Friday, May 22, 2015

Pastors protected, 'Mr. Tesla' loses, high speed rail survives but not local control

Oh, and the state budget will have a tax cut for property owners and businesses.  No sales tax cut.  It's also pinching schools again.

-- In a  jiu jitsu move, Texas House Democrats decided they would not let themselves be branded as opponents of religious freedom by Republicans.  So they nearly all voted aye to shield preachers and ministers from being compelled to bake a gay cake perform a marriage ceremony if they so objected.

These are the games legislators play at the end of the session.

-- In a classic faceoff between the country-ass representatives and the big city ones, two lines of words were removed from the budget bill that allowed high-speed rail to live another day.

Budget writers on Thursday removed a Senate-inserted rider in the spending plan that said the Texas Department of Transportation couldn’t spend any state money on “subsidizing or assisting in the construction of high-speed passenger rail.”


The two-sentence provision in the massive, $210 billion state spending plan had proved nettlesome in late-session budget negotiations, pitting rural lawmakers against those who represent Texas’ two biggest metropolitan areas.


But bills aimed at stopping or slowing the project appear bottled up in both the House and the Senate. And with the budget rider shot down, (GOP Sen. Charles) Schwertner predicted that Texans “will rue the day” that they didn’t stop the project when they could.

This is another way you can distinguish progress from regress.  It's not always Democrats vs. Republicans.

-- In the latest example of the word 'local' in local control defined as "under the Capitol dome", legislators don't like it when counties sue polluters, so they're going to stop that.

If finally passed, House Bill 1794 would notch another victory for a wide range of business groups in a legislative session that’s been kind to industry at the expense of environmentalists and advocates for local control. The proposal would set a five-year statute of limitations and cap payouts at about $2 million when counties sue companies that have fouled their water or air.  

A 24-6 vote with no debate set the bill up for a final Senate vote. The legislation already sailed through the House, pushed by Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth.

Proponents say that curbing civil penalties assessed on top of those doled out by state regulators would bolster economic certainty for companies and allow them to focus resources on cleaning up their messes.

Because that's been going so well along the San Jacinto River.

In the past five years, Harris County has brought about 10 such cases per year, with penalties averaging about $61,000 per case. But several high-profile environmental cases have resulted in bigger settlements with the county, including a January agreement with AT&T for about $5 million over leaking storage tanks. 
Lawyers for the county and the state recently won a $29.2 million settlement from McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corp. and Houston-based Waste Management Inc. for pollution in the San Jacinto Waste Pits in the eastern half of the country, where wastewater containing dioxin, highly toxic and carcinogenic, has festered for decades.

-- This session has marked several very big victories for corporations large and small.  'Mr. Tesla' was not one of the winners.

In a turn of events that isn’t terribly surprising, a bill to allow Tesla Motors to sell cars directly to consumers in Texas has failed to make it to the floor, with various state representatives offering excuses about not wanting to "piss off all the auto dealers."

We already know that Elon Musk doubled his lobbying expenses, and even spread another $150K among lawmakers this session, all for naught.  But it was left to "Miz T" to deliver the ignominious coup de grace.

The following criticism from Texas state Representative Senfronia Thompson highlights the challenge Tesla is up against.

“It would have been wiser if Mr. Tesla had sat down with the car dealers first,” Thompson said.
Yes, if only  Mr. Tesla came back from the dead to sit down for a nice little tete-a-tete with car dealers, perhaps then they could have hammered out a mutually beneficial agreement.

Thompson has had an extraordinarily bad session.  She also co-sponsored the anti-fracking ban legislation that many Houston Democrats foolishly voted for.  Twenty years -- ten terms -- in the Lege appears to have been one too many for her at this point.  She was once a progressive warrior, but it looks like she's either sold out or forgotten all she knows.  Sad.

Of all the Texas Democrats that have shamed themselves in the 84th, Senfronia Thompson stands alone at the top of the list.  If she doesn't make the Texas Monthly Top Ten 'Worst', then somebody hasn't been paying attention.

-- Oh jesus, I almost forgot to mention that poor women aren't allowed to use Planned Parenthood for their cancer screenings any longer.

With another ten days, 16 hours, and a few minutes remaining, it's difficult to comprehend that the worst might be yet to come.

Update: GOPLifer seems as disgusted as I am.

1 comment:

TXsharon said...

When this session is over, we need a list of all the atrocities that were committed.