Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Does Anyone Else Notice These Things?

Headline: Home Prices Are Lowest Since 2002
National home prices fell 4% in the fourth quarter of 2011, putting them back at levels last seen in mid-2002. That's the fifth consecutive annual loss and the biggest decline since 2008, when markets were in free fall and prices plummeted more than 18%.

Headline:  Flights by U.S. airlines hit 10-year low
U.S. airlines in 2011 operated the fewest number of flights since the hijack attacks on New York and Washington depressed air travel and accelerated the industry's worst-ever financial downturn, government figures on Tuesday showed.

Headline: U.S. Bank Profits Rise but Revenue Falls
U.S. banks reported growing profits in the fourth quarter but also saw falling revenue, casting a shadow over the industry's gradual recovery, a bank regulator said.

Anyone? Professor Galbraith?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Proposed Changes to RPT Rules for Conventions/Delegates (discussed 22-Feb-2012)



The various orders of the federal three-judge panel in Perez v. Perry have postponed the 2012 general primary election to a date which makes it impossible for the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) to conduct the convention procedure set forth in the Texas Election Code and the Rules of the Republican Party of Texas (RPT Rules). RPT Rule 1 allows the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) to make temporary and emergency changes to the RPT Rules in the event judicial action makes the “conduct, operation, or implementation of [the] Rules … frustrated or impracticable, or contrary to their intent and purpose.” RULES OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OF TEXAS, Rule 1(c). These changes, if approved by the SREC, will be valid until such time they are ratified by the State Convention, or until the adjournment of the State Convention, whichever comes first. Id. However, pursuant to Section 163.006, Texas Election Code, any further amendments made to these Rules made by the State Convention which govern or affect the Republican Party of Texas’ general or runoff primary elections, conventions or nominees, would not be effective until January 1, 2013.


SECTION 1. Amends RPT Rule 13 to eliminate the quorum requirement to convene a County or Senatorial District Convention. Allows the maintenance of a quorum so long as the persons in attendance comprise more than fifty percent (50%) of the total voting strength of the Convention and a majority of the seated precincts are present.

SECTION 2. Strikes RPT Rule 19 and inserts a new RPT Rule 19A allowing for a Local Option Precinct Convention. A county executive committee (CEC), by two-thirds (2/3) vote may elect to hold precinct conventions in their county under the RPT Rules in effect on October 2, 2011, provided that that vote occur not later than fourteen (14) days prior to the date scheduled for county and senatorial district conventions, and further provided that the CEC publicize the local option precinct convention among all Republican voters in the county by, at a minimum, posting the date, time, and location(s) of such convention(s) on the county party’s website and email list, and providing a copy to the State Chairman for posting on the RPT website no later than seven (7) days prior to the date proposed for the local option precinct convention. If the county party has neither a website nor an email list, the CEC must publish an advertisement in a newspaper of general circulation in the county by the same deadline. Failure to comply with the notice provision precludes the county from holding a local option precinct convention. In the event a local option precinct convention is held in the county, the RPT Rules in effect on October 2, 2011 that govern precinct conventions and the selection of delegates to county and senatorial district conventions shall be used in that county instead of those Rules as amended in this amendment.

SECTION 3. Strikes RPT Rules governing the conduct of precinct conventions.

SECTION 4. Amends RPT Rule 23 to remove language relating to precinct conventions.

SECTION 5. Amends RPT Rule 23A to clarify that the 2010 General Election precincts will be used in conducting County or Senatorial District Conventions. In the event a senate district splits a 2010 precinct, the State Chairman shall provide maps and delegate allocation totals to County Chairmen for use in the convention process. Provides that if no valid districts exist for senate districts one week prior to the date for senatorial district conventions (as determined by closure of the reopened filing period) all counties shall only have county conventions and delegates/alternates from those counties to the State Convention shall be chosen in a manner that ensures geographic distribution of those delegates/alternates is roughly proportional to the geographic distribution of the votes cast for the Republican nominee in the last gubernatorial election. In this event assignment to senate and congressional districts will be made at the State Convention. Sets out a voting strength of 1 vote for every 25 votes cast for the Republican nominee in the last gubernatorial election for each precinct at the County or Senatorial District Convention regardless of the number of persons present from that precinct. Eliminates the cap on State Convention delegates and alternates, and option for CECs and Senatorial District Executive Committees (SDEC) to modify delegate allotments. Provides that delegates and alternates will be assigned to congressional districts at the State Convention

SECTION 6. Amends RPT Rule 24 to remove language relating to precinct conventions.

SECTION 7. Amends RPT Rule 25 to establish that participants in a convention must be a registered voter who has affiliated with the Republican Party. Affiliation may be accomplished by voting in the Republican General Primary or by oath. Specifies oath prescribed by Texas Election Code, and provides that the oath may be executed orally or in writing, provided however that a written record, including a person’s signature, full name, permanent address, and voter unique identification number (VUID) must be maintained of all persons executing the oath and included in the minutes of a convention. The written record shall be certified by the Permanent Chairman and Permanent Secretary of the convention and three copies prepared and delivered to the County Chairman, State Chairman and chief elections officer of the county. Additionally an electronic list of all VUIDs of participants must be sent to the State Chairman. Provides that the oath must be accompanied by a notice of criminal penalty for participating in another party’s convention or primary in the same voting year. Disqualifies a person who participates in another party’s primary or convention from serving as a delegate, alternate, party officer, or nominee of the Republican Party at any level for the remainder of the voting year. Removes language relating to precinct conventions. Requires each CEC to publicize the County or Senatorial District Convention among all Republican voters in the county by, at a minimum, posting the date, time, and location(s) of such convention(s) on the county party’s website and email list, and providing a copy to the State Chairman for posting on the RPT website no later than seven (7) days prior to the date set for the convention. If the county party has neither a website nor an email list, the CEC must publish an advertisement in a newspaper of general circulation in the county by the same deadline.

SECTION 8. Amends RPT Rule 26 to remove language relating to precinct conventions.

SECTION 9. Amends RPT Rule 27 to remove language relating to credential challenges of precinct delegates. Provides that credential challenges of county/senatorial district delegates must be made within seven (7) days of the county or senatorial district convention.

SECTION 10. Amends RPT Rule 28 to provide for county conventions in all counties in the event senatorial districts are not set, as evidenced by the close of filing for the general primary, one week prior to the date set for county or senatorial district conventions.

SECTION 11. Amends RPT Rule 29 to remove language relating to precinct conventions and delegates.

SECTION 12. Amends RPT Rule 30 to require administration of the Oath of Affiliation as the first item of business at the County or Senatorial District Convention. Requires a roll call of precincts represented. Requires the announcement of the separate and combined voting strength of each precinct. Removes the Report of the Credentials Committee as an agenda item.

SECTION 13. Amends RPT Rule 32 to require that state delegate and alternate lists include a VUID for each delegate and alternate and be submitted in electronic form to RPT.

SECTION 14. Amends RPT Rule 33 to allow electronic mailing of convention call to delegates and alternates. Requires SREC members to recommend temporary committee members and caucus chairs within 10 days of the County and Senatorial District Conventions.

SECTION 15. Amends RPT Rule 38 to provide that withdrawn or deceased presidential candidates votes be deemed votes for uncommitted delegates and alternates; deletes language relating to replacement of delegates of withdrawn or deceased presidential candidates. Deletes language relating to assignment of uncommitted and committed delegates and alternates at State Convention. Requires the State Chairman, upon the SREC’s canvass of the presidential primary, to assign delegates in proportion to the statewide presidential vote. Clarifies that RNC members are uncommitted delegates. Provides for announcement of vote at national convention on a directly proportional basis related to the statewide presidential vote, with no poll taken of members for announcement of the vote. Allows for replacement of vacant delegate and alternate positions by the Chairman of the National Nominations Committee of the State Convention. Requires that delegates and alternates affiliate with the Republican Party by oath or voting in the Republican Primary.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

McCormick & Schmick's Exits Congress Location; Have You Noticed All the Others?

My wife and I enjoyed going to the downtown McCormick & Schmick's for our anniversary, Valentines Day or other special occasions. It was fun going downtown and the food was great. We loved the hustle and bustle of our great capitol. From 2004 to 2011, our time in Austin, we went there many times.

We just learned though that M&S downtown, at the corner of 4th and Congress has closed. Sad day.

Even sadder though is the fact that M&S isn't alone. Walk down Congress and notice what I noticed last week, that store after store has gone out of business and empty store fronts are now more numerous than operating businesses. I can't name them because I am not the frequent shopper or downtown walker now, but at one time I was, when I worked downtown on fourth and Congress, across from M&S. When I'd walk to meetings I always noticed the stores because I love the buildings up and down Congress, and I liked the businesses that fit their stores to the neat architectural diversity on the main street of our state Capitol.

I don't work downtown anymore and only infrequently get down there for various business meetings. But last week I had the chance to walk from the Starbucks on 6th and Congress to 823 Congress. I just happened to be looking around and started to notice the empty storefronts and I mentioned something to one of colleagues. They hadn't really noticed it, but they weren't at one time a downtown walker, like me.

My point is simply this. Something is going on, and it ain't good. Downtown -- on its main street of Congress just south of the Capitol is dying right now.

Wondering if any other Travis Monitor readers are seeing the same where they live or shop or walk? Please let us know. I sure hope this is an isolated situation. I fear that the Obama economy is slowly starting to hit the once prosperous, vibrant, downtown business corridor, as evidenced by the dearth of downtown store fronts. Say it ain't so.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Kay Bailey Hutchinson Responds to Constituent Letter about Obama Assault on Religious Liberty of Catholics

Dear Friend:
     Thank you for contacting me about protecting religious freedom and individual rights of conscience.  I appreciate your thoughts and comments.

     Like you, I am outraged and concerned about recently issued federal regulations that would deprive Americans of important aspects of constitutionally protected religious freedom.  I support legislation that would restore and protect these important, constitutionally guaranteed rights.

     All three branches of the federal government -- the Supreme Court, Congress, and a succession of presidents -- have recognized that individuals should not be required to engage in certain activities that conflict with their religious beliefs or moral convictions.  For instance, the 1973 Church Amendment provides that individuals and health care entities receiving federal health care funds may not be required to perform abortions or sterilization procedures if the procedures conflict with their personal or religious beliefs.  The amendment also prohibits federal grantees from discriminating against employees who decline to participate in services that they find morally objectionable.

     The Obama administration, however, recently issued a final regulation (under the sweeping health care law enacted in 2010) that requires organizations to include a wide range of free, FDA-approved contraceptive and sterilization services under the private-insurance coverage plans offered to their workers.  This regulation, which is to take effect in August 2013, requires faith-based organizations, universities, and other non-profits to do so, even in direct conflict with religious beliefs or moral principles.

     Two Senate bills have been introduced that seek to reverse the new regulation and reinforce freedom of religion and rights of conscience.  Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced S. 1467, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011, which would amend the 2010 health care law to permit a health plan to decline coverage, without any penalty, of specific services that are contrary to the religious beliefs of the sponsor.  I support the thrust of this legislation, which is currently being reviewed by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, on which I do not serve.

     I have cosponsored Senator Marco Rubio's (R-FL) bill, S. 2043, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012.  It is a more narrowly focused approach that would prohibit the federal government from penalizing an organization or an individual for choosing not to provide contraceptive or sterilization services as part of its health insurance plan.

     Please be assured that I will keep your views in mind as these bills are considered by the Senate.  I appreciate hearing from you.  Please do not hesitate to contact me again about any issue that is important to you.

Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senator

284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC  20510
202-224-5922 (tel)
202-224-0776 (fax)

Monday, February 6, 2012

More on the Attacks on Religious Liberty

In her Saturday column (A Battle the President Can't Win) in the Wall Street Journal this weekend, Peggy Noonan put the President's attack on Catholic religious liberty in perspective this weekend:

The president signed off on a Health and Human Services ruling that says that under ObamaCare, Catholic institutions—including charities, hospitals and schools—will be required by law, for the first time ever, to provide and pay for insurance coverage that includes contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization procedures. If they do not, they will face ruinous fines in the millions of dollars. Or they can always go out of business.
In other words, the Catholic Church was told this week that its institutions can't be Catholic anymore.

I invite you to imagine the moment we are living in without the church's charities, hospitals and schools. And if you know anything about those organizations, you know it is a fantasy that they can afford millions in fines.
There was no reason to make this ruling—none. Except ideology.

The conscience clause, which keeps the church itself from having to bow to such decisions, has always been assumed to cover the church's institutions.
And the Media Research Center has been following the mainstream news channels coverage of the Obama administration's suppression of Catholic religious liberties. Actually, it's not coverage. It's non-coverage. If you haven't been hearing about it, there's a reason. See:

CBS Avoids Catholic Clash with Obama, Focuses on Church Being Stolen Blind
Nets Rush to Defend Planned Parenthood, Ignore Catholics Dispute with Obama
Network Newscasts Blackout of Mandate on Catholics Continues, But Sunday Talk Shows Take It Up
Enjoy it when it happens to you too!