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Secretary Powell Gets Briefed by Paul Bremer on the Iraq Situation -e-7/41 1121 it 1r Ga 2-TRIBUNE MEDIA Sept 16 2003 1770 your crumbling home, you’ll be glad the state created an agency to regulate the residential construction business and fight for consumers like yourself. If only the RCC were on your side. Sadly, judging by Gov. Rick Perry’s seven appointments to the commission in early Septemberfive of whom have ties to construction companiesit will be yet another Texas regulatory agency dominated by the very industry it’s supposed to oversee. The RCC, birthed last legislative session, will consist of a nine-member commission that will head a 26-person team of inspectors. The agency is supposed to license and regulate the home construction industry and help resolve disputes between homeowners and home builders. Consumer groups feared from the start that the ostensibly pro-consumer commission would be hijacked by the home builders, some of whom are among Gov. Perry’s largest political donors. High on the list of Perry backers are Dick Weekley of David Weekley Homes, a co-founder of the big-money Texans for Lawsuit Reform, and Bob Perry \(no relation to and the biggest Republican donor in the state \(he gave nearly $4 million to Well, the list is out andsurprise!it’s dominated by construction industry officials. The appointments include: Art Cuevas, president of Art Cuevas Construction in Lubbock; John Krugh, corporate counsel for the aforementioned Houston-based Perry Homes; Glenda Mariott of Mariott Homes in College Station; and Scott Porter, president of Porter Contracting in Kerrville. The RCC chair will be Midland’s Patrick Cordero, who heads Strategic Abstract & Title Corp. and has ties to House Speaker Tom Craddick the construction industry’s campaign contributions. Only two of the seven appointees have no construction affiliations, a Dallas attorney and the CEO of a telecommunications firm. Perry still must name two more appointees to the RCC. It’s possible those last two commissioners will be consumer advocates. That is, if they can muster enough campaign contributions. BIDNESS, YES: TAXES, MAYBE Midland’s second favorite sonafter George W. BushTexas House Speaker Tom Craddick is staying as far away as possible from the hottest topic in his West Texas district these days. Right before Labor Day, Midland joined a number of other West Texas counties in suing more than a dozen oil companies including ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, Oxy USA, BP, and Shell Oil Co. A total of 17 counties around the state are alleging that the oil companies engaged in a conspiracy through their affiliates and subsidiaries to defraud the counties between 1983 and 1998. The companies, it is charged, underreported the market amount they paid for crude oil and thus how much they owed in local taxes. The number of counties that are party to the suit is expected to grow. Each county must battle it out with the oil companies independently. For an area nurtured and grown on oil, the lawsuits are unprecedented. As one reader posted on the Midland Reporter-Telegram website: “Wow! Midland County takes on big oil. This is huge.” It wasn’t just the Bushies who left comfortable Connecticut to make their oil fortunes in Midland. Speaker Craddick has also benefited from Midland’s oil industry, selling mud, of all things, used in drilling. He has also been a consistent booster of the industry in the Legislature. Yet despite his intimate knowledge of the West Texas oil biz, Craddick declined an opportunity to comment on the lawsuits. The oil companies strenuously deny the allegations. If upheld, they could be forced to pay hundreds of millions, although lawyers for the counties are tight-lipped about the amount they believe is at stake. An ExxonMobil spokesman called the allegations in the lawsuit “hogwash.” The lawsuit clearly spells out how essential oil money is to the tax base of the area. “Midland County uses its tax revenues to fund a variety of activities, including servicing roads, maintaining and operating public safety and emergency services, providing for the maintenance of county facilities, discharging statutory duties imposed under Texas law, and conducting other general business.” County officials deny that they were driven to the lawsuits because of the drastic cuts in state services the Republican speaker helped force through the Legislature. Even if the counties win, it could take years of appeals before they see any money, not soon enough to fill budget gaps in local services. 9126103 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9