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.
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.
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.
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).
Here is what Ron Walenta suggested as a means of preventing "property tax creep":
In 2000, I proposed that all residential taxable values should be frozen and that the purchase price would establish the taxable value, for as long as the buyer lived there. But how is that fair to someone who just paid more for the house next door? A willing buyer and a willing seller set the price. The only increase would be due to capital improvements which required a building permit.
Elected officials decried this solution. "We would have to raise tax rates to get needed revenue!" Exactly. As taxpayers, we would be able to invoke the roll back provisions of the tax code. The hidden tax of appraisal creep would stop.
No longer could an elected official claim that, "I didn’t vote to increase your taxes, that increase is due to the increase in the value of your house. Don’t you feel lucky?" No.
But honesty in taxation does not seem to be an attractive solution to our "representatives".
Candidates for Governor took advantage of an opportunity this weekend at a teacher’s convention to blast Perry on education issues, according to the Austin-American Statesman. Bell and Strayhorn oppose vouchers and are supporting teacher raises. But they haven’t given a price tag, according to one Perry spokesman.