March 23, 2009
Senate Bill 362, the so-called Voter ID bill, finally left the Senate last week. It felt like a loud, obnoxious party guest that was invited accidentally, made everybody miserable, left a huge mess, and kept people from doing the stuff they wanted to do.
Closing arguments were last week (you can read my comments here). Then, on the expected party-line vote, the Senate tossed this train wreck over to the House of Representatives.
So it’s over. Now, at long last, it seems like it’s time to do some real legislating. I’m telling you, something that painful ought to at least result in weight loss.
A couple of bills I’m working on made it out of committee last week – one that gives some negotiating rights to City of Austin employees over things like hours and wages, and another that requires Texas Supreme Court justices to disclose how they vote on which cases they accept and reject. The bills now head to the full Senate for a vote.
Two other bills I’m proud of – Senate Bill 184, my “No Regrets” bill, and Senate Bill 608, which creates a “Texas Center for Sustainable Business” – also were heard in the Senate Natural Resources Committee. It looks like the No Regrets bill will be voted on by the committee on Tuesday.
To refresh your memory, No Regrets simply requires the state to study ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – of which Texas has more than any other state – and to focus on strategies that actually save money for businesses and customers in the long run. The theory is that whether or not we should be doing something about climate change, at least we can save folks some money.
The Sustainable Business bill would get Texas moving to create our own solutions for addressing climate change – doing it in a way that gives appropriate credit to the important role Texas plays in the national economy and to the actions some businesses are already taking. My hope is that, by acting now, Texas will be better positioned and prepared when the federal government begins capping greenhouse gas emissions.
Seems pretty straightforward, right? I mean, who could oppose helping businesses address the federal regulation they should know is coming?
Well, based on the testimony, there exists a significant part of the business and industrial community for which even this cautious, borderline-obvious approach is too much.
This town is still small enough that two days after some members of one particular group testified against the creation of a Center for Sustainable Business, I ended up speaking at a luncheon they hosted downtown.
Texas and Texas businesses simply can’t afford to sit back and hope that Washington doesn’t do anything in terms of climate change.
It’s not a question of whether the feds will act. The only uncertainties are when and what will be required. So shouldn’t Texas act affirmatively to be sure we have a seat at the table and an active emissions reduction program we can point to? With S.B. 608, I want the state to set reasonable goals and ask businesses to work with this new agency, then tell us the cheapest, most efficient ways to reach those goals.
To be blunt, Texas businesses ought to be concerned that a lack of state action will make Texas low-hanging fruit for anyone who wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions. If we keep ignoring the problem and killing even the most practical and sensible solutions, we’ll only make it easier on them and tougher on everyday Texans.
It’s illogical to say, “Let’s wait and see what happens at the federal level.” That puts us behind other states and the federal government. We would have nothing to point to where we could say, “We’re acting in Texas’ best interest. Let us do it our way.”
Some, even at this luncheon, have argued that we can wait because, after all, we’re Texas. We’re big and we’ve got a big Congressional delegation.
Unfortunately, our delegation is generally out of power right now. And, yes, we are big. But that just means we’ll be a big target if we don’t get our own plan in place.
Let me say again – Senate Bill 608 would create a business-friendly program to help Texas companies deal with coming climate change regulation – nothing more, nothing less. Opposing this bill is saying that Texas should do nothing but wait to see how others will act on climate change.
Hopefully, such an attitude won’t win out at the Capitol this year.