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March 21st, 2011:

Republican legislators to support Republican legislation

That’s the takeaway from this story.

The Hispanic Republican Conference has thrown its weight behind the controversial voter ID legislation slated to hit the House floor next week. In a statement released today, the caucus said the issue is essential to integrity at the ballot box and that its overwhelming support by the public indicates change is necessary.

The legislation would require voters to present a form of approved identification, like a state-issued driver’s license or concealed handgun license, in order to cast a ballot.

“To ensure the integrity of our election process, I am supporting the Voter ID bill along with other bills to ensure that candidates reside in their districts, to strengthen our voter registration system, [and] to protect military voter access to Texas elections,” state Rep. John V. Garza, R-San Antonio, said in a statement. Garza and Reps. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg; Raul Torres, R-Corpus Christi; Dee Margo, R-El Paso; Jose Aliseda, R-Beeville; and Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock, are the conference’s charter members.

What did you expect? They’re Republicans, and this is a top Republican priority. It would be news if any of them had called voter ID legislation the crock of bull that it is. It’s also no coincidence that all of them will stand to benefit from the suppressed turnout among Hispanic voters that this legislation will lead to.

The announcement comes just a week after the original members, minus Gonzales, issued a fiery statement calling on Washington to overhaul the country’s immigration policies, alleging the current system promotes discrimination and produces “a class of vulnerable persons.”

Members also said last week they would not support state legislation some Republican members have proposed that would strip children of undocumented immigrants of certain entitlements.

Good for them, but this is a meaningless gesture. They still support the “sanctuary cities” bill and they have had nothing to say about the hateful legislation that the likes of Debbie Riddle and Leo Berman have been putting forth. But again, as long as they think of people like Berman as being “earnest and sincere” instead of dangerous and deranged, what do you expect? What I expect is that they’ll be about as effective as Bill Hammond and the Texas Association of Business have been at moderating or stopping anti-immigrant bills they don’t like, which is to say not effective at all.

A couple of maps to contemplate

Over at the Swing State Project, frequent commenter blank has taken a crack at drawing a new Congressional map for Texas that looks mighty plausible. He’s also contributed a couple of scenarios for redrawing State House districts in Dallas County, which drops from 16 seats to 14 for this decade, that he sent to Greg for review. We’re about to enter the part of the session where the House Redistricting Committee will be taking center stage, so get ready for all kinds of maps to be coming at you fast and furous. Check ’em out.

Solar bills advance

Bills relating to solar energy are moving forward through the Lege.

Texas is the top-producing state for wind-generated electricity just 12 years after a legislative deal jump-started the industry.

The Legislature is now debating whether Texas should provide a similar subsidy for other renewable energy sources that, according to proponents, would kick-start solar, geothermal and biomass as job-producing industries. The goals also would be to diversify the state’s renewable energy base and help the environment.

Austin lawmakers Sen. Kirk Watson and Rep. Mark Strama , both Democrats, are carrying legislation to do just that. But some manufacturers and electric companies oppose the efforts as either too costly or anti-market.

One bill would encourage utilities statewide to purchase up to 1,500 megawatts of power from non-wind, renewable sources between now and 2021, about 2 percent of the state’s electricity usage.

A second bill would make it clear that state law already mandates 500 megawatts be purchased from renewable sources other than wind.

“We’ve proved we can do it with wind,” Watson said of the legislation. “Now we ought to be doing it in the area of solar.”


Bill Peacock with the Texas Public Policy Foundation , a conservative think tank, agreed that wind lowered electricity prices but he said that was only because wind receives federal tax credits.

It’s not like more traditional forms of energy don’t get tax breaks of their own. One could easily argue that giving a break to solar is just leveling the playing field a bit.

Anyway, Here’s SB330 HB774. In addition to those bills, measures to make it easier to put solar panels on your own home moved along as well.

The [Senate] Intergovernmental Relations committee voted on an amended bill that would allow HOAs to prohibit a panel if it sticks off the roof, looms above a fence or turns into an eyesore.

Chairman Royce West, D-Dallas, who sponsored the bill, said HOAs could still ban solar panels if they “caused unreasonable discomfort to a person of ordinary sensibilities.”


The bill was placed on the fast track to passage. It follows a handful of others, including ones that give homeowners greater voting rights in their associations and help ensure military families don’t lose their homes to HOA foreclosure.

The bill in question is SB 238 and its House companion is HB 362. A lot of similarly solar-themed legislation progressed through the Lege last session but died in the chubfest at the end. I don’t know what will happen with these bills, but I’m pretty sure that fate will not be repeated. The Texas Green Report has more.

HGAC hearing on TIP

From Houston Tomorrow:

The Houston – Galveston Area Council Transportation Policy Council will host a public hearing to discuss citizen priorities for the use of discretionary funds in the 2011-2014 Transportation Improvement Program on March 25, 2011 at 8:45am at the H-GAC building in the 2nd Floor Conference room at 3555 Timmons.

The Technical Advisory Committee will meet Wednesday, March 16, 2011 to discuss, amongst other things, a proposal to pursue “option 4” for allocating the remaining funding, as well as a H-GAC staff report on “the TIP Call for Projects.”

Houston Tomorrow has published a primer on the TIP funding issue.

See here, here, and here for the background. I’m impressed by the amount of attention this has received. Take advantage of the opportunity to affect the outcome while you can.