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COMMON EXPERIENCE SERIES “Civic Responsibility and the Legacy of LBJ” Texas State University Evans Auditorium 8 p.m.,Thursday, March 12 Admission Free Music and Dance in Commemoration of the Centennial of the Birth of TSU Alumnus President Lyndon B. Johnson Featuring and Directed by Composer/Pianist Dr Wayne Oquin with Students,Alumni and Faculty of The Juilliard School Including Wayne Oquin’s ‘A Time to Break Silence: Songs inspired by the Words and Writ ings of Martin Luther King, Jr.” & readings from LBJ 2007; the other requires schools to use the most energy-efficient lightbulbs they can find. The issue, says Koenning, is cost. Several school districts in Patrick’s district had to spend a lot of money to comply with the measures, he says, particularly Klein ISD. Klein energy manager Allan Scott says the district was indeed “one of the worst” energy-wise before it began to comply with the mandates. So far, Klein has spent more than $1 million meeting the energy-consumption goal, not counting the several million dollars needed to complete the lighting retrofit. That investment is not without a payoff: In the 2007-08 school year, the Klein district used 8 percent less electricity than the year before, and saved about $1 million on electric bills. In the Austin ISD, which completed a lighting retrofit earlier this decade, facilities director Paul Turner says the schools are paying roughly $3 million less on utilities than five years agodespite rising electricity costs. The lighting, he says, is “low-hanging fruit”and a critical change, since lighting accounts for 30 to 40 percent of a district’s electric bill. Patrick’s legislation takes aim at one other mandate: the requirement that districts conduct school-bus evacuation training for students and teachers. Koenning says Patrick wants this requirement stricken because some districts with few or no buses have had to rent buses and hire trainers to comply with the law. The senator, he says, is just looking out for the districts’ bottom lines. “There’s no question that these [mandates] can be cumbersome and expensive,” says Joe Bean, spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association. “The way to deal with this is not to remove these sensible requirements, but to revise the school funding so we can pay for them.” And that, folks, is an issue for another day. Susan Peterson CALIFORNIA, HERE WE COME House Joint Resolution 52 Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney In the opening days of the current session, Senate Republicans made it clear they don’t want traditional consensus-building rules to stop them from passing pet legislation like Voter ID. They know how difficult getting a two-thirds “supermajority” can be. Meanwhile, in the House, Rep. Ken Paxton is among the Republicans trying to create new supermajority rules. The motivation? Fear of taxation. Paxton’s House Joint Resolution 52 proposes a constitutional amendment requiring a four-fifths majority in both chambers to create an income tax or, down the road, to increase the tax. “Not having a state income tax attracts businesses and qualified workers to our state:’ Paxton says. “Texas’ economy continues to grow at a time when most other states, particularly those with a state income tax, are suffering. In order to maintain our competitive edge, I have filed HJR 52 to make the passage of a state income tax even more difficult in Texas.” Fellow Republicans Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson of Waco and Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas have filed similarly spirited legislation, HJR 30 and HJR 16, respectively, requiring supermajorities for increasing the franchise tax. Branch calls for four-fifths, while Anderson sets his sights on a two-thirds supermajority. There is a model for such measures: California, which requires a two-thirds supermajority to raise taxes, and even to pass a budget. There, supermajority requirements have tied legislators’ hands as they’ve tried to respond to a $42 billion budget shortfall. In a December editorial, the Los Angeles Times wrote, “We’ve been reticent to fully support an end to the supermajority requirement. That’s over. It has become abundantly clear that California can no longer function with a supermajority requirement.” Though its situation isn’t as dire as California’s, Texas is no stranger to budget shortfalls. And there are already multiple hurdles to enacting an income tax. Voters would have to approve a personal income tax in a state referendum; they’d also have to OK any subsequent increases in the tax rate. Rep. Tan Parker, a Flower Mound Republican, floated a proposal in the last session requiring a two-thirds majority to approve an income-tax referendum. The nonprofit Center for Public Policy Priorities wrote at the time that the proposal would “introduce an unnecessary additional barrier to voter consideration of a personal income tax, undermining the principle of majority rule.” Reeve Hamilton MARCH 6, 2009 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21