Media news over the weekend
Cheers to the Statesman's Corrie MacLaggan for trying to do a substantive piece about health care policy and the gubernatorial candidates positions on it. The lede:
Here's Gov. Rick Perry's perspective: Texas children are safer today than a year ago, thanks to Child Protective Services reforms; more children are covered by public health insurance than in 1999; and the state is giving low-income Texans more ways to apply for help while saving taxpayers money.
Here's the reality, according to Perry's three main gubernatorial challengers: the privatization of public assistance enrollment is a nightmare; children are being recklessly dropped from public insurance programs; and the Child Protective Services reforms didn't go far enough.
The Statesman also had commentary by Gardner Selby noting that Strayhorn wasn't always so cozy with trial lawyers:
Craig McDonald goes soft on a political candidate instead of bashing them? Very odd.
Strayhorn warned in June 1996 that her challenger for a Texas Railroad Commission seat was a personal-injury trial lawyer. Strayhorn, then a Republican commissioner, wrote supporters that Democrat Hector Uribe "never saw a loophole for his fellow trial lawyers he didn't want to create, an expansion of social spending he didn't favor, or a tax bill he didn't like."
Now, as an independent gubernatorial candidate, Strayhorn has accepted more than $1 million from trial lawyers, with most of the money coming from John Eddie Williams and Joseph Jamail of Houston and Walter Umphrey of Beaumont.
The lawyers favor Strayhorn over GOP Gov. Rick Perry, who has championed changes in law intended to whittle lawsuits including medical malpractice cases. And they're obviously shrugging off Strayhorn's past positioning, including her anti-Uribe letter slamming lawyers eight times in 22 paragraphs.
Public Justice's Craig McDonald suggested that just because Strayhorn's fundraising posture has flipped, she's not necessarily a hypocrite. Then again, "those types of seemingly contradictory actions become fodder for your opponents to point fingers at you that you have no solid convictions."
Then, most of the papers around the state had some version of this story:
North Texas utility's political action committee gave $5,000 to Gov. Rick Perry's campaign last fall, only a few weeks after the governor had signed an executive order to speed up the state permitting process for coal-fired power plants.
Additionally, the retired chairman of the company, Dallas-based TXU, gave Perry $2,000 the day the order was signed, Oct. 27, and another $25,000 in April.
TXU, a significant source of political funding for Perry over the years, wants to build 11 new coal-burning units, primarily in East and Central Texas, a proposal that has drawn fire from environmentalists who fear increased air pollution.
The fast-tracking of the permits and the financial contributions also were criticized Friday by Perry's Democratic opponent, Chris Bell, who said the governor was unduly influenced by "polluters who write the big campaign checks."
Perry spokesman Robert Black said the change in the permitting process doesn't reduce environmental safeguards but simply trims six months or longer off the year that it can take administrative law judges to complete a contested case.
This strikes me as a normal media "we don't like money in politics" story. Considering that Texas has some problems with its electricity production and grid, speeding up the permitting process sounds reasonable.
And last, tax appraisal reform commission chair Tom Pauken has an editorial in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram arguing that the commission's work shouldn't be pre-judged.
I hope they talk to some good economists and think through incentives on all sides.
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