Homeland Security to oversee crowded Iowa caucus site

December 30th, 2011 at 7:22 pm by under Politics

UNI Dome, site of next week's largest caucus in Iowa (University of Northern Iowa)

If you want to know how serious the Iowa Caucus is for voters there next Tuesday, just turn your attention to the Black Hawk County Republicans. During this presidential race, they will hold the largest caucus in the state, which has come with its fair share of challenges.

“We tried it back in 2008 and it was a debacle,” Judd Saul, BHCR spokesman and Cedar Valley Tea Party leader, told KXAN by email Friday. “We expected 1,000, and 3,000 showed up. It snowed ten inches, and the candidates were blocked in snow and cars.”

This year, Saul expects 6,000 Republicans to turn out, so they will hold their caucus at the University of Northern Iowa’s UNI Dome in Cedar Falls.

Saul said, because of the sheer size of the event and concern from the Republican Party of Iowa, the Department of Homeland Security stepped in to oversee matters.

“This time, it’s at the largest venue in Black Hawk County and will be able to hold more than enough people,” he said, knowing all wards and precincts will be under one roof.

Traffic jam averted. Crowd secured. But what about the weather?

“(It’s) snowing (now) but not staying,” he added. “It’s supposed to 45 degrees on Tuesday.”

Check out the map below to see how organizers will squeeze everyone into the arena.

Watson elected leader of Senate Democrats

June 28th, 2011 at 5:06 pm by under Politics

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin (Texas Senate)

As Texas Senators called sine die – adjourning their end of the special session – on Tuesday, it was revealed that Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, will become the new chairman of the upper chamber’s Democratic Caucus. He replaces Sen. Leticia Van de Puttee, D-San Antonio, who served in that position for eight years.

“I’m honored that my colleagues have entrusted their chairmanship to me, and I look forward to getting to work,” said Watson, a former Austin mayor, after the unanimous vote of his fellow members.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio (Texas Senate)

Van de Putte is set to transition into the role of President Pro Tempore in the next legislative session. She will take over for Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, saying to remain in the two positions would “present conflicts.” She has been in charge of the caucus since 2003, when she led Democrats during a 46-day break in quorum during mid-decade Congressional redistricting by Republicans.

Texas Senate suspends rules for quick voter ID vote

January 26th, 2011 at 12:55 pm by under Politics

The Texas Senate suspended its rules on Wednesday to speed up the process on a Voter ID bill. Senate Democrats met in a closed-door caucus to discuss the matter earlier in the afternoon. Normal rules prevent Senators from having a final debate less than 24 hours after a bill passes committee.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, who is chairs the caucus, was seen speaking to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst during the morning’s resolutions on the floor. She and a handful of Capitol staffers later said they were in “negotiations” about speeding up the process. This would most likely deal with the 26 amendments filed for the bill.

Democrats have criticized the bill from the start, even stalling and eventually killing a previous version in the last session in the House. They say it disenfranchises certain groups – mainly the elderly, the poor, and minorities – from taking part in the voting process. The debate is not a new one, with lawmakers battling it out in 2007, 2005, and 2003. Democrats prevailed in the past, but it is generally expected the bill will pass through both chambers now due to the overwhelming GOP majority.

Republicans maintain that it would protect the integrity of the “ballot box,” preventing voter fraud. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, passed through Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole with 20 Republicans in favor and 12 Democrats against. Dewhurst voted in favor of the bill.

Democrats argue the bill could violate the federal Voting Rights Act. Fraser says he modeled it after an Indiana law, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld.

The fight against the Texas bill has moved beyond state lawmakers. This morning, Van de Putte’s office received a letter from the U.S. Democratic delegation:

We are saddened that the promulgation of a misguided voter identification law has been given precedence in the 2011 Texas Legislative agenda over education, job creation, and providing Texans with access to affordable, quality health care. The people of Texas deserve to have their legislature focus your time on issues that will improve their lives, rather than one which is more likely to worsen them.

Study after study has found almost no evidence of organized voter fraud is a pressing problem for Texas. But we know with certainty that voter identification laws prevent eligible voters from exercising their constitutional rights. Research has shown that a law like SB 14 would disenfranchise tens or even hundreds of thousands of Texans, the majority of them people of color, senior citizens, the disabled, students, and low income voters.

We write to urge the Texas Senate to redirect its efforts toward legislation which would better serve your constituents and the State of Texas. There is so much good you can do. Please, oppose SB 14.

Without suspending the rules, Senators would not have been able to begin final debate until 9:20 p.m. If that was the case, some senators have said it could continue until anywhere from 2 to 4 a.m. There are 37 amendments to week through before a vote could come.

House Republican Caucus to select nominee for speaker

December 29th, 2010 at 2:08 pm by under Politics

Rep. Larry Taylor, R-League City (Courtesy: Texas House of Representatives)

Just one day before the Texas legislative session begins next month, Republican House members will meet to select a Republican nominee for Speaker of the House. Rep. Larry Taylor, R-League City, who is also the chairman of the House Republican Caucus, set the meeting after ten members joined together to force the GOP group to convene.

Earlier this month, Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, who is running for speaker, announced he had collected the ten signatures necessary for such a meeting.

“Under Republican caucus rules, once we submit this letter, the caucus Chairman, Rep. Larry Taylor, must call a caucus within seven days,” Chisum said.

Originally calling for a January 5 meeting, Chisum had the support of the following other members on that list: Representatives Allen Fletcher, Dan Flynn, Kelly Hancock, Rick Hardcastle, Charlie Howard, Phil King, Geanie Morrison, Debbie Riddle, and Randy Weber.

Conservatives Chisum and Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, are up against current Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, who is considered a much more moderate.

“We need a Republican caucus to meet and select one conservative candidate for Speaker of the House,” Chisum said. “The voters of Texas have elected a strong overwhelming majority of Republicans to the Texas House of Representatives. We need to respond to the will of the voters and work together to select a single Republican nominee for Speaker.”

While this method is one way the majority party can select its designated nominee, some critics say it would essentially shut out the Democratic Party from speaker selection process, which could be to the benefit of Chisum or Paxton. As a more moderate Republican in an election where all members took part instead of a caucus nomination, Straus easily won Democratic votes in 2009.

Citing, in part, conversations with members planning to use their last week in their home districts speaking with constituents on pending issues before the session, Taylor chose to set a date more convenient for most.

“It should be very interesting,” Taylor told KXAN. “It’s a lot happening.”

The House Republican Caucus will meet on Monday, January 10, at 1:30 p.m. in a hearing room at the Reagan Building in Austin.