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TAB News Briefs
Jan. 6, 2009
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Craddick Out of Speaker Race
from The Marshall News Messenger
Embattled Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick gave up his speaker re-election bid Sunday night as San Antonio Republican Rep. Joe Straus released the names of his 88 supporters, mostly Democrats. Many of Craddick's allies, however, vowed to fight on behind the candidacy of Amarillo Republican John Smithee after emerging from a meeting at Sullivan's Steakhouse in downtown Austin on Sunday night. They argued that the dynamic of the race is different now that Craddick and his political baggage are out and Smithee is in. And presumably Smithee starts with almost four times as many Republicans as Straus has on his list. More

StrucSure

How the House Speaker's Race Was Won
from The Austin American-Statesman
San Antonio Republican Joe Straus III claimed victory Monday in his improbable quest to be speaker of the Texas House at a crowded press conference that took on the air of a coronation. After a weekend of events overran Speaker Tom Craddick's re-election bid, the number of Straus' supporters swelled to more than 100, and Craddick's last-minute fill-in, Amarillo Republican John Smithee, withdrew his speaker bid. It was a meteoric rise, considering that Straus was the most junior lawmaker in a crowd of speaker wannabes and that his candidacy began less than 72 hours earlier. In fact, Straus first claimed victory Sunday night before state officials could return to work Monday and pluck his official candidacy papers out of the agency's fax machine. More

Joe Straus' Trip to Becoming Texas House Speaker Was Wild Ride
from The Dallas Morning News
Joe Straus’ wild ride to the top of the House started with a routine drive from San Antonio to Austin, alone in his car on a gorgeous Friday afternoon. The third-term Republican told his wife, Julie, that he was going to a meeting and would be home for the weekend. “I’ve been home once,” he said Monday, during an announcement that he had the support of the Texas House majority to become the next speaker. More

Central Texas Housing Starts Decline
from The Austin American-Statesman
Tight credit and spiraling consumer confidence have forced new home construction in Central Texas to the lowest level since 1997. Austin-area homebuilders started construction on 8,987 houses in 2008, down 34 percent from 2007, according to data released Wednesday by market researcher Residential Strategies Inc. The group also reported that starts for the fourth quarter plunged 51 percent from a year earlier to 1,459. More

San Antonio Senator Seeks to Pull Straight Ticket Voting from Ballots
from The Austin American-Statesman
Nearly six in 10 Texas voters in November sided entirely with Democratic or Republican candidates - welcome news to strategists who used mailings and telephone calls to urge straight-party support. "If we can get more folks to vote for more Republicans by punching a lever, we'd put our team against the others any day," said Bech Bruun , spokesman for the Republican Party of Texas' victory committee. Hector Nieto , spokesman for the Texas Democratic Party, called it "a good thing for both parties." But in the legislative session starting Jan. 13, Republican state Sen. Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio plans a second run at deleting the straight-ticket option from Texas ballots. His repeal proposal didn't advance in 2007. More

Gov. Appoints Head of Disaster Recovery
from The Dallas Business Journal
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has appointed Ellen Witt, former deputy attorney general for legal counsel in the Office of the Attorney General of Texas, as director of the Division of Disaster Recovery and Renewal within the Office of the Governor. She replaces current director Brian Newby, who is leaving to take a leadership role in the Hurricane Ike recovery and coordination effort. More

Dallas Home Prices Falling Slower Than Elsewhere
from The Dallas Morning News
Home price declines show no signs of abating in the Dallas area. But the falloff in residential values here remains a fraction of the nationwide plunge, according to the latest numbers. Home values in Dallas were down 3 percent in October from a year ago in Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller's latest home price index. The local decline was in line with previous months and compares with a record 18 percent slide in the 20 cities Case-Shiller surveys. The monthly housing report is one of the most closely watched measures of the struggling nationwide home market. More

Mortgage Rates Slide, Trigger Refinancing
from The Dallas Morning News
The holidays can be slow in the mortgage business as consumers take a break to celebrate. But at Gary Akright's Addison mortgage office, the phone is ringing off the wall. The lowest loan interest rates in more than a generation have prompted thousands of homeowners to refinance. But so far, there hasn't been a similar uptick in purchases. More

November U.S. Construction Spending Fell Less Than Expected
from Bloomberg
Spending on U.S. construction projects fell less than half as much as forecast in November, reflecting gains in commercial and government building that partially cushioned the slump in residential real estate. The 0.6 percent decline followed a 0.4 percent drop the prior month that was smaller than previously reported, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. The median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News projected a 1.4 percent decrease. More





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