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by Carolyn Barta    Thu, Apr 13, 2006, 05:03 PM

PLANO, Tex. -- The world's first high-end Wal-Mart has grocery aisles nearly wide enough to drive a Volkswagen down. Pushing a cart around the store makes you feel like Cinderella, or Cinderfella. So says the lead to a Washington Post story today. Read "In Texas, the Biggest Box Gets Mighty Fancy Trimmings" about the Plano store at

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by Carolyn Barta    Thu, Apr 13, 2006, 04:48 PM

The polls may be growing darker for Republicans in the mid-term elections but a Washington Post story today says that while Democrats could narrow the 30-seat GOP majority in the U.S. House, they face an uphill battle in regaining the majority -- even with a major candidate recruitment effort.  A story in the Washington Post today looks at the congressional field and Tuesday's special election in California. See "Democrats Face Uphill Battle to Retake House" at

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by Carolyn Barta    Thu, Apr 13, 2006, 04:29 PM

June 1 may not be the hard-and-fast deadline for the Legislature to come up with a new school funding plan that everyone has thought. Here's a fall-back position. If no solution is forthcoming in the first 30-day session, the attorney-general could ask the Texas Supreme Court for an extension to the end of June.  Gov. Perry then calls a second special session. The real drop-dead date then would be June 25, the date the Texas Education Agency wires funds to the local school districts for the opening of school.

Gov. Perry, meanwhile, will entertain legislators and their spouses Monday night in Austin, where he will be promoting the Sharp Commission business tax. The approach of lobbying members in this way is unusual for Perry, but he needs the Legislature to take some action to satisfy the Supreme Court going into his November re-election campaign. If the Sharp-Perry tax swap plan is not accepted in the special session, it loses its urgency. 

For their part, some members will try to cast it more as a reform of the franchise tax than as a new tax to make a vote for the plan more palatable. Some legislators still hope to merely use the purported $4.3 billion surplus as a way for the state to reduce local property taxes and satisfy the Supreme Court until the Legislature can convene next year in regular session.  

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by Carolyn Barta    Thu, Apr 13, 2006, 04:22 PM

State Rep. Helen Giddings, D-Dist. 109, and Terri Hodge, D-Dist. 100 will conduct a a Town Hall meeting on public school finance at 7 p.m. tonight at the Town View Magnet Center, 1201 East 8th St.

The Legislature convenes Monday in special session to address personal property tax relief and the funding of public education. The legislators will hear concerns of area residents at the meeting. More information is available at 972-224-6795 or 214-824-1996.

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by Scott Bennett    Thu, Apr 13, 2006, 03:17 PM
Zac Crain
Who would have thought the Dallas Observer would be a breeding ground for politicians.  Zac Crain will follow Gary Griffith on April 24th by announcing for Mayor of Dallas.  If you have been a regular reader of the Dallas Observer for the past decade you are very familiar with Zac Crain.  If not, you are probably clueless.  If you Google Zac Crain you get pages of Observer covers.  Some of those covers are Zac Crain's very good serious stories on topics like homlessness.  Others are about the Dallas music beat.  Crain says he is serious about the campaign and has a logo to prove it.  (It looks a lot like what DallasBlog started out with).  He will announce at a Son's of Hermann Hall bash on April 24th from 7 - 11pm.  Zac, however, is not the entertainment.  That will be provide by local bands Sorta and Shibboleth. 
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by Brian Bodine    Thu, Apr 13, 2006, 01:00 PM

DallasBlog recently reported on the election contest filled by Steve Smith for the Place 2 on the Texas Supreme Court.

Now, according to information obtained by the Texas Lawyer, it appears that Steve Smith’s name was left off the ballot in Winkler County. Don Willet received 273 votes to  0 votes for Smith in Winkler Country. The  Winkler County vote won’t be enough to affect the election outcome, but irregularities in Winkler County in addition to irregularities in other counties could produce the net effect that Smith needs to get a ruling in his favor that could, at the very least, allow Smith to look at the ballots in those counties. Irregularities in Tarrant County, where there was an error in the computer software program used for reporting election results, could ultimately lead to the election being overturned.

Speaking to the DallasBlog, David Rogers of the Smith campaign said that, in the event that the Smith campaign is allowed to look at the ballots in Tarrant County, they would be looking for additional campaign irregularities.

“Ultimately, we’re asking that either Steve be declared the winner or a new election be ordered,” said Rogers.

Judges in Travis County will begin hearing motions on the election contest today.

Click here for story from Texas Lawyer

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by Scott Bennett    Thu, Apr 13, 2006, 12:40 PM

New polling over the past few days indicates the skies are growing ever darker for the President and the Republican Congress. The USA Today/Gallup poll and the ABC/Washington Post poll both find the President’s “disapproval” rating has hit 60%! Bloomberg is only slightly better with a 57% disapproval rating. The ABC/Washington Post poll also found that 74% say they “disapprove of the way Pres. Bush is handling gasoline costs while 70% say higher gas prices have imposed a personal hardship.

The LA Time/Bloomberg poll also asked whether voters would like to see the Democrats take control of Congress in November or prefer to see Republicans keep control. Democrats lead by 51% to 38%.

If there is hope for Republicans in Congress it seems to come from the immigration issue. According to USA Today/Gallup a remarkable 81% say “immigration is out of control.” Given that a new Rasmussen poll finds voters “trust” the GOP on the issues by a 37% to 31% margin Republicans seem to have some opportunity to regain some lost ground with progress on this issue.

And since tax day is coming up it is interesting to note that when Fox News/Opinion Dynamics asked whether “Congress thinks of the [tax] money more as (a) taxpayer money to spend carefully, or (b) their [Congress] money to spend as they wish” survey takers said (b) by 80% to 10%. That isn’t good for a Republican Congress either.

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by Scott Bennett    Thu, Apr 13, 2006, 12:11 PM

While Chris Bell, Carol Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman were busy attacking a new effort to raise and spend $6 million on a media campaign supporting the governor's tax plan, Texans for Limited Government was announcing it would launch a statewide radio campaign to defeat the plan. Texans for Limited Government is the brainchild of Gary Gates, a Fort Bend county businessman and rancher. He has run two unsuccessful campaigns for public office.  Whether Gates is primarily funding the campaign himself or has other backers was not immediately known.

In announcing the campaign Gates said he has "traveled across Texas for the past year and I’ve heard a consistent frustration from grassroots citizens—they are tired of our elected officials raising taxes and increasing the size of government. My goal is to empower, mobilize, and unite grassroots Texans to effect change for smaller, limited government.”

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by Tom Pauken    Thu, Apr 13, 2006, 10:09 AM

One of our regulars brought this story to our attention.  The AP is reporting that "federal spending totaled $250 billion" in March, "up 13.7 percent from March 2005."  The federal deficit for the month was  "$85.5 billion, a record imbalance for March."

Combine huge budget deficits with trade deficits running at a $800 billion annualized basis, and you have a prescription for economic disaster.

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by Trey Garrison    Thu, Apr 13, 2006, 12:47 AM

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is suspending its policy of arresting people who have the gall to go to bars and, well, drink. Somewhere, an editor is doing the happy dance.

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