Vol 30, Issue 39 Print Issue

Gov. Rick Perry speaks with a reporter on Feb. 21, 2012, a month after dropping his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
Gov. Rick Perry speaks with a reporter on Feb. 21, 2012, a month after dropping his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

Guest Column: Vote Yes on Prop 6 — We Need the Water

Our booming economy, rapidly growing population and the drought that has plagued most of the state for years are combining to stress our ability to meet our water demands. If we do nothing to address these needs, we place at risk the health and well-being of future generations.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Texans support $2 billion in water infrastructure financing by a better than 2-to-1 margin, but nearly a quarter haven't decided how they will vote on the issue this November, according to a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. The respondents favored the measure, known as Proposition 6, 52 percent to 19 percent. A quarter said they had not decided how they would vote. The poll found Texans put a high priority on public education, water, and roads and highways. Asked to rank those things, 73 percent said they consider addressing public education needs to be very important, 65 percent said the same about water, and 55 percent gave that highest importance to roads and highways. And the respondents agree with the Legislature about who ought to be deciding the water issue: 75 percent said “it’s best to let the voters decide” big issues, while 16 percent said “we vote legislators into office to make big decisions.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Texas' challenge of federal regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources like power plants and factories. But it declined to hear the state's appeals of two other decisions, effectively upholding rules that limit such emissions from vehicles and maintaining the Environmental Protection Agency's assertion that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. At issue is whether the EPA can use the Clean Air Act, which gives it the authority to regulate emissions of toxic air pollutants and to limit emissions of greenhouse gases as well. 

Texas has the greatest number of poor, uninsured adults who will fall in a "coverage gap" created by states that chose not to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. One million of the 5.2 million Americans who won't have health insurance options available under the new law reside in Texas, according to the report. The state has the highest rate of uninsured in the nation. More than 6 million people — nearly a quarter of the population — lack health insurance, according to census data. And Texas only allows poor parents whose incomes are at 19 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $3,737 a year for a family of three, to enroll in Medicaid.

Fifty-nine percent of front-line fast-food workers in Texas rely on public assistance programs such as food stamps and Medicaid to support their families, according to a report released this week. Nationally, more than half – 52 percent – of the families of front-line fast-food workers use at least one public assistance program, compared with a quarter of the total workforce, according to the report. The research was sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley, Center for Labor Research and Education and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Urban & Regional Planning. Texas had the seventh-largest percentage of front-line fast-food workers on public assistance among the 24 states included in the report. Louisiana had the highest, 73 percent. The researchers omitted states for which there were too few fast-food workers in the census data sample.

With $27 million in unpaid tolls, the Texas Department of Transportation has taken advantage of new state legislation that allows it to publicly release the names of toll violators, posting the names of the top 25 toll scofflaws on its website. Among the top 25 toll offenders, amounts owed range from $236,026.32 to $82,297.26, and the number of unpaid tolls varied from 14,358 to 3,604. A 50-cent toll can jump to $448.50 if it is unpaid for 202 days, over which time the toll violator would receive at least two bills and a violation notice. If the toll remains unpaid, the case would be submitted to collections and the court system during that period.

Political People and their Moves

Kinky Friedman plans to run for agriculture commission as a Democrat. Among other things, he thinks the state should “legalize, cultivate, tax and regulate marijuana.” He had previously been considering a run for governor. 

Houston attorney Sam Houston filed the campaign finance paperwork to run for attorney general. He’s the first Democrat to declare interest in that race and says he’ll make a formal announcement soon.

Former state Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, says he will run for agriculture commissioner in 2014, joining a crowded field just as Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, jumped out. Creighton will run instead for the state Senate seat opened by Tommy Williams’ resignation. So will Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands. They’ll join Richard “Gordy” Bunch and Louis Guthrie, who are also in the race. 

Glenn Hegar picked up an endorsement from Texans for Fiscal Responsibility in his bid for comptroller. 

Janiece Crenwelge, most recently an analyst on the education section of the state budget, is leaving government to join the Erben and Yarbrough lobby firm. She previously worked for Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock.

Gov. Rick Perry appointed:

• Durga Agrawal and Paula Mendoza of Houston and Peter Taaffe of Austin to the board of regents at the University of Houston. Agrawal is CEO of Piping Technology and Products. Mendoza is present and CEO of Possible Missions. Taffee is an attorney with the Buzzbee Law Firm.

John Bailey of Cisco as justice of the 11th Court of Appeals, where Bailey has worked as a staff attorney.

Ken Wise of Humble as justice of the 14th Court of Appeals. He’s currently a district judge.

Catherine Evans of Houston as judge of the 180th Judicial District Court. She’s a prosecutor in the Harris County district attorney’s office.

Jennifer Balido of Dallas as judge of the 291st Judicial District Court. Balido, a former public defender and former prosecutor, is in private practice.

Grant Dorfman of Houston as judge of the 334th Judicial District Court. He is senior counsel at Nabors Corporate Services and a former judge.

Courtney Tracy of Newton as district attorney of Newton County. Tracy is a private practice lawyer and a former assistant city attorney in Houston.

Benjamin Smith of Snyder as district attorney for Borden and Scurry counties. He is currently Borden County attorney and an assistant DA for the two counties.