Posts Tagged ‘texas tribune’

from http://www.flickr.com/photos/rmgimages/4882451468/The Texas Legislature has taken steps to offer more transparency in government this legislative year. As a Texas Tribune article  written by Becca Aaronson points out, lawmakers hope this will provide a lot of information to be available online. However, some people are worried that private information could be leaked to the public because of the recent breaches in security online on the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services website. Some experts are concerned that with the amount of information being released some private information could become public.

As quoted in the article, Sherri Greenberg, former State Representative and interim director at the Center of Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, says that “we must be very careful when we talk about personal privacy, security and certain data that should never… be online”.  Public Citizen’s own Andy Wilson was also quoted in the article saying that it should not be a problem to take out the private information and that “it should be fairly simple if it is in the form of a spreadsheet or a database to just simply eliminate those columns of [private] data.” Adding that it is “a technical issue, not a privacy issue”.

Many lawmakers and experts hope that the new bills will help with efficiency as well as transparency. Representative Kirk Watson from Austin thinks that when the information is released, some people will “offer ideas for efficiency in government”. Although lofty thinking by Rep. Watson, the public disclosure laws passed in the Legislature will be a major victory in the fight for good government. It is difficult to predict the ramifications of the new laws, but at least now it is up to the public to determine the outcome.

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The protests in Wisconsin. The passage of the CR in the House in the dead of night over the weekend. And the continued debate over how to balance the Texas $26 billion budget gap. We kept getting told there are no sacred cows- that all have to share in the burden and pain of budget squeezing.

But realpolitik has shown exactly where the real sacred cows are, while corporate tea party crusaders use the budget crises as a reason to bust unions, raid pensions funds, and slash health services and education budgets, they are leaving intact the tax breaks for oil and gas companies.

Let’s talk Texas first:  a new study out this morning by the Texas Tribune showed that Texans want a balanced approach to fixing the budget.  The single most popular answer was a 50/50 split of revenue enhancements and spending cuts.  However, when you asked people what they wanted to cut spending on, the answer was a resounding NO! to educationTexans say no to budget cuts cuts, NO! to health services cuts, NO! to environmental reg cuts. And when asked where to increase revenue, it was equally sticky.  The single most popular options, the only ones which get over 50% support, was to legalize casino gambling and increase alcohol taxes.  But taxing vice can only get us so far.

One of the things not touched by the poll were the enormous tax breaks we give to the natural gas industry, one which the LBB has suggested eliminating, namely a $7.4 billion tax cut to oil and gas companies using “high cost” wells- which generally means one thing: hydro-fracturing. Fracking is used on areas like the Barnett Shale and has been linked to spoiled water, a cancer cluster located in Flower Mound/Dish, and natural gas turning tap water flammable, and a garden hose into a flamethrower.

At the very least, all of the drilling is producing more air pollution than all of the cars and trucks in the Dallas-Forth Worth area. So to add insult to industry, not only is the drilling on the Barnett Shale ruining families’ homes and making people sick, but we are paying the companies billions of dollars in pork to do it, robbing school children and those who need a hand from social services.

And to kick us even more when we’re down, Chesapeake Energy has the audacity to say if their corporate welfare goes away, they’re going to have to curtail drilling on the Barnett Shale.  From the Star-Telegram’s story:

An executive with Chesapeake Energy told members of the Tarrant County legislative delegation Wednesday that the company would consider curtailing activity in Texas if the exemption is discontinued.

“We’d have to look at it on an individual well basis, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that we would reduce our activity in the state of Texas,” Adam Haynes, senior government affairs director for Chesapeake, said after his appearance before lawmakers. “It certainly affects the Barnett Shale, absolutely.” (more…)

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Public Utility Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman recently sat down with Texas Tribune reporter Kate Galbraith to talk about energy efficiency, CREZ, smart-meters, non-wind renewables, the switch-hold rule, the Lege, and Federal climate legislation (or lack thereof?). It’s a good read/listen if you have some time. Some interesting highlights:

On the efficiency agency idea (we’ve had something to say about it here, here and here in conjunction with the rather lame energy efficiency rule adopted on July 30):

Galbraith: What do think of the environmentalists’ proposal to house all aspects of energy efficiency under one roof?

Smitherman: I talked to Smitty about it on Thursday, when I came back because I was out of the office last week, and I came in and I was catching up on the clips, and I called him up and I said, well that was quite a letter you sent to Speaker Straus, and we kind of laughed about it a little bit. You know, I think there’s some merit to it. Because whether it’s SECO or here or over at the housing agency, there’s at least three if not more places. Plus you’ve got the local community efforts where energy efficiency dollars are being expended, and there’s really no mechanism in place to coordinate that. And so if you want to take it and put it in SECO or put it over here, I don’t care. I think creating an entirely separate new agency is going to be tough next session because it’s going to be a busy session with redistricting and the budget and a number of other issues — Sunset — but it might make sense to take energy efficiency and house it in one place.

It is encouraging to hear the chairman agree that the nifty idea of combining efficiency programs under one roof makes sense.  PS- The “Smitty” he mentions is Public Citizen’s own Texas State Director Tom “Smitty” Smith, our boss.

On direction from the 82nd Lege:

Galbraith: Do you expect more direction next session?

Smitherman: I do. I think there are a number of members that believe very strongly in energy efficiency. And we saw that this last session with a couple of bills, and so I would expect there to be a robust debate at the end of the session. I don’t know where it will come out at the end of the day, but I think that the debate will be there. And what I hope continues to happen is that we use a broad portfolio of tools to address our energy security and independence and price stability, and energy efficiency is one of those tools. I wouldn’t suggest that we do only energy efficiency and not build the CREZ, for example; or not try to promote a new nuclear plant. But there are some people who really believe that energy efficiency is the way to go.

I don’t know who is advocating for only energy efficiency to accomplish clean air, lower bills and energy security, but it certainly should be a top priority, no?

Check out the entire transcript here to get the rest of the good stuff.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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"You Have Won Second Prize in a Beauty Contest" says this Community Chest card from the board game Monopoly

Did YOUR Legislator win 2nd prize in any beauty contests? Find out in their personal financial disclosures.

Texas Tribune has just published their list of Texas Personal Financial Statements: 2009, in which you can search for the personal financial statements of over 3,000 Texas officials and political candidates.  Why not look up your representative or senator, your favorite  TCEQ commissioner, the governor, perhaps?  You will be able to see the source of the paychecks they are bringing home and what investments or gifts they might have which create any impropriety.

All of this is thanks to the Texas Public Information Act, under which they bravely requested all of these disclosures and then went through the arduous task of scanning and uploading them.

Top MenEDITOR’S NOTE: What? You thought Texas might provide these types of records in an electronic format to begin with? Or that legislators and candidates would be able to file electronically? Almost makes you wonder why they want this information trapped on paper instead of an easily parse-able format, eh? Cut to scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark with giant warehouse where Indiana Jones is promised “top men” will be looking into the ark… ~~AW

Texas Tribune, Burnt Orange Report and the Hank Gilbert campaign are all already making issues out of information in personal financial statements of former Houston Mayor and Dem gubernatorial nominee Bill White, Governor Perry and Ag Commissioner Todd Staples, respectively.

Texas Tribune doesn’t have the time to sift through all of these, so they’re asking their readers to help them out– check out what you can and if you see something, let us know and let them know.

To save you the trouble, here is the link for Rick Perry’s: http://www.texastribune.org/library/data/texas-personal-financial-statements-2009/?appSession=532163143824315


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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round upIt’s Monday and it’s time for another Texas Progressive Alliance blog roundup.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is sick of cronies running our cities our state and our country!

WCNews at Eye On Williamson on more GOP shenanigans – Republicans, hypocrisy, the stimulus, and more Carter “nuttiness”.

Off the Kuff notes that as Texas’ unemployment rate continues to rise, we are now in the position of having to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government to fulfill our unemployment insurance obligations. Heckuva job, Governor Perry!

John Coby at Bay Area Houston has posted a A How to Guide for Illegal Immigrants to Vote in Texas Elections.

Xanthippas takes on more disability-as-diversity nonsense. Also, on a side note, our blog Three Wise Men‘s 5th anniversary is this coming Tuesday. We’ll be putting up a special post in commemoration.

The Texas Cloverleaf looks at how the NTTA will be raising rates because volume is down. So much for supply and demand theory.

This week, an old author returns to McBlogger with a true story about dogs. Completely unrelated to politics and nothing but funny.

Neil at Texas Liberal posted a video of him reciting the words the 1848 Shaker hymn Simple Gifts as a ship passes behind him on Galveston Island. Coming up this week at Texas Liberal will be a video shot at the San Jacinto battlefield.

Upon the arrival of Fashion Week in Austin, Mean Rachel wants to know “Does this city make my butt look hot?”

Teddy at the fourth estate, will be able to survive the economic recession and into the new digital age. Left of College Station also reviews the week in headlines.

The Texas Tribune, a new media project headed up by soon-to-be-former Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith, is an idea that shows lots of promise. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has more details about it.

Just as during the campaign, malicious emails are being sent, especially to the elderly. One paticularly nasty one is entitled: SENIOR DEATH WARRANTS. Over at TexasKaos, lightseeker takes on piece of electronic hit mail and offers some ideas on fighting back in his diary, Healthcare Scare Mail and what You Can Do To Help.

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