AND YOU’LL BE HAPPY TO HEAR THAT WERE PUTTING THE FLAG-BURNING AMENDMENT AT THE TOP OF OUR LEGISLATIVE AGENDA… -3?2,44:zu Gaz, Frist Things Frist over to the dark side and joined the tobacco lobby. CUT FROM THE TAX CUT Times are tough for many elderly and disabled Texans. Rising energy prices have been hard on low-income seniors, and the state no longer helps them pay their electricity bills. Then there are the many cuts to social service programs for the elderly and disabled since 2003. In this era of Republican rule, seniors could at least look forward to a nice fat tax cut, right? Well, no, actually. In the just finished special session, the Legislature passed a bill that will cut local school property taxes by an estimated $15.7 billion during the next three years. But more than a million elderly and disabled Texans weren’t included in the bill and won’t see any of those savings. The reason for this gets a bit complex. Many elderly and disabled homeowners already pay lower school property taxes. Because they’re a more vul nerable population, many elderly and disabled homeowners had their rates frozen at a $1.33 per $100 of property, while other homeowners saw their rates drift up to the cap of $1.50. Now the elderly and disabled are being punished for that special treatment. Because their rates were frozen, they needed a special provision in the tax cut billand a constitutional amendmentto realize the one-third reduction in tax rates that most everyone else will receive. That may sound like a lot of legislative work, but it’s not all that much if the GOP leadership is behind it. Therein lies the problem. attached the necessary rider to the tax cut bill and filed the constitutional amendment, only to see those efforts die in the Senate. In a press conference the day after the session, Naishtat blamed House Speaker Tom Craddick for leaving 1.2 million elderly homeowners and 146,945 disabled homeowners on the cutting room floor. Dewhurst countered that it wasn’t logistically feasible to pass the constitutional amendment in time for the 2007 tax year. So Dewhurst said the Senate decided to put off the issue until the 2007 regular session that begins in January. That means, even if the Lege does eventually include the elderly and disabled, they likely won’t see any tax cuts until 2009. A DOSE OF COMPASSION Few courts in the land may be more hostile to defendants than the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The state’s high court for criminal cases has made a national reputation for harshness. Justice Sharon Keller even contended on PBS’s Frontline recently that a man exonerated by DNA evidence should remain jailed. Death row inmates looking for leniency from the nine justices usually have little chance of receiving it. But for about five minutesby justice system standardsin early May, the continued on page 18 JUNE 2, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5
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