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Clock ticking on moving bills


The clock is ticking on getting bills out of the House and to the Texas Senate, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick warned last week in a story in the Austin American-Statesman. Patrick presides over the Senate and is worried many bills that have made it out of House committees but have not gone before the full chamber will not be considered before the session ends.

“I previously expressed concern the House was far behind in the passage of bills and a train wreck was coming,” Patrick tweeted. At that time, more than 1,100 bills had made it out of committee but still had not been set on the House calendar. All bills must meet a May 11 deadline for a second reading to be further considered for final passage.

House Speaker Dade Phelan did not comment on Patrick’s concern but has put that chamber on a six-day work schedule for the rest of the session.


Poll: Raise minimum age for gun purchases

A new poll released by the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin indicates three-fourths of Texans polled said they support raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21, the Texas Standard reported.

“That included 91% of Democrats and 64% of Republicans,” Joshua Blank, director of research, said. “This is a consistent finding, to be quite honest. We’ve asked this question before. We’ve asked similar questions. So, there’s an appetite in some ways for stricter gun laws in Texas. It’s just not something that is politically palatable in the process that we have.”

Attempts by some Democratic legislators to push a similar measure in this legislative session have not gained traction and appear unlikely to pass.


PUC chair warns of possible summer outages 

The chairman of the Public Utility Commission warned last week that the state’s main power grid is at risk if wind turbines don’t produce enough power when needed, the Texas Tribune reported. Peter Lake reiterated that more on-demand power sources, such as power plants fueled by natural gas or batteries, need to be built to increase the electric grid’s reliability.

“The Texas grid faces a new reality,” Lake said last week. “Data shows for the first time that the peak demand for electricity this summer will exceed the amount we can generate from on-demand, dispatchable power, so we will be relying on renewables to keep the lights on.”

Pablo Vegas, CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said at the news conference that wind and solar energy production results have increased considerably more than plants powered by coal or gas.

“So as a result, we are expecting to have to rely more on renewables during peak conditions than we ever have before,” Vegas said.

Supporters of renewable energy scoffed at the view that the grid’s reliability rests on renewable energy alone. 

Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, said in a statement that renewable energy’s growth in Texas “should be heralded and welcomed — not blamed, contrary to evidence, for grid problems.”

The PUC is proposing the use of performance credits, funded by an estimated 2% increase in customer electric bills. The funds would go to companies that operate on-demand power sources in hopes of incentivizing them to build more power plants or keep existing plants operating longer, the Tribune reported.


Allred to challenge Cruz for Senate seat

A three-term Dallas-area congressman is seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in hopes of facing off against incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz next year. The Dallas Morning News reported last week that U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas, is seeking the nomination. He released a video blasting Cruz for hiding in a supply closet during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, and for leaving Texas weeks later for a Cancun vacation during the statewide electricity crisis caused by Winter Storm Uri.

“That’s Ted for you. All hat, no cattle,” Allred says in the video. 

Cruz, whose campaign called Allred a “far-left radical,” beat Democratic rival Beto O’ Rourke by fewer than 3 percentage points in 2018.


May is Motorcycle Awareness Month

Thousands of Texas motorcyclists are seriously injured or killed in crashes every year, the Texas Department of Transportation reports. In 2022, 562 motorcycle riders were killed, an 8% increase over the previous year.

“People on motorcycles are more vulnerable on our roadways,” said TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams. “It’s important for drivers to pay extra attention and look out for motorcycles — especially at intersections, when turning in front of oncoming traffic and while changing lanes. We all want to get home safe.”

During May, which is Motorcycle Awareness Month, drivers are urged to observe these safety precautions:

  • Stay alert. Even a momentary distraction, such as answering a phone call or changing the radio station, can have deadly consequences.
  • Pay special attention at intersections. That is where one-third of motorcycle fatalities occur.
  • Take extra care when making left turns. Always assume motorcycles are closer than they appear.
  • Stay back and maintain a safe following distance.
  • Slow down and observe posted speed limits.


Six new state parks on the horizon

Texans will have the opportunity to enjoy six new state parks in the next 12 to 15 years, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department announced recently. As TPWD celebrates 100 years of state parks, it is planning the development of a half dozen new places to camp, hike, fish, or just enjoy nature.

New parks in the works include Palo Pinto Mountains State Park near Fort Worth; the Dan A. Hughes Unit of the Devils River State Natural Area near Del Rio; Albert and Bessie Kronkosky State Natural Area near Boerne; Powderhorn State Park near Port Lavaca; Chinati Mountains State Natural Area near Presidio; and Davis Hill State Natural Area near Houston.

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@texaspress.com.


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