A Few ItemsThe Austin Chronicle has this article on who paid for Ben Bentzin's campaign, and will be paying for the next too I'm sure, Bentzin's Tangled Web of Backers:
As it happens, many of the high rollers and power brokers who played a role in the GOP's legislative sweep of 2002 (along with tort reform, redistricting, and persistent efforts to pass school voucher legislation and expand gaming interests in Texas) had hoped to further their run of good luck with Bentzin, a wealthy former Dell executive. Bentzin outdistanced Howard by a long shot in fundraising, collecting more than $555,000 since last fall to Howard's $240,000. But he couldn't muster the votes to beat Howard in either the Jan. 17 special election or the Feb. 14 run-off.Click on the link above to see the list of names, I'm sure you'll recognize some of them.
Bentzin had previously told the Statesman that he wouldn't accept money from gambling advocates, but a fair number of his lobby contributors represent clients with gaming interests.
TXU's in trouble, What goes up ...:
TXU and other electric power providers have justified large rate increases by explaining that soaring natural gas prices greatly increased their costs.It's like at the pump when oil prices go up, that day the price starts going up. When oil prices go down, it takes a few days for the price at the pump to start going down.
Indeed, natural gas is burned to generate much of the electricity produced in Texas. And gas prices skyrocketed to a record high of $15.78 per million British thermal units in futures trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange in December.
But gas prices have plunged since then as a result of increased supplies and milder-than-expected winter weather. Prices recently have been between $7 and $8 per million BTUs, or about half the peak price in December.
So why shouldn't electric rates be going down?
Schools anxious about definition of the "65% Ruse":
School finance officials are wringing their hands over next week's expected unveiling of the Texas Education Agency's definition of instruction.From what I understand the governor can't order this, the legislature has to:
That definition will be used to tell public schools how much money has to be spent in the classroom. The goal is to redistribute money that otherwise would go to administrators' salaries and other noninstructional expenses.
But school districts say they will be forced to cut counselors, nurses and crossing guards to meet the state's standard, which was ordered by Gov. Rick Perry. Districts that don't comply, some fear, will suffer financial penalties or receive low marks on their accountability rating.
"It's a political move that takes away local control," said Arlington Associate Superintendent Steve Brown. "It's potentially devastating to some districts."
But education law experts point out several problems with the governor's order.That makes it the "65% Suggestion".
One is that it is unlawful for the governor to order the education commissioner to adopt a particular rule. The commissioner's powers were delegated to her by the Legislature, not the governor.
Perry can't even fire Neeley without the approval of the Texas Senate. As a practical matter, of course, Neeley, who was appointed by Perry, is not likely to defy him.
And even if the commissioner eventually adopts a 65 percent rule, she apparently has little or no authority from the Legislature to punish those who come up short. In fact, the state already has a similar rule setting 54 percent of funds spent on classroom instruction as a benchmark for districts to meet in proving their financial accountability under the state law cited by Perry's executive order.