CAPITOL UPDATE
From the Office of State Senator Troy Fraser

For Immediate Release
March, 2006
Contact: Daniel Womack
(512) 463-0124

Dear Fellow Texan--

Next Tuesday, March 7th, Texans will have the opportunity to go to the polls and vote. Fittingly, early voting began the day after President's Day, a day when all Americas reflect on the blessings that we have received from the wise men who have led our country. Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln -- all the men we honor on Presidents Day -- were firm believers in the founding principles of our country. Those principles rely on the doctrine that people must vote in order for our country to remain strong and free.

By voting, we are clearly taking part in democracy in action. 230 years ago, as our forefathers met in Philadelphia, they understood the important connection between the people and their government, and they built a nation on that principle. After all, they began this great country with "we the people".

The framers put into writing, so there could be no doubt, the notion that the people were creating the Constitution. They understood that the government must be of the people and by the people. They understood that the essential ingredient to our democracy was the participation of the people, and they knew that this new democracy would function best as long as the citizenry was active.

Thomas Jefferson once said, "I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves." Jefferson knew as well that the power rests with the people, and he knew it should be done no other way.

The framers placed a duty and responsibility on all of us, not just to hope for good government, but to be involved in ensuring good government.

I want to encourage all Texans to understand their voting rights and responsibilities. Take the first step by becoming an informed voter, and then go to the polls and cast your ballot next week.

WHAT'S NEW

•  Senate Committees are beginning to meet and study their interim charges. The Senate Finance Committee met on February 22 and heard testimony regarding the state's savings through a new federal drug program, and the difficulties Texas pharmacists are having in switching over to the federal system. Beginning on January 1, 2006, the federal government implemented a new plan to cover most of the cost of providing prescription drugs to Medicare members. Known as "Medicare Part D", this program replaces the states' responsibility for paying for drugs for retirees who are also Medicaid eligible.

According to Legislative Budget Board analysts, the state will see savings of about $400 million per year in its Medicare budget. Most of these savings, however, will be sent back to the federal government to offset its cost in providing drug coverage. After sending back this money, and paying for other miscellaneous costs to the federal government related to Medicare Part D, Texas should save about 10 percent of its annual Medicare budget.

•  " In an on-going effort to plan for the upcoming special session on education reform, the Senate Select Committee on Education Reform and Public School Finance continues to hear testimony on a variety of educational issues.

The committee met on February 27th and heard testimony regarding the pros and cons of providing incentive pay for exemplary teachers. Proponents of these plans say that paying excellent teachers more money will encourage better qualified, more skilled teachers to stay in the public school system, while decreasing the number of unsatisfactory teachers. Those with concerns about this plan say that it is hard to come up with objective standards for all teachers, and because of this, some teachers who are effective and skilled might not be identified for increased merit pay.

ELSEWHERE

•  The use of high-speed Internet services is growing fast in rural America, partly closing the gap between country and city, a survey shows. Last fall, 24% of rural Americans had broadband Internet access at home, more than double the 9% rate reported in 2003, according to a survey released Sunday by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

By comparison, 39% of urban and suburban dwellers had broadband last fall, up from 22% in 2003.

However, rural Americans who have broadband Internet are almost as likely as others to use it on a given day. Adding in people who use dial-up or access the Internet only at work, 62% of country dwellers use the Internet, compared with 70% elsewhere. Rural Internet users are slightly more likely than others to participate in online education and to download games.

The project surveyed 5,262 U.S. adults in September and December last year. The margin of sampling error was 3 percentage points in either direction. The Pew Internet and American Life Project is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The project studies the social and civic effects of the Internet.

•  Much of Texas has been under an extreme wildfire threat due to dry, windy conditions. A burn ban, which prohibits most outdoor burning, has affected about 200 counties this winter.

TCEQ rules prohibit most types of outdoor burning, with some exceptions. Also, many local governments have ordinances restricting outdoor burning.

With our severe dry conditions, there are alternatives to burning as a means of waste disposal. Here are some practical solutions:

Recycling -- Separate salvageable metal from other material and sell it to a salvage yard. The salvage yard will take the material to a scrap metal recycler.

Composting -- Much of the waste from landscape maintenance can be composted on-site easily and cleanly.

Mechanical chipping or mulching -- Debris from land clearing or tree trimming is often handled on-site. A wood chipper can turn discarded wood into mulch, which is used for soil enrichment, or just reduce the volume of waste that must be disposed of. Some landfills have chippers for handling wood waste, and certain small landfills accept brush.

For more information on outdoor burning, TCEQ has guidance documents on the outdoor burning rule at www.tceq.state.tx.us/publications and enter "burn" in the keyword field. You can also contact TCEQ at 800-447-2827.

•  On February 14th, Governor Perry launched the third annual Texas Round-Up, a fitness challenge to encourage Texans to make exercise and healthy lifestyle choices a part of their daily routine. Perry urged Texans to begin their participation by logging onto the Texas Round-Up website (www.texasroundup.org). The website helps participants begin an online training program to track their progress, as well as access training tips and advice. Gov. Perry will send a signed certificate to everyone who completes the online training program.

NOTEWORTHY ITEMS

•  Thursday, March 2nd, is Texas Independence Day and we will celebrate 170 great years of Texas history.

Two years ago, a Texas General Land Office archivist found the eight-page document that is believed to be the first draft of the Republic of Texas Constitution. That document has returned temporarily to its birthplace 100 miles east of Austin on the bank of the Brazos River, where in March 1836, 59 delegates from Texas gathered to pledge independence from Mexico.

The Constitution, along with the only handwritten copy of the Texas Declaration of Independence still in existence, a diary of convention proceedings and Spanish versions of the constitution and declaration will be on public display together for the first time at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site. The exhibit opens Thursday, March 2nd and runs through March 16 at the historic site's Star of the Republic Museum.

The constitution, the declaration and other documents were all penned within a few weeks in March 1836, a time of great uncertainty about the Texas revolution's prospects for success. No one signed the draft, but there is no doubt that it was written by Herbert Kimble, secretary of the 1836 convention, said Jerry Drake, director of archives and records for the land office.

It's unclear how the draft, complete with strike-throughs and inserts, came to the land office. Another mystery: No final draft of the constitution is known to exist. One theory is that the final version was lost after it was published in newspapers.

The delegates who assembled in a primitive frame building along the Brazos included such icons as Sam Houston, leader of the revolution's military forces who would become the first president of the fledgling republic.

The Declaration of Independence, which sought to sever Texas from Mexico, was adopted on March 2, 1836. The first draft of the constitution, setting forth the outlines of a new government, is thought to have been written March 7. The Alamo fell on March 6.

The delegates learned of the Alamo's fate on March 15 and brazenly adopted the constitution the next day. Independence wasn't secured until the Texians, as they called themselves, overcame Santa Anna and his forces at San Jacinto on April 21.

CONCLUSION

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need assistance with a state agency or wish to voice an opinion on any matter before the Texas Legislature. I always appreciate hearing from you.

I hope to see you soon.

Sincerely,

Troy Fraser
State Senator
District 24

FREQUENTLY ASKED VOTING QUESTIONS:

Q: I'm not registered, but want to vote in the March Primary election; how can I be sure that I'm registered in time to vote?

  A: The deadline to register and be eligible to vote in the March 7, 2006 Primary election was February 6, 2006. If you missed this deadline you can still register to vote in the November General Election. To request a postage-paid voter registration application: http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/reqvr.shtml

Q: I am registered to vote, but I moved this past year. Is there anything I need to do to make sure that I won't have a problem voting in March?

  A: If you moved within the same county where you are currently registered, you must file the new address information in writing with your voter registrar OR you may submit the 'in county" change online at: http://www.texasonline.state.tx.us/NASApp/sos/SOSACManager. The last day to make a change of address that will be effective for the March 7, 2006 election was February 6, 2006. If you missed this deadline, you may return to your old precinct to vote, but you will be required to complete a "statement of residence" confirming your new address in your new precinct. If you moved to a new county, you must have re-registered in your new county of residence by February 6, 2006 to be eligible to vote in the March 7, 2006 Primary election. If you missed this deadline, you may be eligible to vote a "limited" ballot. Contact the county clerk or elections administrator in your new county for information. For address/phone number of County Clerk/Elections Administrator: http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/county.shtml

Q: can't find my voter certificate/card. Will I be able to vote without it?

  A: If you are a registered voter and you have lost or misplaced your voter certificate, you may vote without your certificate by providing some form of identification (see list below) and signing an affidavit at the polls. This is the procedure to follow if your voter registration is still current and your name appears on the voter rolls in your county of residence. You may also contact your county voter registrar to obtain a replacement certificate. Acceptable documents are:

Q: Election Day, March 7, 2006, and I'm registered and ready to vote. Where do I go? What are the hours for voting on Election Day?

  A: Election-day polling place information can be obtained by contacting the County Clerk or Elections Administrator in your county of registration. You may also want to check your local newspaper for a list of locations. The hours of voting on Election Day are 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. For address/phone number of County Clerk/Elections Administrator: http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/county.shtml

HOW TO CONTACT SENATOR TROY FRASER
Austin Capitol Office
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711
(512) 463-0124
FAX: (512) 475-3732
Marble Falls District Office
607 B Highway 281 North
Marble Falls, Texas 78654
(830) 693-9900
FAX: (830) 693-9603
Abilene District Office
500 Chestnut Street, Suite 810
Abilene, Texas 79602
(325) 676-7404
FAX: (325) 676-8060
Belton District Office
1920 North Main Street
Suite 101
Belton, Texas 76513
(254) 939-3562
FAX: (254) 939-7611
Email: troy.fraser@senate.state.tx.us

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