Monday, May 07, 2007

It'll be a busy couple of days

Now that most of the religious debates are finally over, the House will now hear 140 bills over today and tomorrow. Well, they actually have no chance in hell getting through them, but that's what's on the Calendar. Here's a brief look at what to expect at some point in the near future:

  • HB 9 Rep. Crownover's bill to ban smoking across the state. Although there are merits to this argument, I've always been a big fan of improved ventilation systems in bars and restaurants in lieu of telling them how to act. I'm not a smoker and can't stand the smell on my clothes, but smokers should be able to enjoy smoke over a beer.

    This may take a while since Rep. Dutton is fighting hard to gut the bill, and he's run into Rep. Hartnett who's apparently been talking to owners of cigar bars and flip flopping on where he stands. But Capitol Letters has this insight:

    Crownover's calling it an "employee safety measure" - which I suppose is a little true. But really, what it's about is levelling the playing field. The places in the cities that are banning smoking are losing business to the places that haven't, just a city limit away.

    THAT'S why the restaurants got on board.

  • HB 1927 The tort reform bill for the MTBE fuel additive by Rep. Chisum. The federal government at one point mandated that oil refineries add a substance called MTBE to fuel in an attempt to clean it. However, the way it was carried out polluted groundwater wells across the country, and à la Erin Brockovich, people began suing responsible parties. Rep. Chisum stepped in to cut back on the number of lawsuits.

    There's one small twist to this: many small, independent gas stations are technically responsible for leaking the fuel additive, but there's evidence that they had no way of knowing about it, let alone how to stop it. But, this doesn't change the end result - polluted groundwater - and the appropriate answer should be a join effort to clean it, not to protect some from liability and absolve them of responsibility.

  • HB 2006 The omnibus eminent domain bill by Rep. Woolley that's designed to grant more property rights to private landowners. It's continuing the work of SB 7, which was passed in response to the June 2005 SCOTUS decision. Rep. Woolley says that she doesn't want to stop eminent domain, she only wants to encourage agreements and negotiations before any eminent domain.

    I'm guessing this will be a big ol' Christmas tree with all the rural folk trying to tack on amendments for local fights. Remember Rep. Oliveira tacking one on to SB 7 to prevent UT-Austin from leveling a hamburger joint?

  • HB 13 The omnibus homeland security bill by Rep. Swinford that is structured to run more federal money and power through the Governor's office, which Swinford claims is required by federal statute. Grits has more, including some stats that Rep. Noriega plans to distro on the floor.

    Grits was widely cited on other blogs for his post on Swinford pandering to the Governor and a deal he struck with Congressman Culberson that may or may not even pan out.


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