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Hoist By Their Own Petard*

Act surprised if you hear much more from the House this session about limiting corporate and union money in elections. An attempt to dynamite that legislation out of a hostile committee backfired badly enough that 50 of the bill's 93 sponsors ducked, either voting against the effort or absenting themselves from the House floor during the vote. On the strength of a 95-36 vote, it remains in committee.

Act surprised if you hear much more from the House this session about limiting corporate and union money in elections. An attempt to dynamite that legislation out of a hostile committee backfired badly enough that 50 of the bill's 93 sponsors ducked, either voting against the effort or absenting themselves from the House floor during the vote. On the strength of a 95-36 vote, it remains in committee.

The legislation by Reps. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, and Todd Smith, R-Euless, would define what corporate and union money can be used for in campaigns, and would ban third-party "issue ads" in the last 30 days before primary election and the last 60 days before general elections. The idea is to reduce corporate and union influence over Texas elections. The legislation has been bottled up in the House Elections Committee for weeks. It finally emerged from a subcommittee, but the main panel, led by Rep. Mary Denny, R-Aubrey, hasn't done anything with it. Denny has said she is against the bill and that she doesn't know whether it would come to a vote or not.

So the Democrats decided to force the issue, calling up a dusty rule that allows the full House to yank a bill out of a reluctant committee. Instead of ambushing their opponents, they telegraphed their effort by asking House Speaker Tom Craddick a day in advance how he'd handle that rule if they called for a vote. He said he'd honor the rule, and sure enough, when the bill sponsors asked for a vote, he gave them one. Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, asked for the vote and appealed to members to end the sort of ads that helped him lose a special election for state Senate last year. Rep. Terry Keel, an Austin Republican who was listed among the bill's co-sponsors, took the other side.

Merritt told the House that ads from "Americans for Job Security" attacking his support for a school finance-related tax bill were paid for by donors who still have not been identified and warned that the same could happen to them.

Keel attacked the Democrats for turning the bill into what he called a public relations stunt designed to embarrass Craddick. He said the House shouldn't mess with its committee system, reminded them of an old axiom about the process being designed not to pass bills but to kill them, and he flipped the question, telling the House that voting to "thwart the committee process" would kill the ethics bill more surely than to let the system work.

The legislation had 93 authors and co-sponsors at the beginning of the week, including each of the House's 63 Democrats. After Keel and Merritt talked, the House voted to leave the bill in committee. Of the 93 co-sponsors, 38 voted against the legislation and 12 were recorded as absent when the tally was taken. Those 50 non-supporters included 27 Democrats.

* Department of Irritating Visualizations: Petards are bombs commonly used in the old days to blow up gates on castles. But they were unreliable, and sometimes went off while they were still being carried by the enemies of the castle. The explosion meant for the castle would instead "hoist" the bombers.

Rumor Debunking Squad

Travis County prosecutors are poking through the remains of the 2002 elections to see whether groups trying to help Republicans take over state government did so by illegally using corporate money or by mixing third-party and campaign money illegally. The efforts succeeded and the GOP majority made Tom Craddick the first GOP speaker since the civil war. A rumor around the Capitol had Roy Minton, the attorney Craddick hired to deal with those inquiries, saying the campaign finance reform bill — HB 1348 — would be bad for the Republicans being investigated. It ain't so, he says. Minton says it's a bad idea to list the proper uses of corporate money in the law because "you'll always find something in there that shouldn't be on the list, and something that's not on the list that should be." He says the definitions in the law should be broad enough to let the courts decide what's in and out of bounds, and says that's all he's told anyone about any proposed laws. "I've never tied it to a client or to this investigation in any way," Minton says.

School Finance Gets a Date

The Texas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the school finance case on July 6, just about a month after the Legislature's regular session ends. That's not dependent on what lawmakers do to try to reform the system, unless they get something so good that the school districts that filed suit drop their arguments. Nothing of that sort has surfaced.

The court earlier set briefing deadlines, and the lawyers in the case are supposed to have all the paper fighting completed by May 31.

The current system is unconstitutional, according to a state district judge in Austin who heard arguments about the mix of funding, the distribution of money, and adequacy of the education kids in Texas are getting from the government.

The prospect of a hearing in July could influence decisions about special sessions this summer. If lawmakers work out a compromise on school finance and the taxes that go with it, that's moot. But if they don't — which seems more likely given the current discord between the House and Senate — Gov. Rick Perry will have to decide whether a special session would force a solution or just compound the state's failure to patch the system over the last two years.

The timing for a special, if there is one, would be tricky now that the court has set a date. The session ends on May 30. Perry has 20 days after that for signatures and vetoes and such — that's June 19. Calling the Legislature back into session while that's going on would be a rare thing; governors typically don't want lawmakers (and their ability to override vetoes) hanging around during that three-week period. Calling the Legislature back to Austin doesn't make much sense if you wait past early to mid-summer, since the school year starts in August and the current finance system will already be locked in for another school year.

Perry has the most at risk. Governors get blamed when things don't get done, and often when they do get done. If voters are worked up about school finance, failure to get a fix could hurt him (as could a tax bill, if the Legislature chooses a fix unpopular with voters).

Legislators probably skate if school finance doesn't get repaired right away. The governor would get credit for a win and blame for a loss, and most lawmakers will escape that.

The justices on the Texas Supreme Court are in an interesting spot. Five of them — Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, and Justices Nathan Hecht, Phillip Johnson, David Medina, and Priscilla Owen — are on the ballot next year and school finance could easily become an issue in those elections. A Supreme Court ruling in the fall — if it goes against the state — could set up those contests and put the heat on Perry to call a special session on school finance right before the primary season starts.

In its notice of the July hearing, the court listed some of the issues raised in the briefs filed by the state and the groups suing the state:

• Whether the school districts’ claims are legal questions appropriate for courts or political questions properly left to the Legislature.

• Whether the school districts have enforceable rights to sue under the state constitution (Article VII, Section 1).

• Whether the school districts have standing to claim injury under the state constitution (Article VII, Section 1, or Article VIII, Section 1-e).

• Whether the state school-finance law violates the constitutional prohibition against a state property tax.

• Whether inequity in the state’s maintenance and operations financing violates the state constitution (Article VII, Section 1). The Edgewood appellants specifically attack the trial court’s failure to apply a legal standard or make findings to support its conclusion that “disparity in access to revenue for maintenance and operations” did not violate Article VII, Section 1's efficiency mandate.

If you just can't get enough of this school finance stuff, the briefs that have been filed so far are available online via these links (the school finance case includes three different lawsuits and three different case numbers):

Cause number 04-1144
Appellant: Shirley Neeley, et al. Appellee: West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District, et al.

Cause number 05-0145
Appellant: West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District, et al. Appellee: Shirley Neeley, Texas Commissioner Of Education, et al.

Cause number 05-0148
Appellant: Edgewood Independent School District, et al. Appellee: Shirley Neeley, In Her Official Capacity As Texas Commissioner Of Education, et al.

How about 20 Cents?

The property tax cut -- and the tax bill to pay for it -- are shrinking in the upper chamber.

The newest version of the Senate's education reform bill, by Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, calls for a 20-cent cut in local school property taxes in 2005-06, followed by another 20-cent cut in 2006-07. That's in place of the 50-cent cut senators were shooting for earlier in the legislative session, and the 75-cent cut senators said a year ago would mark "significant change."

The Senate plan still calls for a state property tax for schools, set (ultimately) at 85 cents per $100 in property valuation. School districts would be allowed to add on as much as 25 cents, using up to 15-cents of that for local enrichment.

Teachers would get a $1,000 pay hike and the $1,000 health insurance stipend — granted and then halved by previous Legislatures — would be restored. If the statewide property tax passes (a constitutional amendment, it would require voter approval), teachers would get another $1,500 per year raise in 2006-07. Think they'd campaign for that amendment? And the bill also includes incentive pay of up to $500 for teachers.

The House bill got rid of the "weights" used to increase per-student funding for kids with special problems ranging from language issues to physical handicaps; the Senate kept them.

The Senate wants charter schools rebooted, bringing them under the same accountability measures used for regular public schools so they can be compared, and giving them up to $1,000 per student if they reach "exemplary" status and hold that level for several years.

The "runs" showing the effect of the bill on each of the state's 1,000+ school districts for each of the first two years can be found at these links:

Comparison of current law to fiscal year 2006

Comparison of current law to fiscal year 2007

That legislation still faces more than two dozen amendments — a sign that senators haven't yet agreed to their customary 31-0 vote — and could get to the full Senate early next week.

Future Shock

The tax bill, supposed to be available earlier this week, wasn't. And the reason was pretty good: The Senate is trying to avoid a hurdle that tripped the House, asking the comptroller's number-crunchers to vet the numbers and the language in the bill before the Senate actually votes on it.

But the hearings on that tax bill — set for the last weekend of April — have been put off, and the reasons are a little shakier. Senators are tied up with the education bill, for one thing. For another, the business lobby has told the Senate and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst what they've been whispering all along: They prefer the "choice" components of the House's plan to the Business Activity Tax in the Senate blueprint.

The House, you'll remember, voted out a $12 billion spending bill and then a tax bill they thought was cut to match. But Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn rolled in a grenade, saying flaws in the drafting of the tax bill left it some $4 billion short. There was a sort of bottomless argument — no telling who's lying and not — over whether the comptroller's folks had pre-approved the numbers. In the end, the tax collector said the tax bill would fall short, and that's that. The Senate isn't taking chances. They've got the comptroller's folks looking at actual language and cranking numbers based on the actual words that'll be up for a vote. That spadework is taking some time.

The Senate tax bill's details aren't out, but the big pieces include a business activity tax, or BAT (dubbed the Big Ass Tax by business lobsters, since it would raise a huge amount of money). Senators prefer to call it a reformed franchise tax, but they don't write finance and economics textbooks. Partnerships of various flavors — not taxed under current law — would be taxed under the Senate's scheme. The sales tax would be raised a half-cent; whether new goods and services are included for the first time depends on which version of the tax bill you see, but no expansions of the sales tax were in the last version described to us. Taxes would increase on cigarettes — though not as much as the $1 per pack added by the House  — and also on alcoholic beverages, which weren't addressed in the House's bill.

The element of the House bill preferred by some business lobsters would give business taxpayers their choice of two taxes — one that's similar to the BAT and one that's similar to the capital assets based franchise tax the state currently uses. What was attractive was also flawed: The comptroller's problem with the bill was that it didn't have a minimum tax, and the tax wonks say businesses will choose no tax over some tax every time. Several ideas of what could constitute the floor have been floated but nothing yet has attracted a fan club.

In spite of the trouble, the Senate's plan is to present a tax bill to the Finance Committee early next week and to get it to the floor, maybe, by this time next week.

Limited Government, Within Limits

The House wants cities and counties to be more responsive to voters when increasing government spending, but left school districts out of the deal and never even talked about extending the "truth-in-taxation" idea to state government spending.

Rep. Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, first put the bill in front of the House last week, but put it on hold after long arguments and the success of several hostile amendments. He returned with House Speaker Tom Craddick weighing in on every important vote, and that was all the difference. The House undid some of the earlier damage and voted out a bill that lowers the number of signatures needed for a spending rollback election and that lowers the amount of growth governments are allowed before such rollbacks are allowed. Current law lets voters petition for rollbacks if tax revenues rise eight percent or more. Isett's legislation would lower that to either five percent or the federal Consumer Price Index, at the local government's option. Taxpayers could demand a rollback election by getting signatures from registered voters equal to 10 percent of the voters who cast ballots in the most recent gubernatorial election. The locals won one fight: Spending increases driven by state mandates don't get included in the rollback formulas.

The legislation applies to all local governments, with the large exception of public school districts — generally the biggest number on local property tax bills. And it doesn't apply to state government; at the moment, House and Senate negotiators are working on a budget plan that calls for spending increases of 18.4 percent. If the school finance package passes, with its replacement of local taxes with state taxes, state spending would increase about 27.8 percent this year over what was approved two years ago.

That's off to the Senate, where similar legislation has remained in committee so far this session.

Laptop Lottery

Wanna play the Texas lottery on the Internet? Fuggetaboutit.

House budgeteers working on HB 3540 included provisions that would allow Texans to play existing lottery games via the Internet. But when we asked about it, House Speaker Tom Craddick issued a statement saying the provision is unworkable and that Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, will take it out of the bill. "Upon further researching this recommendation, Chairman Pitts learned that technology is not currently available to support the purchase of lottery tickets over the Internet. As a result, this recommendation will be reconsidered and lottery sales over the Internet will be taken out of CSHB 3540."

It was supposed to raise $100 million or more, and it's not clear what will be used to patch that hole. That legislation is a mixed bag of budget tricks, transfers, and such designed to help balance the budget that's being hammered out by House and Senate negotiators. Whether the Internet lotto money is needed isn't clear: The final numbers won't fall into place until budgeteers know the fates of the budget bill, the school finance bill, the tax bill, the "supplemental" budget bill, and, of course, HB 3540.

Visions of Sugar Land

U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay won't have Richard Morrison to kick around anymore. The Democrat who challenged the Sugar Land Republican last year won't make the race next time. Houston City Councilman Gordon Quan is openly looking at it, and former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Beaumont, has filed federal papers allowing him to campaign for the post.

Lampson's old congressional district is barely contiguous with DeLay's district, but the Beaumont Democrat is running. He (and other Democrats) are betting DeLay will be around in November 2006 and that his name will be sullied enough that a Democrat can win in what appears to be a safely Republican congressional district.

There's a small invisible line where the Morgan's Point end of Ted Poe's congressional district touches the LaPorte end of DeLay's congressional district (Poe, a Houston Republican, beat Lampson last year). But most of the district — including Lampson's Jefferson County home base, is far to the east of DeLay's district. When the Texas Legislature was redrawing the congressional maps, they put about 17.5 percent of the people who'd been in Lampson's congressional district into DeLay's CD-22.

Worse, according to the Texas Legislative Service — which does the data work for the state's political maps — that chunk of Lampson's old district only gave 41.5 percent of its statewide votes in 2002 to the Democrats. Put it simply: The part of Lampson's old district that now belongs to DeLay is three-fifths Republican.

DeLay's full district gave 65.9 percent of its statewide vote to Republicans in 2002; in 2004, the worst performance by a Republican on the federal and state ballot in that district was by DeLay himself. He got 55.1 percent to Morrison's 41.1 percent (a Libertarian and an Independent split the rest). Democrats were encouraged at that lower-than-expected performance by DeLay, but a 14-point margin is formidable.

An untarnished Republican running in that district against an untarnished Democrat should win and win easily. But Democrats are hoping DeLay is still on the ballot in November of next year, and that he's bleeding badly enough to make a Democrat look good to conservative voters. If that's the play, a Democrat might be able to attract national money to the contest, and that could change the odds.

Whose GOP Is It, Anyway?

Nate Crain, the chairman of Dallas County's Republican Party, emailed fellow Republicans urging them to tell the potential Dallas candidate, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, to stay out of next year's gubernatorial primary.

"In recent weeks, the tone of the Hutchison campaign has changed dramatically," Crain wrote. "Republican County Chairman and Republican Elected officials have been treated in a shameful and disappointing manner."

His email doesn't mention Gov. Rick Perry or any other potential candidates. Crain says he supports Perry's reelection, but he's taking pains not to choose between the Guv and the senior U.S. senator from Texas. He wants both to seek reelection and avoid an intra-party war, he says. Both Crain and his wife are financial supporters of both Hutchison and Perry.

Christina Melton Crain is the chairwoman of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Perry named her to the board four years ago and put her in the middle chair almost two years later. According to the Texas Ethics Commission, the Crains have given $169,715.87 to Texans for Rick Perry over the last five years. They've contributed $8,000 to Hutchison, maxing out their contributions in the last two cycles (federals have limits). And they donated $20,000 to Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn since 2000, though they haven't given to her since 2002. She's another possible candidate against Perry.

Nate Crain's email suggests estrangement between him and Hutchison's gang. He told The Fort Worth Star-Telegram that his open support for Perry's reelection got him disinvited from Hutchison events. He won't say who disinvited him (the Austin American-Statesman reported it was Jim Francis, a longtime GOP player in Dallas), and the Hutchison campaign told the paper he's welcome to come to their fundraiser. In his email, he wrote that their denial of the conversation is part of a pattern. Hutchison denied having a personal conversation with Midland County GOP Chairwoman Sue Brannon a few weeks ago; Brannon told the Midland Reporter-News that Hutchison said she wanted to come back to Texas so she could raise her kids here. And an aide to Hutchison last month disputed state Sen. Bob Deuell's account, in the Austin American-Statesman, of a conversation between Deuell and the aide in Washington, D.C., during the presidential inauguration. That aide, David Beckwith, didn't deny the conversation, but his version and Deuell's were quite different (Deuell said Beckwith made a "veiled threat" about his political future after Deuell said he supported Perry for reelection; Beckwith said he didn't).

The Hutchison folks have said Perry supporters are concocting the tales. And she has stopped short of saying she'll run for governor; for about a year, she's been telling people she'll announce her future plans sometime after the end of the legislative session. She didn't say she'd announce anything in June, but that's how the political fortune-tellers generally interpret her timing.

Crain said he sent the email to about 180 GOP county chairs in Texas — everybody with a known email address. He says the Perry camp didn't prompt him to write. But he says the state GOP shouldn't have to pick between the two: "It would be very difficult for the Party if she were to run. It would create animosity at the grass roots and at the finance level that we've never seen before."

Fiscal Notes

Six Texans — not counting the president — each had more than $1 million in their federal campaign accounts at the end of March: Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, $7.3 million; Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, $1.8 million; Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, $1.7 million; Sen. John Cornyn, $1.7 million; former Rep. Jim Turner, D-Crockett, $1.05 million; and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, $1.0 million.

The top fundraisers in the bunch during the first three months of the year: Cornyn, $854,004; Bonilla, $791,319; Hutchison, $758,785; and U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, $458,235.

Barring a change in state or federal law, Hutchison can use her funds for either a reelection race or a run for governor that she's considering. Bonilla wants to run for her spot if she leaves. Doggett hoards political money to scare challengers. Cornyn isn't up for reelection until 2008 and is one of the few statewide politicians in Texas who hasn't been making noise about running for something else (though the former judge is mentioned from time to time in rumors about federal judicial appointments). Turner is lobbying now, but has said he'd like to return to elected office if the right opportunity opens. And Barton, like Doggett, appears to be staying put.

Straight Voting, Narrow Margin

The Texas House wants to put this on the ballot for voters next November 8: "The constitutional amendment providing that marriage in this state consists only of the union of one man and one woman and prohibiting this state or a political subdivision of this state from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

With 101 yups, 29 nopes, eight members in the room but declining to vote, and 12 members absent, the House sent the constitutional amendment on to the Senate, where it has no sponsor.

Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, said he'll increase his efforts to get the measure moving in the upper chamber, but didn't name anyone in particular as a potential sponsor.

He and other supporters of the constitutional change say it would bind Texas courts hearing cases involving an earlier law — called the "Defense of Marriage Act" — that says essentially the same thing. That's a national movement as courts in a couple of states have struck down similar statutes as violations of state constitutionals. The amendment, if passed by senators and approved by voters, would take that argument away from anyone challenging the laws in Texas courts.

Chisum took only one amendment — his own — and in the end, House Speaker Tom Craddick cast a relatively rare vote to make sure the constitutional change had the 100 votes it needed to prevail. The bill started with 78 co-author and co-sponsor signatures on it, and they added 23 more when the votes were taken. No Republicans voted against the measure; one was there and didn't vote and three were absent. And 18 Democrats voted for it, with 29 voting no, seven present but not voting, and nine absent when the votes were taken.

Rock Stars for Geeks

This is one of those moments when the handler might be better known than the handled: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell of Houston has a new website design (at done under the aegis of Joe Trippi, best known as the consultant who got the Howard Dean Internet phenom up and running in 2003. The firm that did the actual work on the site — EchoDitto — was started by Nicco Mele, who ran the Dean for America blog during the presidential campaign. In a particular community, those are big names. The new site has a blog, a podcast (a sound file sent to interested parties featuring campaign and candidate news) and "Don't Mess with Ethics," a knockoff of the "Don't Mess with Texas" campaign. Bell, a one-term congressman and former Houston city councilman, hasn't declared for governor; legally speaking, he's "exploring" a race.

Offbeat campaign pitch: Mandy Dealey, a candidate for city council in Austin, sent supporters an email with this message: "Make Betty Dunkerley share a bathroom." Clicking on that takes the reader to her website, where they add, "One woman on the Austin city council is not enough. It's not about being politically correct. It's about solving problems and having strength through diversity." Dealey's plea doesn't narrow the field much, though: Her opponents for an open seat on that panel include one male and two females.

Political People and Their Moves

Gov. Rick Perry is tapping judge and Texas Tech University law professor (adjunct) Brian Patrick Quinn to be chief justice of the 7th Court of Appeals in Amarillo.  Quinn has been on that court since 1995. That middle seat opened up a few weeks ago when Perry named Phillip Johnson to an open spot on the Texas Supreme Court.

The contingent settling differences on the foster care bill includes Rep. Robert Talton, R-Pasadena, the author of a House amendment that would require foster parents to register their sexual orientation with the state and would bar gay and lesbian foster parents from the program. The House added that provision on an 81-58 vote; there is nothing like it in the Senate version. The House group is chaired by Rep. Suzanna Gratia Hupp, R-Lampasas, and includes Reps. John Davis, R-Houston, Toby Goodman, R-Arlington, and Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio. The Senate group, named earlier: Sens. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, chair, Kyle Janek and Jon Lindsay, both R-Houston, Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, and Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo.

Sarah Woelk left the Texas Ethics Commission, where she was general counsel, for the Texas Lottery Commission, where she's now the assistant general counsel. Ethics hasn't hired her replacement, but that could happen as soon as May 6, when the board meets.

Court Koenning, the executive director of the Harris County Republican Party, is leaving for the bidness world (consulting). His replacement hasn't been named. Koenning previously worked for then-Attorney General John Cornyn and for former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm.

Gov. Rick Perry reappointed Brian Flood of Austin as inspector general at the Health and Human Services Commission for a term running through January of next year. He left the Dallas County district attorney's office to help sort out the troubles in the state's child protective services program.

Recovering, but not talking about it: Ric Williamson, chairman of the Texas Department of Transportation and a former state representative, from heart trouble. He was well enough to attend some meetings this week.

Quotes of the Week

Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, arguing against an effort by Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, to add a gay marriage ban to the Texas constitution: "This amendment is blowing smoke to fuel the hell-fire flames of bigotry. When people of my color used to marry someone of Mr. Chisum's color, you'd often find people of my color hanging from a tree. That's what white people back then did to protect marriage."

Bee Morehead, executive director of Texas Impact, talking with The Dallas Morning News about Internet lottery sales that were briefly under consideration in the House: "It's such a super fast track way to get people sucked in over their heads. One of the uniquely bad characteristics of computer-based gambling is nothing seems real, it's all virtual. Unfortunately, the money coming out of your account is real money and you can get rid of it as quick as you can click."

Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, talking to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about stalled campaign finance legislation: "I think the buck stops in the back hall, at the speaker's office. The only conclusion is that they don't want ethics reform — they don't want to prohibit the use of these corporate contributions, these soft-money ads — where it is not disclosed who the contributors are."

Republican consultant John Colyandro, indicted for laundering corporate contributions in the 2002 elections, quoted in the Houston Chronicle about authoring the Texas Conservative Coalition's critical analysis of legislation regulating corporate contributions in campaigns: "My job with the coalition is to review all the important pieces of legislation that is making its way through the Texas Legislature without regard to any particular member's interests on any particular interests on part of staff here."

Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, in a Fort Worth Star-Telegram report on textbooks: "I don't believe in evolution — I believe in creation. Some of our books right now only teach evolution — if you're going to teach one, you ought to teach both."

Texas AFL-CIO Legal Director Rick Levy, talking with The Dallas Morning News about a Senate bill limiting asbestos and related lawsuits: "Compared to where the law is now, I don't like it. Compared to what could happen under the current political environment, I can live with it."

Texas Weekly: Volume 21, Issue 44, 2 May 2005. Ross Ramsey, Editor. George Phenix, Publisher. Copyright 2005 by Printing Production Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. One-year online subscription: $250. For information about your subscription, call (800) 611-4980 or email For news, email, or call (512) 288-6598.

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