Monday, August 01, 2005

Finally! Not Just an Idiot Wind from the Lege

You'd of thought that Gov. Rick Perry would be in a happier mood at his press conference today. After all, miraculously, something good came out of the now-two special sessions he has called. Perry signed Senate Bill 20, passed during the first called special session, which ended on July 20. The bill requires that about 5 percent of the state's energy come from renewable sources by 2015 and sets a goal of 10 percent by 2025. The legislation also empowers the Public Utility Commission to order construction of new transmission lines. This is vital in moving the power from wind generators in West Texas to the state's cities.

It's a strange day when Tom "Smitty" Smith, state director of Public Citizen and Perry are twinkling at each other but there they were, along with bill sponsors Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), Rep. Todd Baxter (R-Austin), and Rep. Bob Hunter (R-Abilene). Smitty, who worked the legislation hard during the regular session, only to see it drown in a telecom bloodbath, seemed relieved. "We got past the impasse," he said.

The press clearly didn't give a damn. When it came time to ask questions nobody had one about energy. They only wanted to talk about school finance. Jay Root of the Fort Worth Startlegram led off. These days Root often summons up the pique of an executive who has to wait too long for his valet parking. He doesn't seem to care about the substance of school finance, he's just angry that legislators can't seem to get anything done. Maybe his vacation plans have been upset.

Sure enough, Jay wanted Perry to justify all the money spent for the special sessions when there is nothing to show for it. Predictably, this allowed Perry to get all indignant. "It's a minor amount of money compared to what it would mean for the teachers of the state, for crying out loud," his hairness huffed.

Then the governor said something that pricked the ears of the teacher and superintendent reps standing outside. Perry said that he'd been in politics long enough to know that sometimes you don't get the full loaf, you have to settle for a half a loaf or a slice. This seemed to leave open the possibility that he'd declare victory if the Lege just passed a teacher salary increase and some money for textbooks and called it good. When it comes time to stump in front of his suburban constituents heading into the March '06 primary, Perry then might be able to get on down the road by blaming the failure to reduce property taxes on the Lege.