Restrictive Abortion Bill Targeting Teens One Step Closer to Law After Senate Approval

After hours of debate and more than a dozen failed amendments by Democrats, the Texas Senate gave preliminary approval Monday to a major anti-abortion bill that makes it harder for abused or neglected teenagers to get an abortion through the courts. Current law requires that Texans under 18 get a parent's permission to have an abortion. However, minors can turn to the courts to seek a confidential judicial bypass when they fear they'll be abused at home because of their pregnancy or abortion, or if they don't have a parent to consent. House Bill 3994, approved with a 21-to-10 vote in the Senate, increases the burden of proof on the minor from a “preponderance of evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence,” essentially making it tougher to secure a bypass. The legislation also restricts where a minor can file a bypass application. Continue Reading

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Legislative Wrap: State passes renewable energy goal

Darren Springer, deputy commissioner for the Department of Public Service, presented details of a new renewable energy program, known as RESET, to a packed House Natural Resources and Energy Committee during the opening weeks of the legislative session. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger
At the start of the legislative session, the Shumlin administration presented lawmakers with a fix to what they said was a looming six percent statewide increase in the price paid for electricity. Vermont utilities sell renewable energy credits, or RECs, generated by wind and solar projects, to other out-of-state utilities used to meet renewable energy targets. But because Vermont utilities could count this power toward a state renewable energy goal in 2017, out-of-state utilities have begun to question the value of so-called “double counted” RECs. The bill, H.40, would resolve that concern, allowing utilities to continue earning about $50 million in revenue from the sale of RECs. Continue Reading

Rascovar: Move the Preakness to Laurel? No way

Above: Gov. Larry Hogan awards the Woodlawn vase at the Preakness this month. (Photo by Executive Office of the Governor)
By Barry Rascovar
The Stronach Group, which owns Maryland's two thoroughbred one-mile tracks, is making noise about moving the crown jewel of Free State racing, the Preakness Stakes, to Laurel Race Course. It's a non-starter — and the Stronach folks probably know it. Legally such a move can't take place without General Assembly approval, which won't happen. From a racing standpoint, owner Frank Stronach would have to be brain-dead to transplant the Preakness. Continue Reading

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Accident Secrecy Provision Likely to be Stripped, Author Says

A late-night amendment that would keep secret the names of parties involved in traffic accidents is expected to be stripped out of a bill targeting overzealous tort lawyers who rush to crash victims' doors. In a statement Monday, state Sen. Charles Perry acknowledged that possible legal challenges to his amendment to House Bill 2633, would likely defeat it as the bill — approved by the Senate late Sunday 19-11 — heads to a conference committee. "It has come to light in recent hours that there have been legal challenges that have shown similar language to be unconstitutional," said the statement released by Jordan Berry, a spokesman for the Lubbock Republican. "While the language will likely be stripped in conference committee to avoid legal challenges, Senator Perry is glad the legislature was able to start a dialogue on this crucial issue," the statement continued. "In the coming years, this topic will inevitably resurface both in the legislature and the courts as technology continues to evolve and Americans demand more protections for their quickly eroding privacy rights. Continue Reading

John McClaughry: The governor’s ‘productive’ legislative session

Editor's note: This commentary is by John McClaughry, the vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Gov. Peter Shumlin proclaimed this year's legislative session to be “one of the most productive sessions that I can remember.” To others that appears as a new frontier in spin, possibly coupled with a bit of amnesia. Let's review the report card. Going into the session in January, the state's general fund for 2016 faced a projected $113 million deficit. The Legislature cut $53 million out of the governor's budget request. Continue Reading

Tim Loucks: AnC Bio – A groundbreaking with no politicians?

Editor's note: This commentary is by Tim Loucks, a consultant to private equity companies seeking to restructure their business holdings. He moved to Vermont in 2002 to join Husky Injection Molding Systems in Milton, where he led the Milton operation from 2004-2006, and subsequently led Husky's Global Tooling Operations from 2007-2011. He lives in Charlotte. It's not uncommon for appointed and elected officials to trip over one another as they rush to cut ribbons and turn shovels on large, new job creation projects. Who doesn't like new jobs? Continue Reading

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Senate Backs House on In-Person Inmate Visitation

Inmates in some Texas county jails may no longer have to speak to loved ones on a video screen after the Senate voted today to back a House measure requiring in-person jail visitation. Under House Bill 549 by state Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, certain county jails would be required to offer prisoners a minimum of two 20-minute, in-person visitation periods per week. Speaking ahead of a vote on the Senate floor, state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, who sponsored the bill in the upper chamber, said that in-person visitation "keeps families together and cuts down on divorces." "Often, inmates need to be seen and talked to, to be encouraged to do the right thing – told to cooperate, get back to work, and get back to your family," said Whitmire. The legislation comes in response to a recent move to so-called 'video visitation' by several county jails, citing cost savings and security concerns. Continue Reading

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House Votes to Keep Grid Decisions in Texas

The Texas House on Monday voted to make sure Texans have the final say over who gets to connect to the state's near-island of an electric grid. Aside from Hawaii, Texas is the only state that has it's own electric grid, a source of pride for policymakers. In a voice vote, the chamber tentatively approved Senate Bill 933, which would give Texas regulators authority to sign off on efforts to build major power lines connecting the Texas grid to multi-state grids elsewhere – projects that would allow grid operators more options for meeting electricity demands. Currently, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has authority to approve such connections, and lawmakers – led by Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay – say Texas should make such decisions, which could majorly impact electric reliability and prices. “These interconnections can create tremendous risk for our electric system,” Fraser said in a committee hearing in March, “including having Texas lose control over its own electric system.”
The state's grid – operated by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) – covers about 75 percent of the state's land area and carries 90 percent of its electric load. Continue Reading