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Good News Dallas
by Trey Garrison    Sat, May 13, 2006, 09:55 AM

The capital bond program the city manager's office recommends totals $1.28 billion.

"That's a lot of money, but then our capital needs are huge," City Chief Financial Officer David Cook told DallasBlog on Friday afternoon.

The program includes funding for most of projects that have been the talk at council meetings and town halls. Street improvements would get nearly a third of the money, and then park improvements with nearly 25 percent, flood control, flood control with 25 percent, with the rest spread among the southern sector inland port trade hub, the Cotton Bowl, Fair Park, public safety projects, and a good portion for the proposed decking and greening of Woodall Rogers.

Of note, there's no discretionary funds in the bond package.

The street funding alone would reportedly be a big help, bringing Dallas roads up to an 80 percent satisfactory level.

The council will back and forth the list between now and August, when they will vote on whether it goes on the November ballot.

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by Will Lutz    Fri, May 12, 2006, 06:30 PM

The Senate today passed HB 5, the tobacco tax bill after removing two Senate amendments that the House disagreed with. The Senate stripped Sen. Frank Madla's (D-San Antonio) amendment that would have phased in the tobacco tax over two years. The Senate also removed Sen. Jane Nelson's amendment that would have dedicated five cents of the increase to smoking cessation programs run by the Texas Cancer Council. The vote was 14-13.

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by Mike Fisher    Fri, May 12, 2006, 05:08 PM

The story involves good-guy Avery Johnson, leader of a Mavs team in the middle of a fun title run. And some uplifting tales from Louisianans displaced by Hurricane Katrina. And a neat trick pulled off by your Dallas Morning News -- a trick the likes of which nobody taught us in Journalism class. Mike Fisher tells the story in the 'School of Fish'':

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by Will Lutz    Fri, May 12, 2006, 04:14 PM

 The Senate today adopted the HB 2 conference committee report, 18-9.  HB 2 does dedicate some money to education. Under the compromise reached between the two chambers, all the money from HBs 3, 4, and 5 are dedicated to property tax relief until the school tax rate reaches $1.00 per $100 of valuation. Below $1, two-thirds of the taxes are dedicated to property tax relief and one-third is dedicated to education. (The senate wanted to dedicate all to education after the rate of 75 cents was reached.)

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by Will Lutz    Fri, May 12, 2006, 04:13 PM

The House has concurred in Senate amendments to HB 1. The members can go home at the end of this special session. The final vote was 136-8. (The no votes were Lon Burnam, Garnet Coleman, Jessica Farrar, Rick Noreiga, Rene Oliveira, Eddie Rodriguez, Marc Veasey, and Mike Villarreal.) The bill has to be signed in the presence of both chambers and then goes to the governor. The only part of the Perry-Sharp tax proposal that has not finally passed is HB 5, the tobacco tax increase.

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by Will Lutz    Fri, May 12, 2006, 04:12 PM

During House consideration of Senate amendments to HB 1, several Democrats including Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston) asked colleagues to send the bill to conference. The most common complaints from the Democrats are the size of the teacher pay raise (they want a bigger one) and equity. Another common complaint from Democrats was the provision that allows the commissioner to turn the management of schools over to private, non-profit entities if they are rated academically unacceptable two years in a row. House Democratic Leader Jim Dunnam referred to that provision as “vouchers.”

“We don’t have two more weeks. I don’t want to come down here next month,” said the bill’s author Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) who moved to table the Democrats’ motion. Chisum noted that the bill could not spend any more money because of the Texas constitution’s state spending limit. The House tabled Hochberg’s motion to go to conference, 85-68. The House took a lunch break but has not yet voted to concur.

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by Will Lutz    Fri, May 12, 2006, 04:11 PM

The House is considering whether to concur with Senate amendments to HB 1. During the debate Rep. Jerry Madden (R-Plano) asked the House author, Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) to clarify how the bill affects the elected State Board of Education. Chisum clarified that it is not the intent to take away any curriculum authority from the board. He also told Madden that the board is free to reject any recommendations of the vertical alignment teams in the bill, if it disagrees with them. (The vertical alignment teams are composed of college professors and teachers appointed by the commissioner of higher education and the commissioner of education. Their purpose is to align the curriculum with the expectations in higher education.) Chisum also told Madden that the bill would allow the board to reject a portion of the teams’ recommendations, if the board’s parliamentary procedures allow for that. Madden moved to enter the conversation in the House Journal for legislative intent.

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by Will Lutz    Fri, May 12, 2006, 04:10 PM

House Speaker Tom Craddick has sustained a point of order against HB 5 – the cigarette tax bill. The point of order is similar to the one sustained against HB 2. By dedicating part of the cigarette tax to health care in addition to property tax relief, the bill contains more than one subject, Craddick ruled. The bill now returns to the Senate for further action.

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by Will Lutz    Fri, May 12, 2006, 04:09 PM

Gov. Rick Perry has made several additions to the call for the special session, including the future gen project and legislation to protect military funerals.  The latter is in response to an out-of-state protest group of Christian radicals which has been protesting at funerals of Iraq war veterans and calling their deaths God's punishment for America's embracing of the homosexual agenda. Several protests in Texas have already occurred.  Legislation on both issues is already moving forward in the process.

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by Trey Garrison    Fri, May 12, 2006, 10:02 AM

A $30 million makeover for the Cotton Bowl is one of many items that will be included in the proposed 2006 capital bond program, the details of which the city manager's office will be unveiling within a day, according to city spokesman Celso Martinez.

The daily, meanwhile, reports that most of the city council are behind putting that much into the venerable stadium, but the fate ultimately lies in the hands of the voters, should the bond go all the way through to the ballot in November.

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