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IMG_4986This weekend, Governor Abbott signed a bill into law that establishes solar rights for a group of people who have sometimes been banned from installing solar on their homes.

Right now, any developer can chose to ban or severely restrict the installation of solar panels in communities that are still in the development phase.  In some cases, the development period stretches on for many years because the developments are large, and continually expanding.  This practice traps homeowners under developer control, and in some cases leaves them unable to invest in affordable solar power for their homes.

Senate Bill 1626 by Senator Rodriquez, sponsored in the House by Representative Dukes, states that only smaller developments with 50 homes or fewer can ban or restrict solar.

We would have liked to establish solar rights for all homeowners, but this bill is a great step forward and we appreciate the work put into it by Representative Dukes, Senator Rodriguez, their staffs, the Texas Association of Builders, and the Texas Solar Power Association.

The Texas Association of Builders supported SB 1626 and its House companion HB 3539 because most developers already allow solar installations. As solar has become more mainstream, developers have realized that solar not only doesn’t hurt home sales – it can help actually them.  That’s why some developers now offer solar as an option. It’s the outliers, who are unnecessarily restricting homeowners’ rights that this change in law will address.

There are people in Texas who purchased their homes over a decade ago and still haven’t been allowed to install solar systems because their developments are still being expanded.  Solar panels are silent, non-polluting and no less attractive than many other features of a home or people’s cars parked in their driveways. Everyone should have the right to take advantage of the free fuel from the sun.

The new law will take effect on September 1, 2015.

Late in the evening yesterday, the Texas House passed SB 19, the much talked about ethics bill.  The passage of the far stronger House ethics bill is a big step forward in the Governor’s goal of achieving substantial ethics reform this session and we are pleased that the house took on strengthening this bill.

The House version of SB 19 requires reporting of large sums of dark money, improved conflicts of interest standards, toughen disclosure laws,  creates a legislative ethics officer to advise members, requires electronic filing of personal financial statements  (PFS) in a searchable format. In addition it reduces pay to play politics by requiring PFS from Governor’s appointees at the time of appointment and disclosure of  their campaign contributions to the Governor.  While it does not shut the revolving door and prohibit lawmakers from immediately becoming lobbyists, it does prohibit legislators turned lobbyists  from using campaign funds to contribute to other members or candidates. It also prohibits secret of taping of members.

We expect that the Senate will reject the house version of the bill and so ethics will once again become a cliffhanger bill resolved on the last night of the session as it has been so often in the past.

CommunitySolar_v3eCommunity solar at Austin Energy is one step closer to being a reality. After months of negotiations, Austin Energy signed a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with PowerFin Partners for a solar farm of up to 3.2 megawatts that is to be the first stage of the utility’s planned community solar program. The east Austin site selected by Austin Energy for the project offers some challenges, which is why the negotiations took some time, but now the project can begin. Local solar installers at Native and Greenbelt Solar will do the installation work, when the time comes.

Community solar is eagerly awaited by environmental and affordability advocates because it has the potential to fill a gaps in Austin Energy’s existing solar programs. These gaps are caused by a couple primary factors.

The first gap is low-income residents. While solar costs have dropped dramatically in recent years and solar is undoubtedly a good long-term investment, it still requires either an up-front investment or the credit worthiness to secure a loan or lease. Low-income residents will almost certainly not have cash on hand to buy a solar system and are also much less likely to qualify for a loan or lease because of poor credit scores and/or insufficient income. If the program is structured properly, community solar can provide affordable energy at a fixed rate for decades.

The second gap is people whose homes aren’t suitable for solar. There are many factors that can make a home unsuitable for solar. Many homes have little roof space that is facing south or west, the best orientation for solar. Other homes are shaded by trees or even other buildings. Trees provide cooling benefits in hot Texas summers, increase property values, clean our air, and make our streets and communities more livable, so cutting them down just to make way for solar isn’t a good option. Community solar is a much better solution.

Austin Energy has yet to announce how the community solar program will be structured. Community solar projects across the country come in many forms. Some offer customers the opportunity to purchase or lease a portion of a system. Others offer subscriptions to the energy produced from a portion of the system, at a fixed cost. Whatever program design Austin Energy comes up with, hopefully it will reflect the benefits of solar – low costs and fixed pricing.

TERP logo

The Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) is the most cost effective way to reduce mobile source air pollution and comply with current and upcoming federal standards for ground level ozone (smog). The Texas Legislature should appropriate all the money that is collected from Texas taxpayers for this purpose to the TERP fund, not let it sit unused in an account. Please call the State Budget Conference Committee leaders (contact information below) to request additional funding for this successful program.

What’s TERP?

TERP, established by the legislature in 2001, collects fees to provide voluntary financial incentives to upgrade or replace older polluting heavy-duty vehicles, off-road equipment, locomotives, marine vessels, and stationary equipment with much cleaner models. The primary goal of the program is to reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions which react with volatile organic compounds (VOC) in sunlight on hot days to form ground level ozone. Reducing NOx emissions from these sources is less costly than getting similar reductions from major industrial sources.

Why Reduce Smog?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establishes National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for 6 major pollutants. States monitor air quality and develop state implementation plans (SIPs) to improve air quality meet these standards in areas that currently do not. The Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, and El Paso metropolitan areas, encompassing 22 counties in Texas, have unhealthy air and do not meet the ground level ozone NAAQS. Non-attainment of these standards can result in federal sanctions impacting the time, cost, and ability for economic growth of large industry, and some transportation projects. That’s on top of the significant health impacts of breathing smog, in the form of asthma and other respiratory illnesses that most severely impact children and the elderly.

The TERP program spurs new technology development and helps create jobs.

Funding TERP

The TERP benefits to Texans have been restricted by not fully appropriating the funds in the TERP account. This year, Texas missed an opportunity to fund more than $100 million in projects to clean up the air because of the lack of appropriations of the TERP funds. By the end of 2015, the TERP account is expected to have an unappropriated balance greater than $1 billion.

The legislature needs to prioritize the additional spending of TERP revenues for their intended purpose when considering its spending cap. TERP funds reduce far more air pollution than any other road or highway project and has broad support – including Texas business associations; petroleum, chemical, manufacturing and natural gas industries; environmental groups; local governments; and many others. Local governments and councils of governments need compliance with clean air standards and “transportation conformity” to get federal funding to build new roads.

Why Now?

Full expenditure of the TERP funds will be even more important in the coming year as the EPA has proposed to lower its ground level ozone standard this summer from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 65-70 ppb. If the new lower ground level ozone standard is adopted, many more counties in Texas will likely be designated as nonattainment areas. TERP is the most cost effective way to get ahead of the game to avoid restrictions that are detrimental to economic development, transportation projects, and the growth of Texas.

Take Action

Please call Senator Nelson and Representative Otto and ask them for additional TERP appropriations in Article VI of the state budget. When you call Senator Nelson and Representative Otto, who lead the State Budget Conference Committee, please tell them that the TERP appropriation is needed now to improve the health of our air and to avoid additional EPA nonattainment designations.

Representative John Otto, Chairman House Appropriations
Phone: (512) 463-0570
Fax: (512) 463-0315
Chief of Staff: Nikki Cobb, 512-463-0570

Senator Jane Nelson, Chairwoman Senate Finance
Phone: (512) 463-0112
Fax: (512) 463-9889
Chief of Staff: Dave Nelson, 512-463-0112

If you have time and to call the rest of the State Budget Conference Committee members:

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gas pipeline warning signAccording to Texans for Public Justice (TPJ), the Texas Railroad Commission repeatedly misled the public about its involvement in two controversial gas pipelines. The pipelines will be built across West Texas by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), which has given almost $225,000 in recent years to the three Railroad Commissioners.

After repeatedly claiming that it had no role in the project, the Railroad Commission quietly approved permits to allow ETP to condemn the land of hundreds of ranchers. Explaining such takings to the commissioners’ xenophobic GOP base could be rough–given that the purpose of the pipelines is to supply gas to Mexico’s state-owned electric company.

Read the report: Eminent-Domain Billionaires Spark West Texas Pipe Lying at TPJ.

The United Nations of Confusion - Just how effective are climate pledgesDespite year after year of United Nations talks on climate change, there is still no comprehensive plan. This policy vacuum is leading to an incomplete patchwork of pledges and policies. The United States, Mexico, the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, and Gabon have made climate action pledges. France also continues its ban of cars in attempts to clean the air. However, on the flip side, Japan is giving its money to coal-fired power plants in numerous countries, claiming that it is for “climate finance”.

This raises some questions: How effective are these climate talks and pledges anyway? Are they really helping the global environment? And what happens when countries like Japan move in the opposite direction?

The upsurge of climate activities started when Mexico became the first country to make its climate pledge in 2015, prior to the United Nations climate talks later on this year. The announcement came as a surprise to all, but Mexico started a precedent for other nations. In its pledge, Mexico expressed its plan to decrease its greenhouse emissions by 25% by 2030. Mexico’s plans are ambitious, as the profoundly oil-producing and heavily manufacturing nation wants its greenhouse gas emissions to peak in 2026 and hopes to help establish an international carbon price. Even China, which announced a plan to make emissions cuts back in 2014, and had a year to get ahead, has a goal for its peak year to be 2030. While this is a momentous step in climate change, it will be interesting to see how Mexico commits to the pledge in the upcoming years.

On March 31st, President Barack Obama followed Mexico by pledging to make emission cuts in the United States. The United States has pledged to reduce emissions between 26 and 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. This year, the United States joined forces with Mexico, hoping to work together on a variety of climate solutions, including clean electricity.

Environmentalists praised Mexico and the United States for their ambitious plans, but will they lead to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions to a level that will result in the warming of 2 degrees Celsius or less? Having only a few countries commit to limiting emissions will be ineffective – all of the major greenhouse gas contributors will have to participate to stop the most catastrophic warming. Scientific evidence shows that limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius is already impossible, but every bit of warming above that mark puts our planet in worse danger.

Committing is one thing, but action is another. China, Mexico and the U.S.’s climate pledges will only matter if they result in swift and effective action.

It is unclear if there really is a global effort or ability to combat climate change, when there are situations such as the ones in Japan, who has been investing in “climate finance”. What “climate finance” means to the Japanese government is investing in Indonesian coal-fired power plants. Japan’s environmental agenda remains unclear because although it is providing Indonesia money for its coal plants, it states that the money is used to “address the problem of climate change, through measures to either mitigate it (i.e. emit less carbon dioxide from power plants). Japan states that their investment will help developing countries protect themselves from climate change, but there is no guarantee as to what the developing countries actually do with the coal-fired power plants.

Through the different environmental approaches countries worldwide have taken, it is clear that there is not international consensus about the specific details that climate pledges should include and what is considered beneficial to the climate. For example, is “climate finance” a solution? The public may support these climate change pledges, but these promises remain only promises if there is no plan that incorporates all of the major climate change contributors and address the concerns of developing countries that do not have the sufficient funds ore equipment to combat climate change. Combating climate change is a global effort.

Last week, federal regulators passed new safety rules governing crude by rail, which has boomed because of the growth in U.S. oil production. Just days later, another oil train derailed in North Dakota, punctuating the need to more robust regulations that have so far been enacted. Six of the oil tankers caught on fire, causing the small town of Heimdal, ND to be evacuated. Thankfully the accident didn’t occur in a more populated area.

ND Oil Train Explosion

Oil train explosion in Heimdal, North Dakota – photo from KX News, Bismarck

Nearly 450,000 tankers of crude oil moved through North America last year, up from 9,500 in 2009 – a 4,700% increase in five years. In spite of the new rules, with this increase in traffic, we can expect to see more accidents involving oil trains.  So far in 2015, there have been 5 major accidents involving oil trains.  While most have occurred in relatively unpopulated areas, it is only a matter of time until an accident occurs in an urban area like Houston as trains head to Gulf Coast refineries and perhaps to major ports for export (if the ban on crude oil exports is lifted).

This chart was provided by Forest Ethics.

Date and type Location Impacts Fuel Source Link to Story Cars affected
2/14/2015

Derailment

Gogama, ON, Canada Six day fire – “The accident occurred at 38 mph. Initial impressions are that the Class 111 tank cars, which were compliant with the CPC-1232 standard, performed similarly to those involved in the Lac-Mégantic accident which occurred at 65 mph.” Canada http://www.tsb.gc.ca/eng/medias-media/communiques/rail/2015/r15h0013-20150223.asp 29
2/16/2015

Derailment

Mount Carbon, WV Explosion, spill into Kanawha River, multi day fire. Two homes destroyed US Bakken http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150216/DM01/150219449 27
3/5/2015

Derailment

Galena, IL Explosion, multi day fire. Almost into Mississippi River US Bakken http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/fires-finally-dwindling-days-after-illinois-oil-train-derailment-n319666 21

5 burned

3/7/2015

Derailment

Gogama, ON, Canada Explosion, multi day fire, river pollution. Toxic inhalation issues. Canada http://www.tsb.gc.ca/eng/medias-media/communiques/rail/2015/r15h0021-20150317.asp 39
5/6/2015

Derailment

Heimdal, ND Fire, fuel spill, evacuation US Bakken http://www.valleynewslive.com/home/headlines/North-Dakota-Town-Evacuated-After-Train-Derailment-302754661.html?device=phone&c=y 10
Activist mourned the death of local control at the Texas capital today. Photo by Carol Geiger

Activist mourned the death of local control at the Texas capital today. Photo by Carol Geiger

Today, just hours after the House Energy Resources Committee heard from scientists at Southern Methodist University that oil and gas extraction and injection wells for fracking wastewater are causing earthquakes in Texas, the Texas Senate passed a bill that will almost completely end local control over oil and gas industry activities.

House Bill 40 was conceived of in the backlash against Denton’s ban on fracking, but it goes way further than overruling bans.  City ordinances adopted to protect public health and safety in are just a pen stroke away from being invalid and Governor Abbott isn’t going to veto this bill.  The Texas Legislature has decided that the people of Laredo, Dallas, Houston, College Station Nacogdoches, Southlake, Harlingen, Sherman, Port Aransas, Fort Stockton and so many other cities across the State of Texas shouldn’t have the right to protect the communities they live in from the very real dangers that fracking and other oil and gas industry activities pose.  This is an unprecedented retreat from Texas’ long tradition of local control.

Why, you might ask, would our elected officials choose to so dramatically curtail the rights of Texas citizens and cities?  The answer is money.  According to a recent report by Texans for Public Justice, the energy and natural resources industries were the number 1 financial contributors to non-judicial Texas politicians in 2014.  31 Texas senators received $1.7 million – an average of $56,000 each.  144 Texas representatives received $3.8 million – an average of $25,000 each.

The oil and gas industries’ use of campaign contributions to curry favor with elected officials is nothing new and it crosses political lines.  That’s HB 40 ended up with 78 authors, co-authors and sponsors.  The people who are elected to protect the people of Texas can’t wait to show the oil and gas industry how great of an investment they made with their campaign contributions.

The Texas Legislature is tearing apart local control to protect oil and gas interests instead of public health and safety.  Only voters can change this pattern.  Take a look at how your state representative and state senator voted and hold your elected officials accountable.

Killing me softly

Killing me softly

Senate Bill 709, which passed in the Texas Senate on April 16th and has now passed in the Texas House, would scale back the public’s right to participate through a contested-case, an administrative hearing process that allows the public to challenge industrial applications for permits at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) – such as those allowing wastewater discharges or air pollution emissions.

Last night this bill was discussed and passed to third reading in the Texas House.   During the discussion of this bill, it was alleged that “Texas’ current bureaucracy puts the state at a ‘serious disadvantage’ compared to its neighbors,” according to Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, who carried the bill in the House.  However, the truth is that there are just not that many permit applications that are affected by the contested case hearing process. In 2014, there were 1,960 applications received by TCEQ. Of those applications, only 10 were referred to the State Office of Administrative Hearings – that’s only one half of one percent of applications received in that calendar year. The other 99.5% of permit applications to the TCEQ go uncontested and are processed and issued in time-frames similar to or even faster than our neighboring states with whom we compete most closely for business. This was based on an analysis of public records by Public Citizen and later confirmed by the agency to the Texas Tribune.

This analysis also found that Texas typically processes air quality permits faster than Arkansas, Arizona, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Colorado and even Louisiana.  When pressed for one facility Texas might have lost to Louisiana because of a misconception about our permitting process, on the floor of the Texas Senate, Senator Fraser gave the example of Shintech, Inc. (a Japanese subsidiary of Shin Etsu and the largest producer of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in the United States).  In 1998, Shintech backed out of its plans to build a PVC plant in Convent, LA (which is in the heart of what has become known as “Cancer Alley”, an environmental justice community of low-income, minority residents)  This community fought back and won because of legal opposition by the local residents.  Since that time, Louisiana put rules in place that makes it harder for citizens to obtain legal help to fight off industry – sound familiar?  So now Shintech will be able to expand their operations in Louisiana without much opposition and if they come back here . . . well, they may find the same “business-friendly” fast-track environment.

If this bill is enacted into law, the contested case process that has a track record of improving permits and protecting the environment from the biggest and longest lasting environmentally hazardous projects, would be substantially amended.
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Statement of Tyson Slocum, Energy Program Director, Public Citizen

The recent spate of oil train disasters requires a rewrite of safety rules. While the rules unveiled today represent a step forward in some respects, the rules also do not go nearly far enough in two crucial areas. First, the rules allow the very same dangerous oil train cars that have been involved in the recent derailments and explosions to remain on the rails until 2020 in some cases. Second, the rules do nothing to lower the volatility of the crude oil being transported. That means the rule does little to minimize the magnitude of any explosion that occurs after an oil train derails and explodes. Requiring rail cars to become more puncture-resistant and have more effective braking systems is a necessary first step. But the directive does not fully safeguard communities from the threat of oil train infernos.

Legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) – the Crude-by-Rail Safety Act (S. 859) – represents the apex of what a regulatory response to the threat of oil train disasters should be. It should set aggressive but fair standards for new and existing cars and immediately ban the use of any car without increased puncture resistance, stronger flame retardants and enhanced braking systems. Cantwell’s legislation goes above and beyond today’s proposed rule by setting a federal oil volatility standard and by requiring that community officials be notified before oil trains travel through their neighborhoods.

America’s crude-by-rail crisis stems from the rapid expansion of oil production in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale, which lacks adequate pipeline capacity to move the 1.2 million barrels of oil produced there every day. As a result, 70 percent of the oil is shipped on railroads that are not designed to accommodate these treacherous loads. Bakken crude is extremely volatile, making it more prone to combustion upon a puncture-inducing derailment.

A small step like today’s DOT rule does not do enough to address the real oil train safety crisis.

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Public Notice at the site of the San Jacinto River Waste Pits - Photo from TexansTogether.org

Public Notice at the site of the San Jacinto River Waste Pits – Photo from TexansTogether.org

UPDATE:  This bill passed in the House 96 to 44 on Monday, April 27.  There is still a chance to stop it in the Senate.  Call your Texas senator and ask him or her to vote no on HB1794 when it comes up. 

On Monday, the Texas House of Representatives will consider another bill that attacks local control and would protect polluters. HB 1794 by, Representative Charlie Geren would place a cap on the amount that local governments can assess in civil penalties for violators of environmental regulations. The penalty would be capped at $4.3 million in total fines and a five year statute of limitations would be put in place on the filing of such law suits. While Geren describes his bill as a way to curb “lawsuit abuse” these caps would really just erode the ability of local cities and counties to collect on damages from major polluters in cases in which the clean up far exceeds $4.3 million.

This is bad legislation because cities and counties need the ability to force polluters to pay civil penalties because state enforcement of environmental laws is so weak. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) does not have the resources or the guts to go after the biggest polluters, and those are the polluters that are going to get away with penalties that are far less than would be needed to actually clean up their mess.

San Jacinto River Waste Pits' Disposal in the 1960's - Photo from TexansTogether.org

San Jacinto River Waste Pits’ Disposal in the 1960’s – Photo from TexansTogether.org

For example, this legislation comes largely as a response to the high profile litigation between Harris County and three companies liable for the San Jacinto Waste Pits, an EPA superfund site and one of the biggest environmental disasters of the past decade. The pits were first dug in 1965 by a paper company for disposal of its waste from nearby mill. Hundreds of thousands of tons of waste with a highly toxic chemical called dioxin was dumped on the river’s west bank. A few years later the pits were abandoned.

Later, a natural environmental processes took place,-the river moved. What was once a waste dump next to the river became a waste dump in the river. In the following decades, communities were built on the banks of the San Jacinto river and the families that lived there were unaware of the toxins they were living right on top of. New companies moved in who ignored the waste pits, so they did not get discovered until 2005, decades after the dumping began.

Local authorities, environmentalists and citizens of nearby neighborhoods contend that the waste pits have caused incalculable harm to the ecosystem and are responsible for a cluster of cancers and other diseases in these communities. The estimated cost of complete remediation is somewhere between $100 million and $600 million, well above what Geren’s proposed cap. The estimated medical costs for the 17,000 people living on top of these waste pits is incalculable.

The San Jacinto Waste Pit civil court settlement that inspired HB 1794 was for $29 million from two companies.  Far from being excessive, this is an amount that won’t come close to covering the costs to the local community.

Houston Ship Channel - Photo by Bryan Parras

Houston Ship Channel – Photo by Bryan Parras

County or city led lawsuits seeking penalties are relatively rare. In most cases companies pay their fine and clean up their site, however not all of them do. In those cases where the company and the state environmental agency have failed to solve the problem, local governments are all that’s left. We do not need legislation that hamstrings the ability of local governments to penalize the biggest polluters and offenders of the law.  Communities that are home to these polluting industries will suffer.

Email your state representative now to voice your opposition to this bill.

prairie festIn Fort Worth  this weekend

Come by the Public Citizen booth at Prairie Fest

Click here for more information.

earthdaytexasCelebrate the Planet | All Day | Three-Day Festival.

April 24-25-26

10AM – 6PM  |  Fair Park  |  Free Admission

Come by the Public Citizen booth (#5404 in Centennial Hall) and say howdy

Click here for more information

How Solar Works

How Solar Panels Work

How Solar Panels Work

Check out this NBC News’ 30 seconds to know segment on how solar power works.  Pretty cool.

Renewable energy clears the Air, reduces electric bills, creates jobs, waterproofs our energy supply and kept the lights on during peak times during the drought years when our “baseline” generation was unable to keep up with the demand.

Now check out our earlier post about the move in the Texas legislature to abolish renewable energy programs in the state. The bill that would do that, SB 931, heads to the Texas House of Representatives next.  If you live in Texas, now is the time to call your Representative to voice your opposition to this anti-renewable energy bill.  If you don’t know who represents you, look it up.

 

TACUPDATE – HB 1690 passed 94 to 51 with 15 amendments adopted (3 of these were amendments to amendments) of the 24 offered on April 21.  It was still a bad bill in the end.

Despite Governor Abbott’s call for ethics reform, House Bill 1690 is actually an anti-ethics bill. Rather than restoring public confidence in government, it sets the stage for crony politics and political favoritism, and is another scandal in the making.

Like Senate Bill 10, HB 1690 creates a special legal system with special treatment reserved for Texas elected officials and state employees. This system is designed to stymie criminal investigations and prosecutions.  Prosecuting a corrupt official will require the approval of both the Texas Rangers and a local prosecuting attorney.  This will operate as a political filter and give a green light for cover ups and corruption.

In the vast majority of states, including Texas, public integrity cases—like all criminal cases—are handled by a local prosecutor in the county where the offense occurs. Only one state has the highly unusual and suspect “hometown venue with a hometown prosecutor” provision.

Under HB 1690, no matter where a crime is committed, a politician will be prosecuted by his or her hometown officials – essentially ‘home cookin.’ This raises the legitimate question of whether local prosecutors, judges or even juries could be truly independent when dealing with a prominent local political figure.

Under HB 1690, a politician will be prosecuted by his or her hometown officials— but the funding for these types of cases is inadequate. Half of a million dollars is not enough to prosecute these complex cases, which will require moving evidence and witnesses to the hometown county. Counties will bear the costs.

The current system works. The Travis County Public Integrity Unit has pursued public corruption cases in a non-partisan fashion. Of the 21 elected officials it has prosecuted since 1978, 15 were Democrats and 6 were Republicans. The simplest solution is to fund that entity. Failing that, Texas needs to find the toughest independent prosecutors in the state and put them to work cleaning up corruption at the Capitol.

As we see it, we have three options with this bill which goes before the House shortly for a vote:
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