Tax-funded lobbying is big business in Austin, and two firms are currently engaged in a lawsuit over contracts with several Texas cities. Since the public is likely to be indirectly subsidizing this case, perhaps the least that will result is greater transparency between governmental bodies and the lobbyists they hire with tax dollars.
At a time when the rest of state government is looking for ways to reduce spending to hedge against next year’s looming budget shortfall, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission is looking at expanding the size and scope of the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) by giving the agency a new licensing scheme, a new tax structure, and increased regulatory authority.
Are your summer or fall travel plans finalized yet? If the Big Bend area is on your agenda, it looks like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants you to reconsider. Under new rules being considered, Big Bend may soon be listed as a high pollution area (or in EPA jargon a “non-attainment zone”).
People receiving extended unemployment benefits should be required to provide a public service while getting public assistance, so says Texas’ Workforce Commission chairman Tom Pauken. Predictably, critics, such as the Texas AFL-CIO, have blasted the idea.
In a blistering letter to the chairman of the Texas State University System (TSUS), state Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) trashed the character and qualifications of former state Rep. Brian McCall (R-Plano) to serve as the system’s chancellor. Sent on official stationary of “The Senate of The State of Texas,” this letter should send both an encouraging and troubling signal to conservatives and taxpayer advocates. In the letter, Sen. Wentworth makes the case that he should have been picked for the bureaucratic post on the basis of his history of delivering billions in pork over the years.
At time when our nation is facing record deficits and a historic debt load that is projected to exceed our Gross Domestic Product within 2 years, our state’s senior U.S. Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison, is looking to spend $100 million in taxpayer’s dollars to urge states to implement bans on driving while talking on a cell phone and texting while driving. Is this really a federal priority?
There has been much intrigue over the past week and half about potential realignments in college sports, particularly designed to attract greater audiences and financial incentives for certain football programs. With the departure of the University of Colorado (to the PAC-10) and the University of Nebraska (to the Big 10), it’s clear the current configuration of the Big 12 Conference will be no more. As the major Texas universities are now weighing their options, a committee of the Texas House of Representatives has found it necessary to hold a hearing on this issue.
Few things are more sacred in America, or empowering as individuals, than our vote. For some strange political calculus, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White has aggressively opposed voting rights for those serving in the military. Yet at the same time, he undermines the security of the ballot box by refusing to support stronger voter identification laws.
Texas Democrats are continuing their march to bring full-scale casino gambling to the Lone Star State. In a recent article, Empower Texans discussed whether casino gambling would be a “no-new-taxes” proposition. Since it’s clear there will be a concentrated effort to expand gambling during the next legislative session, it’s worth taking a look at its impact in another major state…California.
The City of Grapevine, in North Texas, recently hired a lobby firm, Solutions for Local Control, LLC, to assist “in developing political and legislative strategies.” Behind the firm is mainly one individual, former state Rep. Fred Hill (R-Richardson), who scored only 60% on the Texans for Fiscal Responsibility Fiscal Responsibility Index during his final term in the Texas House. In what looks to be a blatant assault on public transparency, and perhaps illegally, Grapevine conducted its meetings about the lobby contract behind closed doors.