Archive for June, 2012

Texas officials to EPA: Leave us alone

It’s no secret Texas Republicans aren’t huge fans of the Environmental Protection Agency. Texas is suing the agency and multiple Republican candidates have campaigned on shutting it down all together.

Bryan Shaw, chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, testified before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Wednesday on EPA enforcement priorities and practices.

"We understand that EPA is continuing to expand its power despite restrictions imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court by moving forward with its controversial ‘waters of the U.S.’ guidance under the Clean Water Act, which would significantly expand EPA’s regulatory reach," Smitherman testified.

Former EPA administrator Alfredo Armendariz, who once used the word "crucify" when referring to EPA enforcement, was a no-show at the hearing. He was chair of the south central region EPA until he resigned last spring.

"The fact that Al Armendariz chose to shield himself behind his lawyers rather than answer simple questions about his time at the EPA demonstrates he has something to hide and is fearful of the consequences that may result from his time as EPA Region 6 Administrator,” Smitherman said in a press release.

Shaw’s testimony mostly centered around the state’s Flexible Permits Program, saying it gave "owners and operators greater flexibility and control" and "reduced emissions and complied with all state health standards and all applicable federal Clean Air Act requirements" when it was established in 1994. He testified that it took the EPA more than a decade to tell Texas the program didn’t comply with federal regulations.

‘Big 3’ call for 10 percent more cuts to 2014-2015 budget

YNN’s Political Reporter Alana Rocha filed the video report above following the announcement. The topic dominated the Texas Sunset Commission as they discussed needed improvements to several programs.

Deeper budget cuts are on the horizon. Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker Joe Straus are asking state agencies to plan to reduce spending by 10 percent, in 5 percent increments, for the 2014-2015 budget.

"Unlike Washington where spending increases are automatic, Texas has maintained a balanced budget by forcing government to look for savings first – ensuring taxpayers’ hard-earned money is put to its highest and best use," Dewhurst said in a statement.

A letter, sent Monday by the Legislative Budget Board and the Governor’s Office of Budget, Planning and Policy, gives clear instructions to agency chairs, appellate court judges and higher education chancellors and presidents.

"As a starting point for budget deliberations, an agency’s baseline request for General Revenue Funds and General Revenue-Dedicated Funds may not exceed the sum of amounts expended in fiscal year 2012 and budgeted in fiscal year 2013…Agencies must also submit a supplemental schedule detailing how they would reduce the baseline request by an additional 10 percent (in 5 percent increments) in General Revenue Funds and General Revenue Dedicated Funds," the letter states.

And they could be asked to cut more, should "state fiscal conditions warrant it."

Some programs and agencies are exempt. Agency chairs are asked not to cut funding for the Foundation School Program, or benefits and eligibility in Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program or the foster care program. Employer contribution requirements for state pensions are also exempt from cuts.

"While our revenue growth has been healthy this year, we must plan conservatively, which is why we have asked agencies to hold the line on spending. By identifying possible spending reductions in the next biennium, agencies can prioritize their most critical functions and programs. These instructions will also leave us prepared for a slowdown in revenues as the national economy struggles to recover," Speaker Straus said in a statement.

You can read the letter for yourself below.

Paul campaign responds to supporter arrests at Louisiana GOP convention

Mitt Romney may have clinched the Republican presidential nomination last week, but that is not silencing some Ron Paul supporters. Things got heated at the Louisiana GOP convention over the weekend, where a supporter was arrested.

According to Reuters, Paul supporter Henry Herford Jr. was asked to leave the Republican convention. He refused, and was eventually "taken away and charged with the misdemeanor crime of entering and remaining after being forbidden."

The Paul campaign described the incident in a press release on Saturday.

"Henry Herford Jr. of Franklin Parrish was attacked by some security officials who didn’t realize that the body had voted out the previous chairman. Mr. Herford has a prosthetic hip and according to a doctor at the scene it appears as though the prosthetic was dislocated and may require replacement," National Campaign Manager John Tate said.

The statement says the campaign "condemns the unfortunate activities that took place" and calls it an "unnecessary conflict." After the incident, Romney’s Louisiana chair told the Paul delegates he would make sure they were seated in Tampa, leading the Paul campaign to thank them for "stepping in and taking the high road."