Thursday, February 22, 2007

Perry's HPV Executive Order to Face a Floor Fight

Yesterday afternoon, the House Public Health committee passed out HB 1098, which would simply rescind Gov. Perry's executive order requiring "Texas sluts" to be immunized against the human papilloma virus (HPV). It's a one paragraph bill backed by a handful of Democrats, and every Republican minus Chisum and 2 others (not including Craddick) have signed on as co-authors (please excuse me for not checking the other two).

In the Senate, SB 438 was just referred to the Health & Human Services committee yesterday. I haven't heard when either are headed for their respective floor.

I'll actually side with the Republicans on this one. Legality of the order aside, unfunded mandates are rarely Kosher for me. Currently, those who qualify for Medicaid can receive certain immunizations, including HPV, through the Vaccines for Children Program. Others have to pay upwards of $300 for the shot. Requiring every child to get this shot is just another boondoggle for Perry's friends, such as last session's SBC lobbyist (remember how much I loved that telecom bill?) and former Perry staffer Mike Toomey.

This isn't to say I'm against the vaccine by any means. I'm all for an educational campaign to teach parents its merits, as outlined by Rep. Farrar's bill, HB 215; I'd even advocate attaching the pertinent language in that bill as an amendment to HB 1098 (and have the state pay for it if it was to require it....) But leave the decision up to the family who'd be paying for it.

Granted, I know that there are plenty of misconceptions about the HPV shot, if yesterday's hearing was any indication -- that's why there ought to be the education campaign.....but nothing more.

P.S. Someone please tell the Dallas Morning News that you can't have your cake and eat it too: They applaud HB 1098 getting voted out of committee, then directs them, well specifically Chair Delisi, to support Farrar's bill. Uh, do you want the mandate or not?

UPDATE: Rep. Joe Deshotel's HB 1379, which carries the educational language I support, was also voted out of Public Health yesterday by a vote of 9-0.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Closer Look at the Coal Plants Reveals Something Unsettling, Irresponsible

Much has been said, good and bad, about the Coal Plants this session. "Texas currently face a looming shortfall in needed electricity supply," claims Curt Seidlits, in the letter that prefaces TXU's several hundred page lobby binder. "For Texas to retain our economic vigor, national security, and environmental health, we must continue to invest in clean energy solutions," counters an info sheet from Alliance for a Clean Texas, a group of the state's premier environmental lobby groups. What is this debate really about? Economic engines, environmental health, or the proper use of taxpayer dollars?

TXU's arguments for their 11 of the 19 total proposed coal-fired units is the need to accommodate new growth in Texas. However, looking at the facts and the changing national political scene, one must question whether this is truly the case.

The numbers in TXU's binder are easy to manipulate. "Peak demand" is subjective, and it's obvious that Sens. Fraser and Eltife have an increasing short attention span for TXU's lobbyists. After all, ERCOT claims that we'll have energy shortfall in 2008 based on current energy suppliers, and the earliest the coal plants would come up is 2009 by TXU's projections, even though it may actually be closer to 2011.

Something still rubbed me the wrong way about these plans until Steve Susman, a lawyer suing TXU pro bono, said something last night at Waco's Convention Center: that TXU is rushing to build the coal plants because of the very real prospect of a cap-and-trade incentive program. Cap-and-trade would provide financial incentives to a company that emits carbon dioxide into the air. However, carbon dioxide is not currently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Something clicked.

The national political scene is currently changing. November's elections shocked many, and TXU was probably no exception. Democratic Presidential nominees are now vying for position since the time seems ripe for a Blue White House and Congress. Based on Sen. Obama openly discussing cap-and-trade programs, there is little doubt that such a program will take effect soon.

But how soon? Looking back on some of the major environmental reforms, they've taken place in the last two years of a Republican's term: Nixon and Bush 1 come to mind. Since George W. finally recognized "climate change" in this year's State of the Union, he might write something up before he leaves D.C. If he does, rest assured that it would heavily favor industry, if his energy bill acts as any precursor.

In strict terms, this means that TXU will want to pump as much CO2 into the air as possible so that they can get paid to take it down in a few years. It's a plan that sacrifices the health and well-being of the residents of Waco, the Metroplex, and dozens of small towns in between for the well-being of TXU's already overpaid executives. If all the plants go ahead and the cap-and-trade comes into affect as TXU plans, they would stand to profit in the hundreds of millions, possibly billions, in taxpayer dollars.

What's being done

Yesterday, former Advocacy, Inc. lawyer and current Travis County District Judge Steven Yelenosky ruled that Gov. Perry overstepped his bounds as Governor in issuing his executive order. Administrative hearings on 7 of the coal-fired units were set to take place an hour ago, and much remains to be seen as to how far-reaching Yelenosky's ruling will be. Regardless, some will still be fighting, in courts and in the Lege, for the health of the state's citizens, and all I can say is Godspeed.

Related links:

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Musings on SCR 20

Could someone please tell Will Hartnett that the horse is supposed to go before the cart?

UPDATE: Paul Burka caught this one too.

Monday, February 19, 2007

HJR 1 voted out

...Well, actually it's SJR 13, which was substituted for HJR 1. It did have true bi-partisan support, 146-0.

The House in a State of Emergency

Unfortunately, House members are not observing President's Day

Today at 2pm, the House is set to take up HJR 1 and HB 2, and tomorrow will be SCR 20.

The way it's set up, HB 5 (which is in Calendars committee and doesn't have a floor date yet) is the enabling legislation for HJR 1 -- the constitutional amendment proposal that would allow for tax breaks for seniors (65 and older) and disabled who have homestead exemptions. HJR 1 actually has bi-partisan support and would be placed on the ballot May 12, if it's voted out by Wednesday. HB 5, the enabling legislation, has a fiscal note of -$277 million over the next two years and -$745 million through the end of the 2012 fiscal year.

HB 2 carries a hefty price tag of $14.191.1 billion over the next two years alone, and it would take $4.9 billion from General Revenue -- via the "Foundation School Fund", Fund 193 -- that could fund any number of things outside of rich folks' homes. HB 2 is on the floor for today, and does not break the spending cap by itself. However, if the Lege wants to pass any other appropriations, it would have to pass SCR 20, which would break the cap while calling for the property tax cuts. Not 1 single rep on Appropriations voted against HB 2, but Reps. Noriega and Hopson voted against SCR 20 in committee. The other Dems passed on voting altogether, not wanting to anger Uncle Tom (...hat tip to Paul Moreno).

As to why this coming through 'lightning fast,' right now, your guess is as good as mine. Just hope you weren't fooled by the HR 4 debacle.