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DO THE MATH
by Carolyn Barta    Sat, May 6, 2006, 12:38 PM

The ayem creates a misleading impression with its lead on the Laura Miller story today by saying she earned up to $25,000 in a sale of American Airlines stock. Technically, it's correct because she no doubt she listed the sale in the category of having made $10,000 to $25,000 because that's the way the report form is set up. However, if the reporter or editor had bothered to do the math, they would have seen that the most she possibly could have made was $17,100, if her husband Steve Wolens had bought the stock at the low of $11.55 on the purchase date and sold at the high of $13.26  on the sell date. This may be a minor point in the story but it's just an indication of lazy journalism. Learning to do basic math in stories is taught in Journalism 101l.

As for the main point of the story, we ask the question: What was Steve Wolens thinking, anyway, when he bought American Airlines stock when his wife was serving on the DFW Airport Board and with the on-going debate overe the Wright Amendment. Isn't this the same Steve Wolens who was "Mr. Ethics" in the state legislature? The same Wolens who authored ethics legislation and was the No. 1 advocate for ethics in Austin? I think he was even chairman of the House ethics committee.

On another matter in today's ayem...I like the new community news emphasis of the metro section but have to wonder who's making the call on what's news. Is it really newsworthy in a major metropolitan daily to have a story, even a brief, that North Dallas High School is about to elect a student council?  I say that, by the way, as an old Bulldog.

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THE COST OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION, PART DOS
by Trey Garrison    Sat, May 6, 2006, 11:18 AM

I'm still pulling together information on how much illegal immigration costs Dallas and Dallas County in terms of the educational system, the criminal justice system and other indicators. But meanwhile, here's an outstanding look at the cost of illegal immigration on a national basis, and as you can see, it appears the costs far, far outweigh any of the alleged benefits that constitute the party line on the matter. Back to you, Macarena.

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RECAP OF A CHAOTIC DAY IN AUSTIN
by Will Lutz    Fri, May 5, 2006, 11:12 PM

With a call on the Senate Finance Committee and several other events happening, today was a rather confusing day. In an effort to cut through the confusion, LSR is providing a quick summary of where the tax bills are as of 9:30 p.m. May 5.

SB 6 (technical fix to HB 3) -- Still pending before the Senate Finance Committee. Chairman Steve Ogden wants to vote it out early next week, but the bill will likely not see the light of day in the House.
HB 5 (cigarette tax) -- left the Senate Finance Committee today. The effective date of the increase is pushed back to Jan. 1, 2007. Amendments phasing in the tax are eligible when the bill hits the senate floor.

HB 4 (liar's affidavit) -- Conference report filed in the House. Conference report awaits floor action in both chambers.

HB 3 (revised frachise tax) -- Sent to the governor today, who has ten days (excepting Sundays) to sign, veto, or allow to become law without his signature.

HB 2 (dedication of new revenue to property tax relief) -- House point of order against Senate amendments sustained. Bill returned to the Senate for further consideration.

CSHB 1 (property tax relief and education spending) -- left the Senate Finance Committee today, but the committee substitute is in trouble because of a fight over recapture and equity. Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) told reporters she has the votes to stop the bill from coming to the Senate floor unless concerns about recapture are addressed.

A House calendar has been set for Monday, but as of Frida afternoon, the governor has not yet expanded the call for the special session.

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WHY PROPERTY RICH DISTRICTS DON'T LIKE HB1
by Will Lutz    Fri, May 5, 2006, 11:11 PM

Districts that have to share a portion of their school property tax base with the state or neighboring districts (Chapter 41 districts) have lots of reasons to dislike the recapture amendment added to House Bill 1 in the Senate Finance Committee today. The initial version of the committee substitute for House Bill 1 created a high school allotment at $500 per student. All districts, including Chapter 41 districts, receive this money. Under the amendment the high school allotment goes down to $200.

It is true that on the first four pennies of new taxes that a school district can levy under the bill there is no recapture. But many Chapter 41 districts tax well below the current tax cap, meaning they would not benefit from the unrecaptured pennies unless they raise their tax rate to the equivilent of the current tax cap and pay recapture on all those new pennies of tax effort. (Sen. Florence Shapiro told reporters almost half of the Chapter 41 districts tax below the current cap.) A rural district with a power plant, for example, taxes well below the existing tax rate cap and can still fund all its educational needs. In other words, the reduction in the high school allotment would affect adversely all Chapter 41 districts, but only some of the Chapter 41 districts would benefit from the lack of recapture on the four pennies. The original committee substitute is a significantly better deal for Chapter 41 school districts than the substitute with the recapture amendment. This is why many Senators representing Chapter 41 school districts feel they would have a hard time supporting the bill if the recapture amendment remains in the bill in its current form.

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WHY PROPERTY POOR DISTRICTS LIKE HB1
by Will Lutz    Fri, May 5, 2006, 11:09 PM

Chapter 42 districts (school districts receiving money from the state) like the amendment passed by the Senate Finance Committee today. These districts have long called for a higher percentage of equity in the school finance system. Sen. Todd Staples (R-Palestine), who represents many such districts, is often fond of saying that he wants to make sure that "the quality of our children's education is not dependent on their zip codes." The amendment, which Staples supported, guarantees that school districts will receive enrichment funding on four cents of tax effort equal to the amount of money that a school district at the 96th percentile of wealth would receive from its local tax base alone. That is a substantial increase in funding per student per penny of tax increase than what districts currently recieve.

Additionally, the amount of money that property poor school districts recieve under the amendment would rise with property values. In other words, the amendment added in the Senate Finance Committee would provide substantially more money for property poor schools than they currently receive.
Staples also said that the amendment reduces the incentive for school districts to raise taxes above the four cents, because they get a lower state matching rate on those new pennies.

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SHAPIRO VOWS TO BLOCK REFORM BILL
by Scott Bennett    Fri, May 5, 2006, 05:56 PM

Sen. Francis Shapiro says that she can no longer support HB1 with the recapture amendment passed today.  She also says she has the votes to defeat the amendment on the floor.  Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock), author of the amendment, says it is necessary to avoid the Texas Supreme Court repudiating the bill.  Primary opponents of the bill as it now stands are senators representing high-wealth districts.  If Shapiro is successful in blocking the bill a second special session may be required.

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SENATE FINANCE PASSES HB1 FLOOR VOTE IN DOUBT
by Will Lutz    Fri, May 5, 2006, 05:51 PM

The Senate Finance Committee has voted out CSHB 1, 9-2 with 3 present not voting. The committee substitute contains the recapture amendment described below.

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SENATE COMMITTEE APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL RECAPTURE AMENDMENT
by Will Lutz    Fri, May 5, 2006, 05:49 PM

On the motion of Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock), the Senate Finance Committee has approved the recapture amendment, 9-5. The amendment reduces the amount of money in the new high school allotment. With that money, it equalizes the first four pennies of new education money at the ninety-sixth percentile. No recapture occurs on those pennies. (The prior language in the bill flowed the entire high school allotment to all districts on the basis of average daily attendance.) This was largely an equity fight. Those representing mainly districts that receive state funds (Chapter 42) districts voted aye, and the no votes came mainly from those representing at least some Chapter 41 (Robin Hood) districts. Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) and several other Republican senators told reporters that they cannot support the bill with the recapture/equity amendment.

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COUNCIL TO SETTLE WITH EPA FOR $2 MILLION
by Trey Garrison    Fri, May 5, 2006, 04:08 PM

It's going to cost the City of Dallas $2 million - or 200 bronze statues of Councilman Leo Chaney - to get out of hot water with the Environmental Protection Agency.


The Dallas City Council will vote Wednesday, May 10, to accept a settlement with the Environment Protection Agency after it screwed up a bunch of wetlands in the Trinity River Corridor and around the Dallas Zoo. The city will have to pay $800,000 in penalties and invest $1.2 million in environmental projects.

“Due to the nature of the agreement, and the fact that it still requires formal acceptance by the City Council and the Department of Justice, we cannot comment on the specifics of the decree,” City Attorney Thomas Perkins said in a written statement.

Besides the $2 million, the city will pursue the full implementation of an Environmental Management System. And part of the $1.2 million supplemental environmental prjoects include wetland restorations in the Pavaho region of the Trinity River Corridor, and within the Dallas Zoo.

Details of the settlement will be divulged following the Wednesday meeting and lodging of the proposed settlement in the federal court in Dallas.

“The City of Dallas has taken these issues very seriously and has cooperated fully with the federal government. We believe this resolution is very positive for the City and for the environment,” Perkins said in his written statement.

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GASOLINE EASES DOWN - EVEN IN DALLAS
by Scott Bennett    Fri, May 5, 2006, 02:42 PM
gas pump.jpgFor the fourth week Dallas leads Texas in gasoline prices.  According to AAA a self serve gallon of regular costs $2.941 versus a Texas average of $2.862.  The good news is that area prices have dropped a whopping 1.5-cents in the past week.  San Antonio is still the best deal according to AAA with an average of $2.758 down 3.7-cents.  The national average is @2.918 down .9-cents.
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