Thursday, December 26, 2013

Lamar Smith, a latter day Ebenezer Scrooge

Here we are in the midst of the season of giving when churches, the Marines and police departments across the nation make special efforts to help the less fortunate and yet Congress led by wealthy men is taking away needed assistance. I’m talking about men like Lamar “Scrooge” Smith voting to reduce food stamps and failing to continue extended unemployment benefits for those who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own.
There are more than 47 million Americans facing hunger today and yet congressional Scrooges have cut $40 million from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program which means 4 million Americans, many of them children, will have less to eat. Food Banks are already unable to keep up with demand this shameful cut will only make things worse.

Extended unemployment benefits are next on the chopping block and the excuse the Scrooges offer is the ridiculous claim that unemployment insurance benefits discourage people from looking for work; but the reality is that there are at least three unemployed people for every job opening. Even if every open job were filled today 65% of the currently unemployed would still be without a job. How many of us would sit back and accept even the maximum $1800 a month benefits rather than take a job that pays even half of our former salaries? That barely covers my health care bills and groceries; where would mortgage payments, utilities and gas for the car come from?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Senator Campbell to blame for lack of curriculum in SCUC ISD

In “Change ideas dominate SCUCISD board meeting” from the November 28 issue writer John Heberling brought up the abandonment of CSCOPE as one cause of the current lack of curriculum in the district. What he didn’t mention is that the district didn’t drop usage of CSCOPE voluntarily; it was ripped out of the hands of small and medium sized districts like ours all over the state by a few legislators looking to earn their conservative credentials by vilifying it as anti-American.

The witch hunt over the CSCOPE curriculum was uncalled for as evidenced by its use in districts like Lackland ISD using it broadly. Dina Webb, Lackland's executive director for curriculum and instruction, was quoted in the Express-News in January saying “We don't mandate how teachers use it and certainly, as a military district, wouldn't teach anything anti-American. But we certainly don't have the money or staff to be able to write new curriculum every time the state standards change.”

State Senator Donna Campbell didn’t stand up for our district. In a year we have a chance to replace her with Daniel Boone, a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, who has the interests of our schools at heart because he knows that education is the way to economic prosperity and a fulfilling life.

Failure to Expand Medicaid in Texas hurts all Texans

The failure of Gov. Perry and Sen. Campbell to expand Medicaid in Texas does a shameful disservice to Texans whether or not they currently have health insurance. Obviously those without health insurance suffer most directly. Those with insurance are also affected by the higher cost imposed when people visit the emergency room for problems that could have been treated in a doctor’s office for one third the price according to the Texas Medical Association. Those uncompensated emergency room visits are subsidized through higher bills from hospitals and higher property taxes.

Expanding Medicaid would create $19.6 million in direct economic activity in Guadalupe County alone, according to the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which is enough to pay 290 additional Registered Nurses and 107 additional Doctors. Imagine how adding nearly 400 high paying jobs would affect businesses large and small in just one county. What would be the impact of adding nearly $7 billion a year to the Texas economy?

We’ve already paid the taxes to make this happen and because Gov. Perry and Sen. Campbell refused to accept that money other states will be using our tax dollars to improve the lives of their citizens and their economies.

We need new leadership in Senate District 25 and in Texas that’s why I’m excited that Dan Boone is running for state senate and Wendy Davis is running for governor. They won’t let our tax dollars go to other states and leave our hard working people to fend for themselves.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Texas Democratic Party Continues Progressive Turn

The Texas Democratic Party continued its turn to toward a more progressive stance at Saturday October 12 State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) meeting. The full committee unanimously approved a series of potential referenda items for the March Primary ballot. The proposed referenda are expected to appear on the party site in the near future and in order to be placed on the Primary ballot will have to receive support from 50,000 people by signing online on each referenda item.

These are the 19 potential referenda:
  1. On a Living Wage for all Texans – The Texas Legislature should raise the minimum wage to a livable wage and Congress should pass legislation raising the federal minimum wage to 110% of the federal poverty level for a family of four without exception.
  2. On Medicaid Expansion – The Governor and the Texas Legislature should accept federal funds, as provided in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, for expansion of Medicaid to provide coverage to millions of uninsured and under-insured Texans.
  3. On the Texas Dream Act – The Legislature should allow any Texas high school student, who has lived in the state for at least three years and lived here continuously for the last year, to be eligible for in-state tuition for higher education and be able to eligible to earn legal status through a higher education or military service.
  4. On Fair Pay – The United State Senate and House of Representatives should pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to ensure that women lawfully receive equal pay for equal work and grant legal redress over gender based pay discrimination.
  5. On Reproductive Rights – The Texas Legislature should repeal all legislation prohibiting women, in consultation with their doctors, from making their own health care decisions and affirm that the access to reproductive and contraceptive care cannot be abridged by an employer for any reason and must be free of harassment and discrimination.
  6. On Comprehensive Sex Education – The Texas Legislature should fund targeted efforts to reduce Texas’ high teen pregnancy rates, through the provision of evidence based, accurate and effective, comprehensive age-appropriate sex education programs with abstinence and contraception components.
  7. On Non-Discrimination Legislation – The Texas Legislature should adopt legislation that expands protections against discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  8. On Marriage Equality – The Texas Legislature should allow for the repeal of the Texas Marriage Constitutional Amendment and discriminatory marriage laws and grant the right of marriage equality to all Texans.
  9. On Immigration Reform – The United States Congress must pass immigration reform, including an earned path to citizenship for individuals contributing to the economy and the dependents of those individuals.
  10. On Reversal of Citizens United – The Congress of the United States shall pass a constitutional amendment that establishes that money is not speech, and can thus be regulated, and that only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutionally protected rights.
  11. On Global Climate Change – The Texas Legislature must encourage the use of alternative forms of energy and encourage environmentally-friendly energy resources and speed development of energy-efficient technology, vehicles appliances and green buildings.
  12. On Education – The Texas Legislature and Office of the Governor must realize that public education is a right to be enjoyed by all students, not the privileged few, and ensure that funding levels are sufficient so that every student has access to the highest quality teachers, facilities, and supplies.
  13. On Redistricting – The Texas Legislature should adopt fair political boundaries – respecting the notion of one person, one vote – while providing opportunities to minority candidates and voters to have their opinions valued and heard.
  14. On Veterans – The Texas Legislature should advocate for veterans; including programs to assist veterans find meaningful employment and ensure benefits, including education, housing and medical care, worthy of their sacrifices.
  15. On Buy American – The Office of the Governor should reconsider its stance and veto of the “Buy American Act”, recognizing the importance of Texan made goods to the economy, and not bend to the whims of international business conglomerates producing inferior products overseas with poorly paid labor.
  16. On Broadband Access – The Legislature should enable usable, affordable high speed internet for every family across Texas, allowing all to participate in the twenty-first century’s technology-based economy and providing every child the opportunity to learn the necessary skills to compete in the competitive global environment.
  17. On Texas Enterprise Fund – The Texas Legislature should implement oversight of the Enterprise Fund, halting the flow of taxpayer money to some of the largest, most profitable companies in the world as favors to political donors of elected officials.
  18. On Statewide Transportation – The Texas Legislature should ensure that safe, efficient transportation throughout the state is a priority – especially in rural areas – appropriating sufficient funds to maintain paved roads that allow the state’s people and products to flow across them efficiently and quickly.
  19. On Unions – The Texas Legislature should allow for workers, including public sector employees, to have the rights to collective bargaining and unionization, providing them with an important voice over workplace issues affecting their quality of life.
The Texas Democratic Party hopes to promote participation in the March Primary especially in those areas with uncontested primaries.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Don't miss the opportunity to vote in November because you don't have the proper documents

Recent changes in Texas voting laws may surprise many voters in November when we vote on city council, school boards, bonds and constitutional amendments. Beginning with this election all in person voters must show an approved photo ID which are limited to:
Texas drivers license
Texas concealed handgun license
Texas Election Identification Certificate
Texas personal identification card, United States military identification card containing the person’s photograph
U.S. citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph
U.S. passport
With the exception of the U.S. citizenship certificate, the identification must be current or have expired no more than 60 days before being presented at the polling place.

Other changes include a requirement that the name on the photo ID and voter registration match so if you’re a woman who has recently married or divorced and changed your name be sure documents match.

Since the legislature failed to fund voter education measures to insure that all voters know the new rules non-partisan organizations have pooled resources and created a web site to help voters confirm that they have the requisite documents to vote. Common Cause Texas urges everyone to check their documents and tell friends and family about the site so that no voter is disenfranchised in November because they didn’t know what they needed.

JC Dufresne

Common Cause Texas, Vice Chair

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Lamar Smith advocates for Soviet style political interference in science

Lamar Smith hasn’t learned a thing from the Soviet Union’s dalliance with political interference in science. In the 1940’s Trofim Lysenko was an agronomist who became director of Soviet biology under Joseph Stalin. Lysenko rejected Mendelian genetics in favor of a theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics. He used political pressure to direct agricultural scientists and farm policies that ruined farm productivity for decades before he was finally discredited. Smith wants to revisit Communist style control of science here in the U.S.

While Smith’s immediate target seems to be political science research that he doesn’t agree with he is a member of the Church of Christ, Scientist which believes that sickness is an illusion caused by mistaken beliefs, and that the sick should be treated by a special form of prayer intended to correct those beliefs, rather than by medicine. Will that non-sense lead him to advocate for eliminating funds for medical research?

Smith’s bill would replace peer review at the National Science Foundation with a set of funding criteria chosen by Congress. His bill would also start a process to determine whether the same criteria should be used by every other federal science agency. Do we really want a bunch of lawyers deciding what is worthy of scientific research?

Kuempel throws local school districts under the bus - Again!

State Representative John Kuempel continued to attack public education by actively participating in the witch hunt that killed CSCOPE thereby costing many school districts in the state money as they will now need to develop their own individual curricula instead of sharing resources with all other districts. Superintendent Burnie Roper of Lackland ISD called the claims of anti-Americanism in CSCOPE “ridiculous.” Given that Lackland ISD serves many children from the sprawling airbase I doubt Roper’s anything less than a patriot.

Shortly after the vote Thomas Ratliff, Republican member of the State Board of Education, issued a press release that said in part “With the elimination of CSCOPE, the amount of resources and human capital required to develop curriculum for those 875 districts just multiplied because they are all on their own again.  This is the very duplication of effort and waste of taxpayer dollars that CSCOPE had solved, at least before today.”

Last session Kuempel disregarded pleas from constituents and local school board members who urged him to protect funding for public education and instead voted to cut public education funding by $5 billion.

Once again Kuempel has thrown the school districts in HD 44 under the bus telling them to find the resources to replace the service CSCOPE had provided them without fully restoring funding to prior levels. Local control means that each independent school district had the choice to use CSCOPE or not, with this vote Kuempel and those who supported this witch hunt have removed that option.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Kuempel more interested in favor of homebuilders than constituents

While my state representative John Kuempel has been ignoring the pleas of his constituents in Guadalupe County for stronger consumer protection for homebuyers he’s been busy currying favor with homebuilders by getting HB 1503 passed. That’s a bill which adds seats for those builders on the advisory boards that oversee licensing of electrical and air conditioning contractors.

Rather than tell the likes of DR Horton and Pulte Homes that it’s unacceptable to sell homes so poorly built that their slabs break into pieces in as little as two years John Kuempel has arranged for these builders to add more power to their already outsized influence with the specialty subcontractors they need to build homes. Remember homebuilders aren’t licensed like electricians and plumbers, they don’t have to pass any tests to show competence all they have to do is hang out a sign that says they’re a homebuilder.
We can all look forward to more shortcuts and substandard materials as the DR Horton, Pulte and their ilk exert pressure on electricians and air conditioning contractors through their new seats on the licensing boards. If like me you’re appalled by Kuempel’s disregard for his constituents in favor of big money campaign donors I urge you to call his office at 512-463-0602 and let him know you want him to support the home buyers lemon law HB 1887.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Expanding Medicaid good for Texas, great for Guadalupe County

Over 27,000 or more than 1 in 5 citizens of Guadalupe County has no medical insurance according to the nonpartisan Center for Public Policy Priorities and therefore will have restricted or no access to medical care and prescription medication. More than 5,500 of those who are uninsured are children. Gov. Perry has so far refused to accept federal funds available under the Affordable Care Act that expand Medicaid to cover more than 15,000 additional people here in Guadalupe County.

Regardless of how you feel about the man in the White House or whether you think the Affordable Care Act should be repealed don’t you think that Guadalupe County and the rest of Texas should have the opportunity to draw down those funds for our citizens. It isn’t just health care for low income or out of work people we’re missing out on. It’s nearly $20 million a year which is enough to pay almost 400 additional medical professionals like Registered Nurses and family doctors. Just think of the economic impact of adding 400 more highly paid professionals to the local market, that’s new customers for everything from restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores and auto dealers to clothing stores, bakeries and convenience stores.

If Texas doesn’t participate in expanding Medicaid those dollars just go to other states to make their plans more generous. If Rick Perry let’s that happen isn’t that like cutting off your nose to spite your face?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Rep. Kuempel fails to serve his constituents

State Representative John Kuempel is more interested in dogs and cats than he is in his own constituents. Homeowners all over Cibolo have been suffering from new homes with foundation failures caused by the shoddy construction practices of major home builders and we sought help from Rep. Kuempel. We asked him to file a bill in the Texas legislature to provide home buyers with the opportunity to have their lemon homes bought back by the builder when they have repeatedly failed to remedy significant problems.

Currently you have a more consumer protection when you buy a toaster than when you buy a home even though it is likely the largest single investment you’ll ever make.

I’ll bet you didn’t know that while you have to have a license to cut hair, operate a nail salon or drive a car, home builders aren’t required to have a license. Soon if Kuempel gets his will dog and cat dealers will be licensed and regulated but not home builders.

Cibolo Mayor Jennifer Hartman, Councilman Steve Liparoto, Guadalupe County Judge Larry Jones and Commissioner Jim Wolverton all supported us and urged Kuempel to file the bill. In the last days before the bill filing deadline he wouldn’t even meet with his constituents; instead he filed HB 1449, a bill to license and regulate dog and cat dealers.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

In education as in life "you get what you pay for"

We’re all familiar with the old adage “you get what you pay for” but Rick Perry and the Republican controlled legislature seem to think it doesn’t apply to public education in Texas. It should be no surprise that with Texas education funding lower per student than 45 other states we have high failure rates and many of those who do graduate from high school aren’t really prepared for college. Now District Judge John Dietz has ruled that state funding is so low as to be unconstitutional. The Republican leadership wants to drag things out by appealing the ruling to the state Supreme Court even though the ruling is consistent with what the Supreme Court said in 2005.

The Comptroller’s office has now reported that it has collected $8.8 billion more in taxes than projected in 2011 which could easily cover the $5.4 billion that the legislature cut from education funding in the last session but the Republican leadership is holding up using those funds with claims that we should wait and see what the Supreme Court says about Judge Dietz’s ruling.

Most school districts in the state have had to request waivers of the student to teacher ratio rules because they don’t have the money to hire enough teachers. Every year we delay adequate funding of public education we damage the children of Texas and their futures. Call you state legislator today and demand that they address education funding like the critical issue that it is.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What's more important to you, your right to a trial or your gun?

While the bed wetters among us are all outraged about supposed infringement on their Second Amendment rights I’m not hearing much from them or anyone else about a far more chilling government breach of our constitutional rights. President Obama has taken it upon himself to determine enemies of the state and sign off on the execution of American citizens without a shred of judicial oversight. This is beyond the Patriot Act which opened Americans to invasions of privacy such as national security letters to libraries and internet service providers demanding our records without our knowledge and beyond warrantless wiretaps. This is giving one man the power to snuff out the life of an American citizen anywhere in the world at any time without even a single hearing before a judge.

The gun crowd is dampening their drawers over concerns requiring background checks on every gun purchase and limiting magazines to 10 rounds somehow violates the Second Amendment that even arch-conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia thinks is a limited right. At the same time many of them are supportive of these extra-judicial killings of people who have not even killed anyone let alone another American. I’m a lot less worried about the government taking my gun away than I am being bombed by a drone; after all look how many people are denied air travel because the government put their name on the “No fly list” because their name sounds like some reputed terrorist.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Do you believe in the best government money can buy?

However you feel about the results of the 2012 election cycle you’re sure to have recognized that a lot of money was spent on both sides and much of it was by undisclosed very wealthy or corporate sources. Even when only the losing candidate received the benefit of those funds it sends a chilling message to other candidates near and far.

Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson spent nearly $150 million in the last cycle and has vowed to double his contributions in 2016. I don’t mind that Mr. Adelson is exceptionally wealthy but I do mind that he uses that vast wealth to buy my government. Are you comfortable with any one man being allowed to use that much money to influence your congressman or senator?

In the Texas legislature bills have been filed which say “Urging the United States Congress to propose and submit to the states for ratification an amendment to the United States Constitution that overturns Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, establishing that the spending of money to influence elections shall not be construed as speech under the First Amendment, and clarifying that only natural persons are protected by constitutional rights.” The bills are Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 by Sen. Rodney Ellis and House Concurrent Resolution 21 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, if you think unregulated and undisclosed money in our political process is bad for our democracy you should call your state legislators and ask them to support these two bills.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Cibolo City Council passes measures to protect future new home buyers

The Cibolo City Council passed a Surety Bond requirement for builders of new homes at the January 8 meeting that the members of Justice for Cibolo are very happy about. They also passed amendments to several parts of the building code to tighten up requirements so that buyers can be more certain of the quality of the construction of their new homes.

Far too many of us have found that the new homes we purchased just a few years ago were not built to the standard of quality we expected from nationally known companies. Some have had their foundations crack wide open all the way across the house both front to back and side to side. Others have suffered from pipes being pulled apart, walls cracking or ceilings pulling away from the walls among many other less severe problems. The builders have often claimed to have fixed the problem but in reality they’ve only put a bandaid on it as the problems have recurred a year later and then again a year after that.

Unfortunately the warranty the builders provide has so many exclusions as to be worthless and is unenforceable as well. Our Mayor and City Council aren’t satisfied with what they’ve accomplished so far and continue to work to provide future home buyers with other measures to hold unscrupulous builders accountable.

Thank you Mayor Hartman, Councilman Liparoto and the rest of the council and city staff for your efforts to protect Cibolo citizens and future citizens.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Even the IMF says austerity doesn't work

Television talking heads and Republican legislators have been screaming about the federal deficit since Obama took office in 2009. They keep telling us that the way out of the recession is to reduce taxes and cut spending also known as austerity.

Until this week we’d been operating for a decade under the lowest taxes in over half a century and that didn’t seem to generate jobs before or after the crash of the financial system. A couple of days ago the International Monetary Fund released a report that shows austerity doesn’t work either; in fact austerity actually makes things worse. That hasn’t stopped the conservative media from continuing to tout austerity in the U.S. as the solution to our problems.

What this nation really needs is not austerity or lower taxes it’s a full employment policy. We need to emphasize putting every able person to work in meaningful jobs so that they’re able to meet their responsibilities to feed and clothe their families and our society gets the benefit of the services and products they provide.