Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Reservoirs not up on Wednesday

Thankfully, probably due to the sizable Calendar for Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee has decided not to hear the House Bills dealing with the 19 proposed reservoirs: HB 1681 by Geren (pro), HB 2187 by Hartnett (pro), and HB 2470 by Robby Cook (anti) -- although they are hearing Rep. Puente said that he wants to hear Rep. Guillen's HB 2833, which would provide for a "voluntary" land stewardship program.

The main issue is not devastating unoccupied land by pouring concrete and filling it with water as much as it is eminent domain and the rights of private property owners. The reservoirs in SB 3 proved a contentious issue in the Senate, where Sen. Eltife lead the charge against the reservoirs. Sen. Averitt kept the language in, despite the fact that he considered moving SB 675 forward in its place, which is just the reservoir language.

Eltife was able to attach an amendment that basically makes the Marvin Nichols reservoir, the largest on the table, jump through some hoops before it's built, but the Senate pushed through all of the original reservoirs. Puente wants to hear testimony for them (on Geren's and Hartnett's two bills; Note: they're both D/FW rep's) and against (Cook's bill basically tries to levy some fines and make any exercise of eminent domain into more of an consensual agreement, but doesn't actually stop the reservoirs)

Cook's bill falls in line with his, Callegari's, and Otto's agenda as members of the Land & Resource Management's subcommittee on Eminent Domain: not trying to stop it or challenging the Supreme Court decision, but making it more viable and less harsh to rural folks.

Regardless, Puente has voted out his two stand-alone water bills: HB 3 (the scientific study of environmental flows) and, more recently, HB 4 (water conservation) -- both of which are from last session's SB 3 and neither of which contain provisions for reservoirs. Puente has put the debate on hold until at least after Easter. Thank goodness Swinford doesn't chair that committee.....

Monday, April 02, 2007

Turner kills Calendar rule, then pays the price

Today, before the House got to the Calendar, Rep. Beverly Woolley tried to introduce a Calendar rule to establish a timeline (5pm, Tuesday, April 3) by which amendments for the anti-TXU bills would had to have been filed. Rep. Phil King, author of HB 1189 and HB 1190 - the two in question, entertained questions from Rep. Turner, who opposed adopting the pre-filing Calendar rule for anything other than Sunset bills.

(Quick note on the bills: HB 1189 and HB 1190 would essentially increase competition in the deregulated electric market. TXU thinks they're both against their interests since both are essentially pro-customer.)

King then heard some opposition from Reps. Dunnam and Merritt, saying that it didn't make sense to give King this advanced warning to what's to come for these bills, which will seemingly pass tomorrow. I guess it's because so many members will tack on some pretty outlandish amendments, I'm just speculating here, but possibly reregulating the energy market or System's Benefit Fund, which I'll get to in a minute. Regardless, members are going to seek to strengthen the bills after King gutted them in committee -- the companion legislation is also out of committee, and Sen. Fraser's versions are much stronger.

Rep. Solomons, who's carried Sunset bills before, spoke against the bill from the front mic, and Rep. Turner followed who said that it'd set a bad precedent to mandate pre-filing amendments for any pro-industry bills. Rep. Hartnett, who's into his second term on Regulated Industries, said that it'd be a good idea to pre-file amendments for bills coming out of that committee since he just doesn't get some of them.

Hartnett then tried to underscore the complexity of bills coming out of Regulated Industries and proceeded to quiz Turner on what "nodal agreements" are, and Turner responded in kind, explaining that it has to do with transferring energy from one part of the state to another during times of high load (hey, he's much more eloquent that I am...) After Turner was done with this, Hartnett then quizzed Turner on "securitization," which Turner again aptly explain. Even if he BS'ed some of it, it still came out good. After Turner smacked Hartnett down, King had Woolley withdraw the motion due to its 'controversy.'

The first bill on the Calendar today was HB 551, a bill to restore the System's Benefit Fund to its original purpose, of directing a fee of electrical customers, instead of its current use, towards GR - a 2003 move. It should've passed until Rep. Talton got to the back mic.

He raised a point of order against the bill, citing Rule 8, section 21 that any bills moving money from GR cannot be heard during the first 118 days of session. The rumor mill is saying that some KKR/TXU lobbyists were on the floor and passed the point of order along until it got to Talton. Since Talton's not on the Speaker's agenda, he raised the point of order. They ended up postponing the bill until the end of the calendar, but the result was the same. Since the bill's not a Republican bill, Craddick sustained it. There's no chance they'll hear this or a similar bill until the 119th day.

This just means that Wednesday ought to be an interesting and long day.

Rep. McCall topped off the day's events after Talton initially raised the point of order, going to the back mic and informing the Speaker that "There are some Points of Order from the Lobby waiting at the front door."