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But for the Grace of the PUC, Texas Goes

By Kathleen Hunker

The debate over the future of Texas’ electricity market continues, this time in the Austin-Statesman. This past week, the Statesman saw two op-eds hashing out whether the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) should adopt a planning reserve margin, otherwise known as a capacity market. The first, written by the Foundation, reminded the PUC that it should worry more about making the right decision than a fast one and argued that the competitive electricity market is not broken.

The second article took a different approach. Written by Joseph T. Kelliher, a former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, this editorial supported more government intervention and advised Texans, the PUC especially, to take their cues from other regional grids.

Challenge accepted!

Kelliher certainly isn’t the first to suggest that northeastern capacity markets could teach Texas a few things about resource adequacy. So let’s take that leap down the rabbit hole and see exactly what lessons Texas can learn from its northeastern cousins. Here’s a hint: capacity markets won’t solve Texas’ alleged resource adequacy riddle and it certainly won’t do so more efficiently than the energy-only market.

Lesson #1: Capacity Markets Are Expensive

The very purpose of a capacity market is to increase energy costs by tacking on an additional “product” (aka capacity) to a consumers’ energy bill and redistributing it to generating companies. In that, northeastern capacity markets succeed.

Capacity markets cost consumers billions of dollars each year. PJM, the regional transmission organization that serves all or parts of thirteen states in the mid-Atlantic, installed a forward capacity market in 2007. Since that time, capacity payments have totaled approximately $54 billion. Split evenly, that’s around $900 per person.

A Texas capacity market looks like it will fall in the same range. Early estimates have gaged a capacity market costing Texas consumers between $3 and $5 billion per year or, put another way, $180 per year for every man, women, and child in Texas. Let’s not forget that these numbers do not include design and implementation expenses, such as the eventual litigation costs. Capacity markets may be many things, but they’re definitely not cheap.

Lesson #2: Texas Electricity Bill Will Go Up

The increased costs land directly in a consumer’s monthly electricity bill. Capacity payments represented 18 percent of a PJM customer’s wholesale bill. Additionally, the amount consumers paid in capacity payments spiked in congested areas. In New Jersey, capacity payments added $140 per year to the average homeowner’s electric bill. They also added another $1,000 to a retail store’s annual energy costs and $15,000 for an industrial facility. They became just one more barbell weighing down New Jersey entrepreneurs hoping to start a business and share a decent quality of life—another reason why so many northeastern residents moved to Texas for greater economic…Continued here:

How Wendy Davis can win

McNamee/Getty Images

You’ve heard about the explosion in Texas’ Hispanic population that looks set to make the deep-red state competitive for Democrats before too long. But most experts say those trends won’t become game-changers for another decade or so—too late to help Wendy Davis’ bid for governor next year. That doesn’t mean that there’s no path to victory for Davis, though.

Rather than riding a demographic wave into the Governor’s Mansion, Davis has a chance to instead put together a cross-racial coalition that brings together minorities and liberal or moderate whites—especially women—Democrats and Texas political experts say. The task might have been made a little easier Monday when a federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush blocked a key part of the abortion law that Davis gained a national profile by filibustering—making it trickier for Republicans to paint her as an extremist on the issue.

Still, given the partisan realities of the Lone Star State, where no Democrat has been elected governor since 1990, it’s a long shot that would require almost everything to break her way. But with a proven statewide candidate, Attorney General Greg Abbott, as her probable Republican opponent, it’s likely the best chance Davis has got.

The strategy is comparable to the one used in Obama’s 2012 victory nationwide, when the president won an overwhelming minority of non-white voters, while holding onto enough liberal and moderate whites to eke out a majority. It’s also an approach Davis has used before: Whites made up around half of her state Senate district. In her 2008 and 2012 victories, both of which surprised many observers, Davis won large majorities of black and Hispanic voters, while staying competitive with whites by running as a centrist Democrat focused on education and economic development.

“There’s a little bit of a template,” Matt Angle, a veteran Texas Democratic political consultant who helped recruit Davis for the state Senate in 2008 told MSNBC. “And then Wendy Davis really energizes that by just being an extraordinary candidate who defies any type of ideological labels.”

Texas Democrats see any increase in minority turnout driven by demogrpahic changes as a bonus. Instead, they’re relying on a two-pronged strategy: Boosting Democratic margins with existing Hispanic voters; and cutting the party’s deficit with whites.

Here’s how they see the math: First, they assume an electorate that’s roughly 65% white. (In 2010 it was 67% white, and most projections put it at around 65% this time around). If Davis can win close to 70% of the Hispanic vote, and 35% of the white vote, she’d have a chance to get to a majority, given reliable black support for Democrats.

Increasing the margin with Hispanics

Winning seven in ten Hispanic votes will be a heavy lift for Davis, but it’s not impossible…Continued here:

The Challenges Ahead for Wendy Davis

Photo attribution: AP

What are the main challenges for the Wendy Davis campaign? Aside from the basic math of a statewide election, that is? Well, according to one trusted Democratic operative, the biggest is “to get everyone to swim in the same direction.” For instance, should Battleground Texas give up its identity and just be part of the Davis campaign? Perhaps the biggest mistake the Democrats have made was to roll out Battleground as an Obama-related organization.

Another issue is how Steve Mostyn will fit into Wendy world. Readers may recall from the 2010 governor’s race that Mostyn went off on his own, airing negative TV spots against Rick Perry, calling him a coward for refusing to debate. That was a waste of money. Perry is many things, but a coward is not one of them. Another issue for the Davis campaign, at least according to the operative I spoke with, is whether the campaign should be located in Fort Worth or Austin. The operative believes it should be in Austin, the political crossroads of Texas where the press corps just happens to be located. One piece of good news for the Democrats is that “the voter file is in good shape,” thanks to a heavy turnout in the 2008 primary election. The operative also expressed concern that people in the campaign have a tendency toward defensiveness, to show excessive concern about what they are going to be attacked for, rather than defining the Davis operation as a…Continued here:

Senators bicker over state stand your ground laws

By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Trayvon Martin’s mother told a panel of senators Tuesday that state “stand your ground” self-defense laws do not work and must be amended, reviving the politically charged gun control issue a year ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.

But little besides politics emerged from the session, held in the Senate’s made-for-television hearing room. Democrats who hold majority power in the Senate and are trying to keep it supported Sybrina Fulton’s call.

“This law is an invitation for confrontation,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who chaired the session.

Republicans, led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, said the matter should be left to the states that passed the laws.

“The states are doing quite well … without our interference,” Rep. Louie Gohmert testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Said Cruz: “This is not about politicking. This is not about inflaming racial tensions. This is about the right of everyone to protect themselves and protect their families.” Cruz made reference to statistics which, he said, show that blacks invoked stand your ground defense in prosecutions at least as often as whites.

Race and politics were unmistakably woven into the event and in the broader public policy debate. There is little willingness in Congress to weigh in on the laws of at least 23 states that have some form of the policy. These laws generally cancel a person’s duty to retreat in the face of a serious physical attack.


Associated Press

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) Witnesses, from left, Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin; Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr., Clinical Professor of Law, Director of the Criminal Justice Institute, Harvard Law School; David LaBahn, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys president and CEO; Ilya Shapiro, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies at Cato Institute; John R. Lott, Jr., president, Crime Prevention Research Center of Swarthmore, Pa.; and Lucia McBath … More Info

Members of Congress are busily engaged in their re-election efforts for next year’s midterms, with 35 seats at stake in the Senate, all 435 seats in the GOP-controlled House and the majorities of both chambers hanging in the balance. Gun control is a politically divisive issue, more so in the wake of mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., the Washington Navy Yard and more.

The 2012 shooting death of Martin, 17 and unarmed, and the acquittal this year of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman stirred racial tensions and sparked debate over stand your ground laws in Florida and at least 21 other states.

Martin’s mother told the panel that she attended the hearing so senators can “at least put a face with what has happened with this tragedy.”

“I just wanted to come here to … let you know how important it is that we amend this stand your ground because it certainly did not work in my case,” Fulton said, speaking without consulting prepared remarks. “The person that shot and killed my son is walking the streets today. This law does not work.”

Lucia Holman McBath, the mother of Jordan Russell Davis, implored the Senate to resolve the nation’s debate. Her 17-year-old son was shot and killed nearly a year ago when Michael David Dunn, 46, allegedly opened fire on a Dodge Durango with four teenagers inside after complaining of their loud music and saying he saw a gun and thus a threat. Jordan had been inside. Authorities never found a gun in the vehicle, the Florida Times-Union reported. Dunn’s trial is set for next year.

“You can lift this nation from its internal battle in which guns rule over right,” McBath told the panel.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 22 states have laws that allow that “there is no duty to retreat (from) an attacker in any place in which one is lawfully present.” The states are Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia, according to the NCSL.

Alaska also passed a stand your ground law this year, which makes clear a person has no duty to retreat if….Continued here:

Stefani Carter back in House race, but 3 other contenders remain

Gromer Jeffers Jr.

Rep. Stefani Carter’s aborted bid for Railroad Commission took valuable campaign time and effort. Now she has to worry about it costing her seat in the House.

After announcing this summer that she was running to replace Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman, Carter watched as three potential successors started campaigning for House District 102, largely in North Dallas.

But with weak fundraising totals for the statewide race, Carter decided that her heart was in the Legislature. Last week, she said she was running for re-election to the House seat she’s held since 2011.

Incumbents can usually avoid challengers, but Carter’s reversal didn’t shake the resolve of the three candidates who had already decided to run.

Still, Carter says she’s happy with her decision and confident that she will be re-elected.

“Voters will take a look at my record and decide if they are happy with my representation in Austin,” Carter said.

Those voters currently have an array of choices, and those candidates certainly would not have challenged Carter had she not spent time running for statewide office.

The field includes former Dallas City Council member Linda Koop. Her ground team is already knocking on doors in the district.

Richardson businessman Samuel Brown, with the support of Dallas Cowboys legend Roger Staubach, is also in the race. An army veteran, Brown was badly injured in the war in Afghanistan.

And conservative Adryana Boyne, who described herself as the front-runner before Carter got back into the race, says she’s still committed to a campaign.

Carter’s re-entry into the House race has created other problems.

Her longtime consultant, Craig Murphy, is under contract with Koop. Murphy had planned to handle Carter’s campaign for Railroad Commission and Koop’s House race.

Now legal questions abound.

Carter appears to be in the market for another consultant, but she also has to make sure that Murphy doesn’t use the information and campaign tactics he’s gotten from her over the years to help Koop.

That information could be as simple as where to place yard signs.

“We are working out the issues involving confidential campaign information,” Carter said.

Carter’s change of heart brings to mind 2010, when several candidates were…Continued here:

Novak announces bid for Senate

Former Bexar County Commissioner and longtime San Antonio businessman Mike Novak has officially kicked-off his campaign for Senate District 25, joining former city councilwoman Elisa Chan in challenging incumbent Donna Campbell.

Novak, 61, made his announcement Thursday at the Barn Door.

“We’ve had strong, conservative leadership in District 25, but what I have heard time and time again from business owners is that their interests have been forgotten,” Novak said in an emailed news release. “It’s more than keeping government small and out of hair – it’s looking for opportunities to help business, to create jobs and grow our economy.”


Novak was the first Republican commissioner in Bexar County Pct. 4, where he served from 1995-1998. He started his first business at age 28, according to the news release, has owned niche construction companies and now owns an air conditioning and energy business with his son in San Marcos. Novak was the chairman of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce in 2004.

Campbell, a darling of the Tea Party, gained notoriety during her freshman year in the Texas Senate by taking a conservative stance on reproductive rights, including raising a point of order that ended Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster of the abortion bill…Continued here:

Straus Urges El Paso Voters to Support Prop 6

EL PASO — Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, on Monday continued his statewide tour in support of a ballot initiative that, if passed, would tap into the state’s savings account to finance a water development bank for Texas.

Straus, flanked by Democratic legislators from El Paso, urged voters to support Proposition 6, which would allocate $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund for projects he said are needed to keep pace with the state’s surging population.

“These constitutional amendment elections don’t trend on Twitter, and they’re not big ratings winners on cable television, but they are very, very important,” he said. Current drought conditions have cost Texas about $11 billion, he added.

Straus spoke at El Paso Water Utilities TechH2O Center, a resource and exhibition center adjacent to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant. Early voting is under way and ends Nov. 1; Election Day is Nov. 5.

The bipartisan support in this far West Texas desert reflects what other members from both parties have said about the plan. Last week, gubernatorial candidates Greg Abbott, the state’s Republican attorney general, and state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, expressed their support for the measure. Gov. Rick Perry has also publicly backed it, as has GOP supporter and baseball Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan.

Critics of the measure, including Debra Medina, a Republican candidate for comptroller, have said the one-shot deal won’t help satiate the state’s need for a water plan and would serve special interests.


House Speaker Joe Straus, joined by members of El Paso’s legislative delegation, promotes Proposition 6 on Oct. 28, 2013, in El Paso.

“There is no doubt investment bankers, lawyers and financial advisors are salivating at the chance to get their hands on $2 billion,” she wrote in an opinion piece last week.

Straus also stressed the importance of conservation planning in Proposition 6. Twenty percent of the proposed projects, he said, are conservation efforts.

Straus also said that Proposition 6 would not raise taxes and that the state’s Rainy Day Fund would remain at optimum levels.

“I think it’s interesting to note and important to note that not only industry supports this and big city mayors that are in El Paso today, but agricultural groups, the Farm Bureau, cattle raisers support this, as do leading conservation groups,” he said.

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Medicaid Enrollment Surging Despite Obamacare Problems

More people are enrolling in Medicaid rather than in private insurance plans, leading critics of Obamacare to charge that the federal government will end up playing a much bigger role in the nation’s healthcare system than had been expected.

Medicaid expansion always was expected to be a major part of bringing health coverage to the uninsured, reports The Wall Street Journal. The state reports are seen as good news for Obamacare advocates who said the law would bring health insurance to even more Americans.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, 9 million people were expected to sign up for Medicaid in 2014, and 7 million were expected to sign up for private coverage.

But the Obamacare website’s ongoing problems are slowing the number of people able to sign up for private plans.

No figures are available for Medicaid expansion in the 36 states where people are being enrolled through the troubled federal website. But in states which have set up their own exchanges under Obamacare, Medicaid enrollment is booming.

In Kentucky, for example, 82 percent, or 21,342, of those enrolling in new insurance plans under Obamacare are signing up for Medicaid, the Journal reported. In Washington, it’s 87 percent of 35,528; and in New York, 64 percent of some 37,000.

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Part of the growth is because states are reaching out to people who already receive federal benefits such as food stamps, said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors.

Under Obamacare, Medicaid is available for people who earn up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, making many more people eligible.

In addition, it’s easier to get Medicaid than private coverage in many cases. Enrollees can go to local offices to sign up for coverage, rather than having to depend on the glitch-prone Obamacare website.

But there are concerns that Medicaid will draw more young people who could have bought private insurance coverage, which could drive up the cost of private…

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Federal judge strikes down key Texas abortion limits

Michael Winter and Rick Jervis, USA TODAY

Restrictions were set to take effect Tuesday, but rules upheld on pregnancy-ending drugs.

AUSTIN — A federal judge Monday struck down key abortion restrictions in Texas that were to take effect Tuesday but upheld most provisions governing use of pregnancy-ending drugs.

District Judge Lee Yeakel declared that two changes to the state’s health and safety code, passed during a special legislative session this summer, unconstitutionally restricted women’s access to abortion clinics and infringed on doctors’ rights to act in their patients’ best interests.

In a 26-page opinion, Yeakel also blocked a provision requiring physicians to strictly follow follow U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocols when prescribing “off-label” doses of pregnancy-ending drugs, limiting their treatment options. He called the lawmakers’ action “an undue burden on those women for whom surgical abortion is, in the sound medical opinion of their treating physician, a significant health risk.”

The judge also struck down the statue that required doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of an abortion clinic, which opponents said would force 13 of the state’s 32 clinics to close. Research by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project estimated that the regulations would prevent more than 22,000 women from accessing abortion facilities.


Karen McCrocklin of Dallas carries a Texas flag with pink running shoes similar to those worn by state Sen. Wendy Davis when she filibustered the legislation.(Photo: Jay Janner, via AP)

“The admitting-privileges provision of House Bill 2 does not bear a rational relationship to the legitimate right of the state in preserving and promoting fetal life or a woman’s health and, in any event, places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus and is thus an undue burden to her,” he wrote.

Regarding so-called medication abortion, Yeakel ordered that one provision “may not be enforced against any physician who determines, in appropriate medical judgment, to perform the medication-abortion using off-label protocol for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.”

But Yeakel, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, upheld as constitutional other FDA-required procedures, which require additional doses and doctor visits, even though they are “assuredly more imposing and unpleasant for the woman.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott immediately appealed to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which would rule on the merits of the law.

“I have no doubt that this case is going all the way to the United States Supreme Court,” Abbott, a Republican running to replace Gov. Rick Perry, said during a campaign stop in Brownsville, the Associated Press reported.

Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis shot to national attention when she filibustered against the measure for nearly 13 hours in June, leading to…Continued here:


Great: More Americans on Welfare Than Working Full Time

A new report from the Census Bureau showed a total of 108,592,000 people were on some sort of means-tested government benefits program in the fourth quarter of 2011, yet only 101,716,000 people were employed full-time for the entire year.

A individual counted as a beneficiary of a means-tested program if they resided in a household where someone received benefits.

Means-tested benefits programs are the second-largest category of government spending. The government spends more on these programs than public education and defense spending. From a Heritage Foundation report:

The 69 means-tested programs operated by the federal government provide a wide variety of benefits. They include:

12 programs providing food aid;

10 housing assistance programs;

10 programs funding social services;

9 educational assistance programs;

8 programs providing cash assistance;

8 vocational training programs;

7 medical assistance programs;

3 energy and utility assistance programs; and,

2 child care and child development programs.

Programs such as Social Security, unemployment insurance, workers compensation, and veterans benefits are not considered to be “means tested,” so recipients of those benefits are not included in the 108,592,000 figure.

Clearly, this is a huge problem. A country cannot survive if its citizens are not willing or able to work. In 35 states welfare pays better than an actual job. This is what we call an “incentive”–and the U.S. is incentivizing people to not work. Why would a person actually get a job if they could be paid more to stay home? In Pennsylvania, a single women with children working a job that pays $29,000 a year actually receives $57,345 in total income when benefits are factored in. Conversely, if the woman were to work a job that paid $69,000 a year, her net pay after taxes is only $57,045.

If the woman were to make more than her $29,000 salary, she would miss out in nearly $30,000 in government benefits. Short of winning the lottery or developing some sort of hot product, a person’s income is not going to increase rapidly from $29,000 to $69,000. This is referred to as the “welfare cliff.” There is no…Continued here: