This is a very interesting statement from Rep. Drew Darby. He’s explaining why he pulled his bill down, even though he thought it would pass.
Gov. Rick Perry, conservative groups and tea party-backed House Republicans forced House leaders Thursday to pull down a bill that would have increased car registration fees to help build more roads.
Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, said a vote count showed a compromise version of his bill probably could squeak through in the House.
However, he said, “I didn’t move forward because of the prospects of cutting the members up on a vote [on a bill] that may not become law.
Let’s put aside scorecards for now. But we have a legislator who thought his bill would pass this stage of the process, but doesn’t want to continue to fight for its passage. Isn’t that what legislating is all about? Get your bill through one stage, and then start fighting for it at the next stage. Is this where The Lege is now? No legislation can move forward, no votes can be taken unless they’re safe, and the legislation is guaranteed to pass.
The reason it’s this way is that too many, GOP legislators in particular, don’t want to get on the wrong side of the post-session scorecards of groups like Empower Texans. Or face the wrath of TPPF, and Perry and the wing nuts.
The truly sad part is that Texas really needs to spend money on transportation infrastructure.
Asked if House leaders are finished with transportation funding this session, Darby said they’ve completed consideration of new sources of highway money.
“This is the last bill coming out of the House to add transportation infrastructure funding,” he said.
Darby said that’s a shame because Texas has virtually no money for launching new road projects. He said the state has borrowed almost all that it can borrow to build highways. It’s at risk of choking off economic and population growth. [Emphasis added]
The state hasn’t generally raised vehicle registration fees since 1985, nor the gasoline tax since 1991, he noted. And families bear a $1,500 “hidden tax” each year in car repairs and lost productivity from being stuck on bad roads and in traffic jams, Darby said.
Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, said the bill was a test of seriousness about tackling big problems.
“If we really want to govern, at some point you can’t live on 1991 revenue streams at 2013 prices,” Aycock said.
Darby replied, “A dollar in 1991 is worth 62 cents today.”
But freshman Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, said he prefers looking at the motor vehicle sales tax as a way to fund more roads. Frank suggested he would vote against Darby’s bill, as did Rep. George Lavender, R-Texarkana.
It’s hard to feel sorry for Darby and the GOP. They’ve let the right wing take over their party and now we are all suffering, themselves included. And now that it’s obvious to most people that we need to spend money we do have, we can’t even do that.
It’s almost impossible to tell, as the end of a regular legislative session draws to a close, with several unfinished “priorities” still not done, how serious the talk of a special session is. At first it’s not a threat, just thrown out there for legislators to keep in the back of their mind. But if Gov. Rick Perry is serious about his criteria then, at least right now, it’s likely they’ll be back this summer.
“It should be no surprise that if folks want to go home at the end of this legislative session, send me $1.8 billion worth of tax relief, send me a balanced budget that has no fee increases for transportation and $2 billion of infrastructure for water, and everybody can go home and enjoy their summer,” he told reporters.
We know any budget he gets will be a “Texas-style” balanced budget, so the main sticking point on that right now seems to be whether the two GOP-dominated chambers can compromise among themselves on a budget.
This year, it is hung up on a matrix of interconnected decisions — funding for public schools, water and transportation; tax cuts; and whether to tap any of the $11.7 billion of available rainy-day dollars and whether to defy anti-tax and fiscal hawk groups by voting to bust a state constitutional spending cap.
One lobbyist, familiar with the Pitts-Williams blow up but declining to be identified because clients haven’t authorized him to speak about the delicate negotiations, described one possible exit strategy. Think of the remaining problems in three layers — always, with summer time talking points for politicians in mind, the lobbyist said.
On the bottom is the question of public schools, he said. If leaders undid the $4 billion of formula cuts made last session, Democrats could crow they succeeded in their main mission this session — and be forced to go along with a second-layer question: How to let Perry save face.
This could be accomplished by approving a constitutional amendment to cut business-franchise taxes by $1 billion over two years, the lobbyist said. However, House leaders do not want to use rainy-day dollars for tax cuts. And cutting the margins tax wouldn’t require a vote to bust the spending cap; it would just reduce available revenues, experts say.
The final layer would be water improvements, the lobbyist said. On this, Democrats and Republicans would have to agree to tap the rainy day fund for $2 billion and vote to bust the spending cap.
“You would hold hands and jump off the cliff together,” he said.
Some GOP leaders, though, have said fears of exceeding the spending limit are unfounded. They say voters can be persuaded that it was prudent to go beyond the limit and spend just a bit more than one-sixth of state savings to jump-start construction of new water reservoirs and pipelines, and get out in front of possible water shortages in drought-stricken Texas.
Senate leaders, meanwhile, prefer to avoid a spending-cap vote by going to the voters to approve draw-downs of rainy day money. The Senate passed a constitutional amendment to tap $5.7 billion of rainy-day dollars and use it for transportation ($2.9 billion), water ($2 billion) and public schools ($800 million). There are indications, though, that Senate leaders might give on funding schools and transportation that way. Stay tuned.
Oh did he say water. We’ll the water issue may be the toughest to finish before the session. These two from StateImpact Texas show where things stand: After Bill Falters, What’s Next for Water Funding in Texas? and Water Bills Flood the House.
And as far as Perry’s tax cut goes it’s kind of hard to tell, but it doesn’t look like either chamber has hit his magic number of $1.8 billion.
The House late Tuesday night approved $667 million in franchise tax cuts for state businesses, which Perry said Wednesday gets them “a third of the way there.”
But they might be even farther along than that, depending upon how Perry defines tax relief.
The Senate has approved a constitutional amendment to rebate $730 million in utility fees to households and businesses while the House this week passed tax credits for businesses that total about $350 million on top of the franchise tax cut.
And his threats to seem to be of much concern to legislators.
The House late Tuesday night approved $667 million in tax cuts for state businesses — but only after some of the fiercest debate of what had been a relatively harmonious session. Democrats, who were ultimately outvoted by their GOP colleagues, argued the money should go to public schools which are still reeling from $5.4 billion in cuts lawmakers approved in 2011.
Perry said of the difficult vote, “they’re a third of the way there.” Asked if that will be enough, he replied, “$1.8 (billion) will be.”
Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin, leader of the Senate Democrats, dismissed Perry’s tax-cut demands as unrealistic.
“It’s unfortunate that he would say something like that,” Watson said.
Sen. Kevin Eltife, a Tyler Republican who has been critical of the governor’s approach to water and transportation issues this session, said those should take priority over tax cuts.
“When we’re struggling to find $4 billion (per year) for roads and have to take money out of the Rainy Day Fund, I don’t know how at the same time you pass a tax cut,” Eltife said.
As for the threat of a special session, Eltife retorted: “I happen to love Austin.”
In this session there doesn’t seem to be much urgency to get anything done, more confusion then anything else. It’s as if having money to spend has baffled these “conservatives”. It’s as if the only thing they know to do with government is tear it down, they have no idea how to build it up and use it to help people. It’s a pretty simple proposition. We have money and we have needs. Use the money to pay for our needs. But that just confuses the hell out of them, and they don’t know what to do. If this keeps up they may have to waste taxpayer money on a couple of special sessions to figure it out.
Whether they get these near term items settled or not, there’s likely to be at least one special session before 2015. On either public school finance or redistricting. Some of this is posturing and bluffing. There’s still time to get what these guys perceive to be the needs of Texas finished before May 27th. Hopefully they can clear up their confusion and get something done that doesn’t hurt Texas too bad.
The GOP in Texas loves nothing more then giving tax breaks to the already meagerly taxed businesses and corporations in our state. They give them tax breaks like they’re free, Texas House votes for wide range of tax cuts for businesses.
The House embraced hundreds of millions of dollars in new business tax cuts late Tuesday, adding breaks for aerospace companies, pipelines, private hospitals and broadcasters to a ballooning tax relief bill.
House members tentatively approved the measure, 112-27, after hours of debate in which Democrats lamented that the House was creating loopholes in a flawed tax system while still underfunding priorities such as public schools.
The bill began as a $397 million laundry list of corrective actions for aggrieved businesses. But after hours of wrangling, it wound up dropping about $667 million of breaks onto an ever-wider array of trade groups and businesses with complaints about the 2006 margins tax, as the old business-franchise levy was dubbed.
Ah yes, the margins tax. It was implemented to replace the money from lowering property taxes. I did not lower property taxes and it created a structural budget deficit in Texas.
In 2006 the Legislature required school districts to reduce their school property tax rates by one-third, but committed to replacing the foregone property tax revenue so that the school districts would maintain their total state/local revenue. To fund this commitment, the state reformed the franchise tax (now popularly known as the “margins tax,” for reasons explained below) and increased the cigarette tax. However, the new state revenue raised by these changes falls some $10 billion short in each biennium of replacing the property tax revenue given up by the school districts.
Which the GOP has used as a tool to defund public education. It was like Christmas Day for businesses on the House floor yesterday and there were presents for all, except the actual taxpayers.
Hilderbran’s bill would make permanent a tax exemption for about 28,000 of the state’s smallest businesses — those with less than $1 million in gross annual receipts. It would tax auto repair shops — now paying a 1 percent rate, after deductions — at the same 0.5 percent rate paid by auto service departments at retail stores such as Sears.
The bill originally granted relief to groups ranging from crop dusters to oil land men to haulers of heavy aggregates used in construction. Members then added more than a dozen amendments, tweaking rates for some categories of filers and letting retailers deduct part of their costs of letting customers use credit cards.
Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, sponsored an $80 million amendment that shaved by 5 percent the rate paid by businesses that deduct their payroll before calculating how much they owe.
The House swiftly approved other proposals helping aerospace and defense contractors (at a cost of $20.3 million); private hospitals that treat Medicaid patients ($18.8 million); pipelines ($10 million); and broadcasters ($2.9 million).
And Democrats were rightly pissed.
A veteran Democrat who has served on the House’s tax-writing panel said the bill would further weaken a poorly drawn tax.
“It takes a stupid tax policy and makes it stupider,” said Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin.
“Out of control,” fumed House Democratic leader Yvonne Davis of Dallas.
She said public schools have made some gains in the House’s version of the next two-year budget, but the increased pressure to find room for tax cuts could reverse that.
Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, asked Hilderbran if House leaders told him how high he could let the bill’s price tag creep.
“I haven’t been given a specific number,” Hilderbran said. “But … I’ve been trying to be responsible.”
The two argued over who would benefit.
“Is there anything in this [bill] that provides a tax break for mom and dad that’s working every day, paying for child care, trying to take care of their bills?” Turner asked.
Hilderbran replied: “Absolutely, the small employers, the mom and pop businesses get relief in this bill … and will be stronger.”
In other words, no is the answer. Not only is it key to see what is passing through The Lege, we must be mindful of what is not.
Medicaid expansion looks unlikely to pass.
“I’m disappointed,” Zerwas said. “It’s one of the biggest issues of the session and we didn’t really have the robust debate I thought we should have. But people on the pay scale above me made the decision.”
Zerwas said supporters “had enough support to carry the House — certainly, over 80 votes.” He said he crafted a compromise with Rep. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, that would make Texas’ effort resemble as closely as possible the Medicaid block grant preferred by many Texas conservatives — including both Perrys, Rick and Charles.
Zerwas said if the deal with Charles Perry were approved as a floor amendment, Rep. Perry was prepared to become a co-author. But Zerwas said he couldn’t overcome resistance in the Calendars Committee.
Prospects for payday lending regulation decline. There’s much more on the payday lending’s corruption of our political system here. Of course these issues, if passed, would help the people and taxpayers of Texas. It would seem that’s why they’re unlikely to pass.
Why can’t we have funding for transportation in Texas? Or public education? Or health care and Medicaid expansion? Or higher education? Or water? Or the many other things that we need in this state? The DMN’s Transportation Blog sums it up pretty well.
Transportation lobbyists say they have been counting votes on the bill and believe they have enough commitments of support. At the same time, there is the possibility that some of these “supporters” are privately telling Speaker Joe Straus that they don’t want to have to vote on a fee increase and would be grateful if the bill died in Calendars.
For the tea party, a fee increase is no different than a tax increase, and supporting one could be political suicide for some GOP members.
Many Republicans fear the wrath from the tea party right more than they value support from the business community, and Texas business has been nothing if not foursquare behind better funding of roads. Let the transportation system crumble under the stampede of new Texans, and the Texas miracle evaporates. [Emphasis added]
Yes the scorecard rules their world.
This appears to be a done deal, just waiting for final approval, Fulton names top pick for elections chief.
Fulton County’s Registration and Elections Board has named their top pick for a new elections director: Richard Barron, currently the Elections Administrator for Williamson County, Texas. The County Commission is expected to vote May 15 on whether to hire him. A county spokeswoman could not say late Tuesday what salary Barron would receive.
Fulton has been without an elections director since September, when Sam Westmoreland resigned while jailed for failing to follow sentencing terms from two prescription drug-related DUI arrests. An AJC investigation found Westmoreland had fudged parts of his resume. He oversaw a flawed primary election last year, and the county had myriad problems in the November presidential election, which a hired consultant chalked up to poor managerial decisions by Westmoreland.
After surviving and unnecessary attack after last year’s election he probably decided to look for another job. It’s too bad it came to this. We certainly wish Barron luck. I’m sure he’ll be happy to no longer have to deal with the cranks he’s been dealing with here.
Elections Administrator, who has brought stability, is under fire.
Rick Barron to stay on as Williamson County Elections Administrator.
Here’s the reason this, President Barack Obama’s permission structure, is so disheartening for so many Democrats and those on the left. He appears to be bending over backward and willing to sacrifice longstanding Democratic principals to cut a deal, instead of fighting for those longstanding Democratic principals. But, and it’s taken me a long time to get to this place, that’s really what Obama believes is best for our country. He’s willing to sacrifice Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, and on and on…for a deal with the GOP.
And what has happened is that too many of us haven’t tried hard enough to force him in a different direction. There’s been an incredible amount of writing on how Obama has not done what the left or Democrats wanted or thought he would do as President. But one that I remember (not sure from where) was that Obama was sort of a blank canvas and that many Democrats projected their views onto Obama. Too many of us, myself included, just assumed he would do what we thought a Democratic president (FDR, LBJ) would, given the opportunity he had. Well, he didn’t.
Because of his great oration during the 2008 campaign it was thought that he could rally the people to his side. But Obama has never talked to the people enough and tried to rally their support. If he has it was when he was in a bind, he never really tried from the start. Whether it would have worked, may be up for discussion, but it should have been tried. But it was likely the only way he could have beat back the GOP obstructionsim, to take it on from the start of his Presidency.
To embrace what Rick Perlstein calls the Rules of Liberal Political Success. It could have been so easy. Bush left the economy in ruins and our foreign policy in a shambles. Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize on credit, and he’s done little to live up to that since then, (see drones and Gitmo). The people were ready, they just weren’t engaged.
While Obama was right to urge graduates over the weekend to greater citizenship his definition was striking for it’s lack of passion. (Maybe why Stevenson never won the Presidency?)
I think about how we might perpetuate this notion of citizenship in a way that another politician from my home state of Illinois, Adlai Stevenson, once described patriotism not as “short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” That’s what patriotism is. That’s what citizenship is. (Applause.)
And the quotes President Woodrow Wilson on change.
But participation, your civic duty, is more than just voting. You don’t have to run for office yourself — but I hope many of you do, at all levels, because our democracy needs you. And I promise you, it will give you a tough skin. I know a little bit about this. (Laughter.) President Wilson once said, “If you want to make enemies, try to change something.”
While Obama made enemies on health care, and continuing the bank bailouts that Bush started, it could have turned out different. Obama’s overriding principal is compromise, that’s how he starts his negotiations with the GOP, by laying out a compromise. His healthcare plan was, and he started by alienating much of his base by taking single-payer off the table from the start. And to fully investigate and reform Wall Street, was a huge missed opportunity. Which are just a couple of things that infuriate many Democrats and the left.
Here’s how E.J. Dionne put it recently, Obama needs to ask himself why even his supporters are growing impatient.
But the president also needs to ask himself why even his supporters are growing impatient. His whole budget strategy, after all, is directed almost entirely toward gently coaxing Republicans his way, without any concern as to whether what he is doing is demobilizing the very people he needs on his side now.
When, in pursuit of tax reform, he explicitly offered a compromise to change the index that determines Social Security benefits as part of his budget, he did so against the advice of many of his most loyal backers in Congress. That includes Democrats who would be willing to vote for that cut to Social Security benefits as part of a serious budget deal. But they insist that such a major step toward the Republicans should be taken only in return for concrete concessions from them on the need for more revenue.
If Obama wants to underscore that his problem is Republican obstruction, he should tell those GOP senators he likes to dine with that they need to come up with revenue very soon or else he’ll withdraw that “chained CPI” offer he claims not to like much anyway. Put up or shut up is a cliche, but a useful one.
Similarly, it’s worth asking why so many of Obama’s initiatives have dropped out of public view. Obama has called for raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour. Many Democrats in Congress think, correctly, that it should be set at $10. Would it be so hard for Obama to come out fighting for the minimum-wage increase — and for other steps to bolster the incomes of those stuck at the bottom of the economy? Why not expose that none of this is happening because of GOP opposition?
Obama wants to provide universal pre-K education. That ought to be a bipartisan idea. Many Republican governors have embraced the concept in their states. Shouldn’t the president be pushing harder to get it on the media’s radar by way of forcing a debate in Congress?
The president believes we need to spend more on our infrastructure to boost job creation now and to make us competitive for the long run. He’s right. But he needs to make clear it is something that’s genuinely important to him.
It’s true that Obama spoke about both his investment agenda and preschool plans at last week’s much-maligned news conference. And the White House announced on Sunday that he would embark on a series of “middle class jobs and opportunity tours.” These should be shaped by a consistent, driving theme: that the stakes in this debate are larger than the day-to-day drone of partisan invective suggests.
Remember the Mark Twain line that Wagner’s music was better than it sounded? Obama’s program has more to do with growth and opportunity than he usually lets on. If he wants to rally us, he might want to change that.
While movements are what have really changed things throughout history, the hope was that a movement tied to a dynamic leader were going to bring transformational change. While I’ve done much to critique Obama in this post there’s also critiquing of us, the citizenship, in here too. We’ve been far too passive, standing by, and letting our government do little if anything in these past 5 years.
It’s also not to be taken as Obama-bashing. It’s about the realization of who Obama is (a compromiser first) and is not (the next great liberal Democratic president). Along with the realization that the Democratic Party decided to embrace oligarchy 30 years ago, And Tip was no bargain, either. And the only thing that can change that is a movement of the people
The Texas Progressive Alliance thinks the state is a safer place without Wayne LaPierre in it as it brings you this week’s roundup.
Off the Kuff patiently explains to those who don’t know Texas politics that there exist Democrats in this state outside of Austin.
Cartoon outrages carried over into a second week in Texas, with the NRA blowing into town for the weekend. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs is so old that he remembers when protesting a gun nut convention was all about Tom DeLay.
WCNews at Eye on Williamson posts about the Texas GOP’s greed and cruelty as they hoard the hoard billions and deny health care to millions in Texas, They could if they wanted to, but they don’t.
CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes that Ted Cruz is a bigger jerk than John Cornyn although Cornyn has many years of bad deeds compared to Cruz’s short tenure.
At TexasKaos, Libby Shaw updates us on The Texas Taliban: Hard at work in Washington D.C. and Austin.
And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.
On The Move explains why you’re paying too much for your car insurance.
The Texas Green Report announces that over 1000 people have switched from TXU and its coal-fired power.
BOR endorses the Austin ISD school bonds for the May election.
TFN Insider adds a few more endorsements for the same election.
Concerned Citizens has an endorsement for San Antonio.
Texas Vox documents climate change denial at the Legislature.
The TSTA warns about profiteers masquerading as reformers.
Harold Cook unmasks the second worst church in the world.
It can be difficult sometimes to figure out what’s really going on with The Lege. But I think this paragraph from this article, House determined to fund water plan, floating a hybrid possibility, sums it up pretty well.
To bring some conservative holdouts on board, the rest of the money in a hybrid plan could come from general revenue dollars. That would mean less money for universities, public education and nursing homes, among other things, that rely, in part, on general revenue money. Using that money could assuage enough freshmen conservatives, who oppose using rainy day fund money — or just about any other increase in spending. Still, any proposal using general revenue dollars could be a nonstarter for Democrats, depending on how unified they remain. [Emphasis added]
There it is folks, that’s the GOP’s goal in Texas. Why, when we have plenty of money in our state to pay for all of these things, would our elected leaders be hoarding money, and unwilling to pay for them? Because they believe that those things above are unworthy of support. It’s why they’re leaving $100 billion in Medicaid money on the table. They have health care and can’t understand the suffering of those who don’t.
I’ve read Speaker Joe Straus’ snark, whatever it means, but it means little to those in Texas that continue to suffer and struggle while the Rainy Day Fund just keeps getting bigger. But why this is going on is not complicated. They’re spinning and contorting themselves in all these different directions in an attempt to show that they had no other choice. When in reality they could pay for those things, if they wanted. But they have made a choice to do whatever they can to defund those things. And they’d like to believe that those who will suffer because of this decision only have themselves to blame.
These people believe that’s just the way life is. The only way to get decent medical care and fully protect yourself from financial calamity is to get rich. Really rich. It’s the catch-all answer for everything that ails you. Anyone who doesn’t has only herself to blame.
They govern by ideology. Perry has much more, “We weren’t sent (to Austin) to govern like California”.
Via State Impact Texas, Hearing on West Fertilizer Explosion Shows Lack of Regulation and Coordination.
Eight state agencies were invited to testify at the House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee hearing, chaired by state Rep. Joseph Pickett, D-El Paso. As the investigation into the cause of the fire and subsequent explosion is still ongoing, many of the lawmakers questions dealt with fertilizer plant regulation in the state generally, and not whether or not the West disaster could have been avoided.
“The intent of this hearing is to try to shed light on where these facilities are located,” Pickett said at the outset. “This will be a learning process for the community at large. Ultimately, this is probably going to be a national issue.”
What became clear at today’s hearing is that among the several state agencies with oversight of fertilizer plants like West, there is no single agency tasked with safety inspections and coordinating with local governments on emergency response. [Emphasis added]
That adds fresh perspective to this, Despite West explosion, Rick Perry sticks to his anti-regulatory schtick, (and this).
Spending state money on inspections and regulatory oversight would not have prevented the explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. plant, he added.
More from State Impact:
But since ammonium nitrate isn’t considered an “extremely hazardous” chemical by state and federal agencies, plants only have to report to authorities if they have more than 10,000 pounds of it on hand. The state could have stricter reporting requirements if it chose to, according to David Lakey, Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). The maximum amount the West Fertilizer plant reported to the state was 270 tons.
And the burden for communities to know where these chemicals are stored, and how to respond to emergencies at facilities that store them, falls on local officials. There are over 14,000 facilities in Texas that self-report having “extremely hazardous substances” on site, according to Lakey of DSHS. Representatives from that agency testified that chlorine and battery acid are the most common hazardous substances near communities, but that they only oversee reporting, not safety.
“How do they [the public] know if there’s a facility like this in their area?” asked state Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton.
“There’s no overarching plan to educate people of what’s in their areas,” replied Steve McCraw, Director of the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Facilities like West are required to share their reports on safety and hazardous chemicals with local officials and emergency planning committees, but that may not always be the case, and those local committees may not always put plans in place to respond to incidents at plants like the one in West.
All of this makes what Joe Pickett said seem wrong, State regulators don’t focus on safety.
But following the first legislative inquiry into the catastrophic explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. plant last month, state leaders said they don’t foresee dramatic changes to the way Texas regulates similar chemical facilities.
“I think we’re prepared,” said state Rep. Joe Pickett, chairman of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, which summoned leaders of the involved Texas agencies. “I don’t see any major changes. I think the state of Texas is in good shape.”
(Although what Pickett said here sounds better). What Jim Moore of Progress Texas had to say seems more sensible.
State Rep. Joe Pickett, chairman of the committee, began the two-hour hearing with a moment of silence for the West victims. He emphasized several times that the purpose of the meeting wasn’t to point fingers but instead learn how the state stays on tops of similar facilities that store dangerous materials.
That did not stop others from criticizing the regulations, or lack thereof, in place.
“You have a basic Texas attitude of resisting federal government,” said Jim Moore with Progress Texas, a political action committee.
Testimony revealed that Local Emergency Planning Committees shoulder a large portion of the safety checks that occur at similar plants across the state.
There are 270 LEPCs across the state and they are made up of members appointed by county judges.
However, the effectiveness of the committees, including the one responsible for West, are being questioned.
“It is absurd to think a local fire chief in little town like West will have the knowledge necessary to know if that a plant is operating safely,” said Moore.
Pickett said he was happy with what he heard from the testimony and believes Texas is ready and prepared, but did say he expects more emphasis and attention to be placed on LEPCs because of the West Explosion.
“You are going to see a lot of renewed interest from local communities asking ‘are we ready?’”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has said that spending more state money on inspections would not have prevented the blast. State environmental regulators had last visited the fertilizer plant in 2006.
The truth is we will never know, for sure, if spending more state money on inspections would have prevented the blast. But if I, or any of my family members, lived near one of these facilities, or my kids school was close to one, I’d damn sure want to know it. I’d also want to know that it was being inspected on a regular basis from now on. Wouldn’t you?
The best we can hope for out of a tragedy like this is that we learn from it. We must do our best to insure that something like this never happens again. And it doesn’t make sense for anyone to think that we can’t leverage our state and federal government resources to help us do that.
Via Texans for Public Justice, Lobby Watch: Eighty-two Payday Lobbyists Out to Kill Reforms.
Twenty-four predatory lenders are paying 82 lobbyists up to $4.4 million to kill a bill to impose consumer protections on payday and auto-title loans. A tenth of the industry’s lobbyists are former Texas lawmakers. Georgia-based auto-title lender Rod Aycox is the biggest lobby spender in Texas, which let lenders repossess the vehicles of 35,000 Texans last year.
If they’re spending that much to kill the legislation, it should make everyone wonder exactly how much money are they making preying on Texans?
Of the 16 states that fail to regulate predatory lenders, Texas is by far the fattest bonanza. The predatory lenders who have given $4 million to Texas politicians in recent years are spending up to $4.4 million on lobbyists this session to keep the staggering profits flowing. The cowing,legislative deference that this money commands has sparked unusually blunt statements about lawmakers selling themselves to special interests.
Apologizing in early April for the modesty of the reforms he initially proposed, powerful Senator John Carona confessed that Texas legislators work for the special interests that pay their bills. “This is the only version that will pass this session,” Carona said. “I am convinced the industry has given as far as it intends to go.”
This month Texas House members will decide whom they most represent. Is it the more than 35,000 Texans who had their vehicles repoed bypredatory lenders last year? Or is it the two dozen, mostly out-of-state predatory PACs and executives who gave current House members more than $1.3 million?
What sayeth thou, Mr. Speaker?
Kuff posts that Payday lending prospects look grim in the House.
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