for the House. Sen. Ogden was one of nine senators voting against the bill.

According to Comm. Eckhardt, the Wilco commissioners were eager to join in a Travis Co./Central Texas transportation/taxing entity. However, after they voted to join the proposed district, other area elected officials such as Sen. Ogden felt that their area would not be in favor of any new taxes and he succeeded in excluding Wilco in the legislation.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Continuing "391 Commission" news on Texas 391 Commission blog

Thanks to Texas 391 Commission Alliance blog

for publishing our report on the presentation by Dan Byfield, Mayor Mae Smith, and Ralph Snyder to the Coupland Civic Organization meeting. Our post was "Dan Byfield on 391 Commissions, TTC." from April 4.

Visit the 391 Commission blog for continuing news about all nine Texas 391 Commissions and the "coordination" process that requires state agencies, including TxDOT to coordinate their plans and projects with local communities that are protected by 391 Commissions.

It is the Eastern Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission, the 391 in Bell County, that has held up the Final Environmental Impact Statement for TTC-35 in the Federal Highway Administration by formally demanding a supplemental study for the 26 required environmental issues that TxDOT did not address in the original Draft Environmental Impact statement.

Bravo, guys!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Perry wants your ideas--really! And 39% is a great victory!

The Statesman's W. Gardner Selby has reported that Perry wants help from YOU to launch his 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

To see this version of the old gambit to make the hoi polloi think that the governor cares what they think, go to

Help Governor Perry Kickoff His Campaign This Summer with Your Ideas

Sure--that's why he's paying gazillions to consultants, so he can use free ideas from you the people.

It's going to be hard to beat the slogan from last time: "I'm proud of Texas. How 'bout you?"

Here's one: "Help Gov. 39% get to 40."

In the Statesman today, Jason Embry has some entertaining excerpts on the legislative blog from depositions in Chris Bell's case against Perry's campaign from 2006. In "Perry tried to prop up Bell,"

If you have time, read the whole thing to get some behind-the-scenes goings on. For instance, Perry consultant Dave Carney says,

"So the theory would be that if Kinky collapsed, all that vote would go to Carole, and it’s very difficult to stop an independent candidate, you know, in that her resources to money was pretty significant as being the comptroller and some of her deep-pocket supporters. So we had a strategy to pump up Bell."

As a volunteer who gathered petition signatures to help Strayhorn get on the ballot, I thought at the time that she was the one with the best chance to raise enough money to challenge Perry in advertising and other communication, as opposed to Bell and Kinky. Evidently, Perry's campaign saw this too, and took steps to change the equation, as much as they could.

The Statesman article (for which his blog entry is extra background) is "Governor's race lawsuit back in court,"

I do question one of its statements:

"Rick Perry eventually got $1 million from the governors on his way to a rather easy re-election win. A year later, Bell sued Perry and the association, alleging that the governor kept the public from fully knowing the source of the money."

I guess you could call it a "rather easy re-election win," but you can also call him Gov. 39%.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dan Byfield on "391" Commissions, TTC

At its March 30 meeting, the Coupland Civic Organization heard a presentation from Dan Byfield, president of the American Land Foundation, a national property rights organization. Along with his wife Margaret, who founded another property rights group Stewards of the Range, Byfield was instrumental in forming the “391 Commissions” in Texas to fight the Trans-Texas Corridor.

The first “391” was founded in 2007 in Bell County—the East Central Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission (ECTSRPC). One of its members is the City of Holland, and also speaking at the meeting were Mae Smith, mayor of Holland and president of the ECTSRPC, and Ralph Snyder, a Holland businessman and a director of the ECTSRPC. Snyder and his wife Marcia helped found the ECTSRPC.


Byfield recounted that two-and-a-half years ago, he discovered a requirement in a Texas statute that TxDOT and other state agencies must “coordinate” their planning with local planning commissions. The requirement is in Chapter 391 of the Texas Local Government Code, hence, the name “391 Commissions.” He said, “I told Ralph we needed to start a commission. Ralph started meeting with officials in his area [eastern Bell County], formed the commission, and state agencies started coordinating with this commission.”

There must be two incorporated cities, two counties, or one city and one county to start a “391,” and then other entities such as school districts can join. The ECTSRPC began with Holland, Bartlett, Little River-Academy, and Rogers and then added their school districts.

TxDOT at bay--environmental process

Byfield said, “For two years now we have held TxDOT at bay. There’s no Corridor through our jurisdiction. We put a 30-mile-hole through the Corridor; they’re not going to build a road with a 30-mile gap.” The ECTRPC and Buckholts residents became concerned that TxDOT might bypass Bell County by going farther east through Buckholts, so Buckholts joined the ECTRPC, thus gaining its protection.

The ECTSRPC has stopped the Corridor through the environmental process. TxDOT cannot proceed until the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for Tier 1 is out. Snyder said, “There were 26 items that TxDOT was obligated to do that they didn’t do. We asked for a supplement to cover these items.”

The ECTSRPC made a formal demand that TxDOT stop the development of the Corridor and restudy it in a supplemental environmental study. The FEIS is still at the Federal Highway Administration, and Snyder says, “If they don’t approve it in the next couple of months, they have to start over.”

Mayor Smith and Ralph Snyder on Texas T-bone high-speed rail

Mayor Smith asked, “Why destroy the Blackland that you cannot replace? Stand up for your land! A statute is on the books that they have to listen to us. When we call, they come to Holland, Texas. We are 45 percent of Bell County.”

She also is concerned about the latest high-speed rail proposal, which is called the Texas T-Bone. A line will run through the state north to south, with a line coming toward it from Bryan that “T’s” into the north-south line in the Temple area. This line would damage the rural areas of Bell County represented by the ECTSRPC.

About high-speed rail, Snyder asked, “Who gets to pay for the planning, for the studies, for the state’s loan to foreign companies, for the decreased value of land on each side of it? We do!”

The ECTSRPC asked for our support in their fight against high-speed rail. They appreciated that the Coupland area had fought the previous high-speed rail proposal, and also that we were among the early opponents of the Corridor.

Legislative attempts to abolish "391's"

About possible attempts in the Legislature to abolish the “391’s,” Byfield said, “There is coordination language in federal statute as well. The National Environmental Policy Act has coordination in it.” Also, he believes the state “can’t do away with the statute because the COG’s [Councils of Government] were created under it.”

To form a Sub-Regional Planning Commission, the cities and counties must be in the same Council of Government. Williamson is not in the COG with Bell County; it is in the Capital Area COG, along with the counties of Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, and Travis.

Eminent domain

Regarding eminent domain in this legislative session, Byfield said there are eight bills and three constitutional amendments filed. He said there are some “good bills, supported by the Texas Farm Bureau, but they aren’t supported by the governor. We don’t know that we will see good legislation. This session is very important for rural Texas.”

Supporting "391's"

The speakers were asked, since Coupland is not incorporated, how we can participate in the Sub-Regional Planning Commission process. Snyder mentioned supporting the American Land Foundation and Stewards of the Range: “These two foundations operate on donations.” Mayor Smith added, “Support the commissions that are out there.” Currently, there are nine in Texas. News and descriptions of all of them are at

Attendees were given copies of Standing Ground, the publication of Stewards of the Range and American Land Foundation. You can view it online at The site of American Land Foundation is

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New Wilco Transportation Plan looks like it might leave Coupland, Blackland Prairie, alone for now

Williamson County hosted the Precinct 4 Open House to present its updated Transportation Plan yesterday in the Taylor Public Library. The Plan covers the next 25 years. After the presentations to the public, the Commissioners will vote on the plan in early May. If they approve the Plan, it will be submitted to the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to be included in its 2035 plan.

The maps displayed at the Open House projected that growth and congestion in Williamson County will occur in the cities along IH-35 and west, and somewhat in Hutto. Less growth is projected for the communities along Hwy. 95—Granger, Taylor, and Coupland. The growth that is expected for Taylor is projected for the northwest in the area of the Loop. With less population growth expected for Coupland, no new road projects were proposed for our area.

Johnny Sanford, Taylor School trustee, thinks that if any major road work occurs in the Coupland area for the next several years, it would likely be widening Hwy. 95 from two to four lanes. Adding capacity from this type of project that stays on existing ROW would certainly be preferable to paving over more of our Blackland Prairie.

To see some of the Transportation Plan material, go to Click on Transportation Plan Update at the top left. The public can email comments on the Plan to or call 512-943-1195.

House passes veto override--wish we had this last session

Thanks to Martha Estes for getting the word out that the constitutional amendment to allow the legislature to reconvene after the regular session to override a gubernatorial veto, HJR 29 by Gary Elkins, has passed the House 131-16. This important piece of legislation would put a stop to the governor waiting until the session is over and then vetoing a bill that has already been passed by veto-proof majorities in both houses. If this amendment is added to the Constitution, then legislators will have the opportunity to actually excercise their veto-proof majorities.

As Martha says, "Hallelujah!! We must NOW get to work on the SENATE!! The Senate would do well to accept the House version as amended. IF the Senate does what it should, the proposed constitutional amendment would be offered to VOTERS on Tuesday, November 3."