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From Sunset Slashes to EPA Brawls to King St Stickers

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Day Three of 82nd Texas Legislature

Schmoozing has a long legislative tradition. And now that the Senate has postponed its debate over the two-thirds rule until next week, there won’t be much else for lawmakers to do the next couple days. Well, of course there’s all that filing bills and researching solutions, but even that stuff is probably best done with a drink in hand.

1. One to Rule Them

While the Senate postponed its controversial rules debate until next week, the Sunset Commission started the legislative session with a bang. The commission is charged with evaluating each agency, most in 12 year cycles, to determine efficiency and find ways of cutting waste. And what waste they found! Among other things, the commission recommended to merge the Texas Youth Commission and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, to abolish the state’s five-member Transportation Commission in favor of just one commissioner. They voted that the Railroad Commission actually be called something relevant to what it actually regulates, recommending it be called the Oil and Gas Commission. [Texas Observer

2. Three Strikes

The battle between the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Texas is earning a rivalry reputation akin the UT versus A&M.  That hardly means it’s as competitive. Texas lost its third round in the legal fight over greenhouse gases—and whether the state must issue permits to major producers of the gases. This time, it was the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that turned our Attorney General down. That gives the EPA room to regulate the major sources of greenhouse gases in the state, done through a permitting process. While we’re the only state that doesn’t use permits to regulate greenhouse gases, Attorney General Greg Abbott has promised to keep challenging the feds. In sports, there’s always next year and in politics, there’s always the next courtroom. [Dallas Morning News]

3. Kings of the Street

You may remember Houston’s King Street Patriots from the Nov. elections. Back then, they were engulfed in controversies around alleged voter intimidation and voter suppression. They prompted a voter-irregularity investigation throughout Harris County and stationed election monitors throughout polling stations, on the look out for anything suspicious. Well they may still be in litigation, the group appears to be taking a new tack—at Tuesday’s Tea Party rallies, they quietly passed out stickers. Well quietly in some respects. The stickers were orange. [Texas Observer]

3. Cracked

National attention has focused on the shooting in Arizona, and how a mentally disturbed person slipped through the cracks. In Texas, those cracks will probably get much bigger in the next biennium, as the state tries to save money and cut from human service programs. In 2007, the state instituted hotlines and expanded community-based programs. Now those reforms, as well as variety of other programs for those needing psychiatric care, may well lose their funding in the budget crunch. Texas is already a tough place to be mentally ill—and it’s probably going to get tougher. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

5. The Pollyanna People

Apparently bad news doesn’t go well with a omelets. At a breakfast discussion yesterday, Gov. Rick Perry, along with Lieutenant Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker Joe Straus, “the ‘proponents of Armegeddon’ are needlessly arousing concern over deep budget cuts.” The unprecedented budget cuts may be tough, but people are too depressed about all this stuff. No matter what programs get cut, there’s always the change in your couch. And while you’re looking, see if you can find $27 billion—the missing amount needed to maintain current levels of state services. [Dallas Morning News]