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Is this the end for the Railroad Commission?

For the name, I mean, not the Commission itself.

They may need a new logo

After 40 minutes of discussion about a bill that would rename the Railroad Commission of Texas and make other significant changes to the agency that regulates the oil and gas industry, the Senate passed the measure Thursday with a 21-0 vote.

Senate Bill 212, carried by state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, would rename the agency the Texas Energy Resources Commission. That would reflect its current duties, which no longer include railroads.

A companion bill, House Bill 2166, is moving through the House. [Thursday] morning the House Energy Resources Committee voted to forward the measure to the full House.

SB 212 would also tighten some of the ethics rules governing the Railroad Commission. The commission is headed by three elected officials, who get many of their contributions from the oil and gas groups, despite also regulating them.

The legislation came about because of “sunset,” the periodic review of state agencies that evaluates their effectiveness and results in a bill to address problems.

The bill would require the Railroad Commissioners to resign before running for another office, and it would prevent them from receiving contributions from groups arguing cases before the commission as those cases were being argued. It would also forbid the commissioners from accepting campaign contributions except during the 17 months before their election. (The commissioners are each elected for six-year terms.)

The three commissioners have opposed these ethics changes, arguing that they single out the commission. Commissioners should be treated like other elected officials, they said.

See here for the background. I’m sad that Sen. Glen Hegar’s suggested name “T-DOG” wasn’t adopted. As for the commissioners’ complaints, I don’t have much sympathy. Because the have six-year terms, they have a lot more freedom to go shopping for other offices than other statewide candidates do. They’re guaranteed one shot at the four-year cycle offices every term if they want to take it. I for one would be happy to support extending the same campaign finance restrictions to the other statewides as well, but the lack of such a restriction on them right now is not a sufficient reason to not have such a provision in SB212. HB2166 doesn’t have some of the ethics restrictions that SB212 does, and the way things go around here it won’t surprise me at all if that’s the version that prevails. It’s fine by me if the restrictions stay, though.

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  1. N.M. Horwitz says:

    They had an unfortunate typo on the Trib article, when they said “21-0.” It made it seem like either a large faction of Democrats or Tea Party opposed it. The real roll call was 31-0.

  2. Katy Anders says:

    How would truth in advertising make the Railroad Commission any better?

    For years, the government agency that is supposed to regulate the oil and gas industry in the oil and gas capital of the free world has gone under the dubious and misleading title, “Railroad Commission.” This let them fly completely under the radar, as 80% of the people I know have no idea of what they do!

    If you start giving appropriate names to these agencies and people are likely to begin to expect stuff from them. What’s next? A governor that governs? A oversight committee that oversees?