July 13, 2005
Now that we've got that whole school finance reform thing under control...

Governor Perry didn't waste any time getting a boatload of other items on the special session agenda once there was the slightest movement in the school funding debate. Here's a brief look at a few of these add-ons:

A bill by Rep. Frank Corte to restrict eminent domain in light of the recent Kelo decision sailed through the House yesterday.

Reflecting widespread support from Republicans and Democrats, the proposed amendment to the Texas Constitution was approved 132-0 and will go on the Nov. 8 ballot if it wins approval from the Senate.

The Senate was expected to debate a related bill today. That measure would spell out details of the new restrictions should voters approve the constitutional amendment.


Corte's constitutional amendment would prevent the state and local governments from taking private property if the purpose is primarily for economic development.

Corte told legislators that his proposal wouldn't affect the ability of public port authorities to expand their facilities or interfere with the condemnation of property for other public purposes.

The only dispute over the measure was over a provision that would require a local government, if it condemned a homestead for primarily economic development purposes, to pay the homeowner the house's fair market value or its replacement cost, whichever was greater. That proposal by Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, was adopted 66-63.


The Texas Municipal League, which represents city governments, has expressed opposition to the amendment. Frank Sturzl, the league's executive director, has said property owners could use the legislation to argue that any attempt to seize their land is for economic development and take cities to court.

The controversy has called attention to Freeport's plans to seize the property of two seafood companies to be used for an $8 million marina.

Freeport Mayor Jim Phillips has said the constitutional amendment wouldn't affect the city's effort because the city already has a contract on the marina and filed eminent domain proceedings a year ago. But the pending legislation has raised some uncertainty about his claim.

Judicial pay and legislator pensions, two items which caused a fair amount of acrimony at the end of the regular session, were taken up with much less fuss this time around.

The House used a nonrecorded voice vote Tuesday to pass a bill to raise judicial pay and lawmakers' pensions, while Senators voted on the record with two senators casting "no" votes on similar legislation.


Currently, lawmakers earn $7,200 a year in pay, and retired lawmakers can begin collecting pensions at age 50 if they have served for at least 12 years.

Under the House and Senate bills, a retired official with 12 years' experience would get $6,431 more a year for a total pension of $34,500. Benefits increase with each year of service.

More details can be found in Postcards from the Lege.

I noted yesterday that the telecom bills may make a reappearance. Well, here they are.

Anticipating the issue would get added to the current session agenda, Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, has introduced and held hearings on a bill that phases out state controls on local phone rates and establishes a statewide franchise for cable providers, including phone companies.

Fraser said he hopes to get his measure through the Senate as soon as today.

Other measures authorize electric companies to start delivering high-speed Internet service over power lines and boost renewable energy use in Texas.

The telecommunications reform bill has drawn concern from several groups, including SBC Communications Inc., the Texas Cable and Telecommunications Assocation and the Texas Municipal League, a statewide coalition of cities. The groups have applauded the bill's goals to further competition in telecommunications, but they have expressed concerns over the bill's approach.

Phone giant SBC Communications Inc., which was initially opposed to the proposal, now supports several provisions of the bill following negotiations with Fraser.

Fraser's counterpart in the House, Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, expects to file his own legislation soon.

I hope Save Muni Wireless stays on top of this.

As noted in the article above, the Senate passed a bill on renewable energy, which of all the bills I've seen so far sounds like the only one that's unambiguously in the good.

The Texas Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would boost the amount of energy produced by renewable sources in Texas.

Current law requires the state to produce 2,880 megawatts of renewable energy, or about 3 percent of the state's electricity needs, by 2009.

The bill by Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, would require that about 5,880 megawatts of Texas' installed generating capacity come from renewable sources by 2015.

A megawatt provides enough electricity to power 300 to 400 homes for a year.

Thanks to John Wilson of GHASP for the tip on that last one.

Finally, The Red State takes a look at all these bills and asks a pertinent question about the whole thing.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 13, 2005 to That's our Lege | TrackBack

It's good to see that the lege and Frank Corte want to make it nearly impossible for cities to build roads, expand schools, and prevent the building of hospitals.

Texas has some of the toughest laws protecting private property. This reminds me of HJR 6 were we are making a constitutional amendment, even though DOMA was passed in 2003, which made marriage illegal.

Here we have proceedures and rules protecting private property already, and now we are going to have an amendment to tie the hands of our cities and counties. Well done Frank Corte... well done indeed.

Posted by: Matt on July 13, 2005 3:23 PM

A megawatt provides enough electricity to power 300 to 400 homes for a year.

The boldfaced part is wrong. A megawatt is a measure of the rate of energy usage, not an amount of energy usage. Unless there's some reason to expect household energy usage to jump dramatically 12 months from now, the sentence should just end at "300 to 400 homes."

Posted by: Mathwiz on July 16, 2005 4:19 PM