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by Special to    Tue, Apr 4, 2006, 12:36 PM

U.S. Rep. Tom Delay’s sudden decision to resign from the House and not run for re-election has unleashed a mad scramble to figure out how his Republican replacement will be chosen and which Republican is in line to replace him.

The method of determining which body of Republicans will choose the nominee will influence which Republicans announce their candidacies.

Harris County Chairman Jared Woodfill said the party is still looking at the options to put a replacement candidate on the November ballot. As this situation has never arisen for a congressional seat, he said the party's lawyers are looking closely at the situation.

There must also be a special election to fill the seat, and that would likely take place in May at the next uniform election date.

The Houston Chronicle reports a number of people are considering the seat, including Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, State Rep. Robert Talton and former District Judge and CD 10 candidate John Devine.

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by Trey Garrison    Tue, Apr 4, 2006, 11:41 AM

The Dallas City Plan Commission will hold a public hearing on the ForwardDallas! Comprehensive Plan on Thursday, April 6, 2006 at 1:30 p.m. (briefing at 11:00 a.m.) and on Thursday, April  20, 2006 at 1:30 p.m.

Briefings are in room 5ES and hearings are in the Council Chambers in the Dallas City Hall, 1500 Marilla Street, Dallas, Texas.

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by Trey Garrison    Tue, Apr 4, 2006, 11:32 AM

Today we find out what land the Texas Department of Transportation has its eyes on for the proposed $184 billion Trans-Texas Corridor. Officials will be releasing the study area, plus a 4,000-page environmental impact statement, at a press conference at D/FW International Airport today.

TXDOT will identify a ten-mile-wide area, which will be the focus of additional studies, to determine the final route for roads, rail and utilities in the corridor. The principal study area is mainly along Interstate 35 from the Mexican border through Central Texas to the Oklahoma border, but alternative routes are also being considered that would shift the superhighway into East Texas.

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by Scott Bennett    Mon, Apr 3, 2006, 10:51 PM

Rep. Tom DeLay
Knowledgeable sources in Houston tell that former House Majority Leader and Houston Congressman Tom DeLay is set to announce  his retirement from Congress tomorrow.  Also, Time Magazine is carrying a story in which DeLay, who faces several criminal charges in Austin, has apparently decided that his continued legal difficulties combined with an ongoing campaign will create problems for other GOP Congressional candidates as well as impede his own defense.   DeLay says he intends to leave Congress within a few months, but Houston sources say with his intentions known he may resign within days and move to Virginia.

DeLay's departure will touch off a free for all in Houston politics.  DeLay had just won a hard fought, but ultimately easy victory over two unknown GOP challengers.  However, most observers felt he faced a more serious challenge from former Democratic Congressman Nick Lampson.  A resignation would spur a special election for DeLay's unexpired term.  In such a special election the top vote getter would win or if no candidate got a majority then there would be a run-off.  However, a victory in the special election is not an automatic pass as a party candidate.  The Republican nominee for November would be chosen by Party precinct chairmen in DeLay's district.

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by Tom Pauken    Mon, Apr 3, 2006, 05:39 PM

Wayne Slater had a front page story in Sunday’s Dallas Morning News in which he reported the growing unhappiness of religious conservatives with the Republican Party.

Here is part of what Slater had to say:

"In the political culture wars, religious conservatives say they’ve been electing candidates but not getting the results they want. And leaders worry that they might be about to lose Christian conservatives as a potent political force because of unmet expectations on a host of issues and stumbles by a Republican administration they helped elect."

"Conservative "values voters" have been crucial to Republican success, with religious leaders driving huge voter turnout in recent elections. If they lack enthusiasm this fall, experts say, the GOP could lose control of Congress."

He quotes two prominent Texas pastors who have been active in mobilizing voters behind social issues and Republicans who say they support those issues. The Rev. Rick Scarborough made these comments in the Slater article: "We’re tired of talk. We want action. It occurs to us no matter who is in the White House or who says what we want to hear, nothing ever changes." The Rev. Laurence White of Houston remarked, "The nation isn’t focused today in a way it was on such issues as abortion, marriage and the nature of the family. For us, it’s not the economy stupid. It’s the morality, stupid."

Prominent social conservative David Barton was critical of some of his fellow Christian conservatives for their negative comments. "This stuff is a real problem – our folks suggesting that because we’ve not gotten results, we might walk. Give me (a) break. Hopefully, Christians will someday have the maturity to get involved regardless of the results – and they will stay involved because it is the right thing to do." Barton cited the appointment of good judges to the federal bench as an example of progress being made and warned that a Republican loss of the U.S. Senate could prevent conservatives from attaining a majority on the Supreme Court were John Paul Stephens or Ruth Ginsberg to retire within the next two years.

Nonetheless, the growing divisions among core conservative groups within the Republican Party has to be a concern to GOP operatives worried about the upcoming November elections.

The Republican Party already is in trouble with the economic conservatives over government spending excesses and high deficits. The immigration issue has split Republican leaders right down the middle. The GOP can ill-afford social conservatives sitting on the sidelines in the November elections because of dissatisfaction over a lack of results on issues of concern to them by the Bush Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress.

To read the entire story by Wayne Slater, link here (registration required).

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by Trey Garrison    Mon, Apr 3, 2006, 04:19 PM

Dallas City Councilman Mitch Rasansky is recovering after surgery last week to drain excess fluid from his brain. Doctors say he is recovering, and Mayor Laura Miller said today that Rasansky is feeling great.

"He should be back in a week or so and will no doubt be delighting us with an array of silly hats when he returns next week to City Hall," Mayor Miller said in a written statement.

Rasansky is recovering at Baylor Hospital and expects to be moved to a private room today or tomorrow.

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by Carolyn Barta    Mon, Apr 3, 2006, 02:03 PM

Members of the Texas House will not go into the special session on school finance united behind the Perry-Sharp plan to revamp taxes. Conservative GOP House members from some suburban and rural areas remain convinced that the correct approach is to use the $4.3 surplus to bail out schools on a temporary basis and craft a longterm fix in the 2007 regular session.

Despite the intent of the framers to cast the new business tax as a bipartisan plan (Perry-R, tax commission head Sharp-D) and the plan’s support by some major business groups, small business owners and small town doctors are howling to their state reps.

Some of these reps are backing a proposal by Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) to use the $4.3 billion surplus to buy down the local tax rate as a stopgap effort to satisfy the Texas Supreme Court’s June 1 deadline to take the pressure off the local property tax, which the court has said amounts to an unconstitutional statewide property tax.

Under the Perry-Sharp plan, only $1 billion of the surplus would be used, and the rest of the $5.9 billion needed to reduce property taxes would come from business and cigarette taxes. Also under the proposal, school property tax rates would drop to no more than $1 per $100 valuation (most districts are now at or near the $1.50 per $100 cap.) The new maximum rate would be $1.30. The plan does not add any new or additional money to education; it just makes the state pick up more of the share of local costs to educate kids.

The problem, according to a North Texas legislator, is that there is no protection to keep local property taxes from going right back up and after five years be pressing the cap again. Then there’s another argument going around among the Perry-Sharp plan aginners. They contend the Legislature can’t trust revenue figures they’re getting from Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, because she’s playing politics to benefit her independent gubernatorial race against Perry. They say: Wait until a trusted Republican, Susan Combs, becomes comptroller. Then the figures will be more trustworthy.

Both arguments may simply be stalling tactics so that any meaningful reform is delayed until after the November election, when state reps will be running for re-election.

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by Special to    Mon, Apr 3, 2006, 12:54 PM

State Representative Bill Keffer provides an update on his efforts to prohibit the sale of alcohol at a sexually-oriented business located in a dry area. PT’s Gold Club, a strip joint located at Plano and Miller, has joined in a federal lawsuit to declare the law passed at the behest of Keffer and State Senator John Carona unconstitutional.

Here is Rep. Keffer’s status report:

You might have been wondering what has been going on with the lawsuit concerning our "favorite" strip club at Plano and Miller. Well, as you might recall, the law that Senator Carona and I were able to get passed during the third special session in 2003, prohibiting the sale of alcohol at a sexually-oriented business (SOB) located in a dry area, went into effect on January 1, 2004. PT’s Gold Club (and others) immediately filed suit in federal court in Dallas, alleging that the new law is unconstitutional. In 2005, the federal judge agreed with us and granted our motion for summary judgment, finding the law to be constitutional. PT’s filed an appeal with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, since the Fifth Circuit is located in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina had the additional effect of putting the Court’s appellate docket on hold for several months.

But the case is now back on track, and the Court just issued a briefing schedule to the parties. PT’s has until April 25 to file its brief. The State has 30 days thereafter to file its brief, so presumably May 25. The "amicus curiae" (friend of the court) brief to be filed by Scott Bergthold on behalf of the Lake Highlands Area Improvement Association is due 7 days thereafter, presumably June 1.

Once all of the briefs have been filed, I will send another update summarizing what they say. I know the full parking lot at PT’s makes it difficult to know whether our fight is worth it, but believe me, it is. The strip clubs have plenty of money to be patient to see if they can beat this law and start selling alcohol. But if we can persevere and get our final decision that our law is constitutional, PT’s will have to give serious consideration to moving from the Plano/Miller location, knowing they can never "legally" sell alcohol and will never be able to generate their largest source of revenue.

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by Brian Bodine    Mon, Apr 3, 2006, 12:20 PM

Necessary corrections have been made. 


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by Special to    Mon, Apr 3, 2006, 12:07 PM

The Financial Times has an interesting article in its weekend edition about the explosion in internet pornography. Here is what it has to say: "When pornography met the internet, the result was as instantly addictive as crack cocaine – in the US alone 70 percent of young men log on in search of porn every month. But what does the rise of accessible virtual sex mean for flesh-and-blood relationships?"

The article quotes Dr. Marios Pierides, a psychiatrist who treats patients with addictions as saying: "One of my colleagues calls internet porn the crack cocaine of the internet. It would not be unreasonable to call it an epidemic. In the past 12 months I’ve seen an explosion in the number of people referred to me with issues about it. It has tripled. This is causing real problems."

To read the entire article, link here (registration required).

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