Governor-elect Greg Abbott is not just a shrewd politician. Texas' soon-to-be 48th governor evidently moonlights as a fortune teller, and he's come to warn the Lone Star State of impending doom.
Abbott's message is not about the state's nearly 6 million uninsured residents, the anti-science and anti-history mentality that's seeped into our textbooks, or our public school funding scheme that's twice been ruled unconstitutional. No, this was Abbott's prognostication on the eve of a brand new legislative session:
"Texas is being California-ized and you may not even be noticing it," Abbott told a crowd of conservative think-tankers at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, decrying "a patchwork quilt of bans and rules and regulations that is eroding the Texas model."
Abbott's warning is simple: Texas lawmakers this session need to crack down on cities (re: the big, scary left-leaning pockets of the state) that, due to years of inaction at the state level, have started to regulate a whole lot of stuff locally -- everything from banning fracking in city limits to LGBT non-discrimination ordinances and plastic bag bans. To Abbott, this all means the "Texas miracle" could soon become a "California nightmare."
And Abbott's not entirely wrong. If you look closely, we've got plenty more in common with our left-coast cousins than just an abundance of sunshine or plenty of beach-front real estate. Listen to Abbott. Take heed. Or else we could soon morph into that horror that is the
Sunshine Golden State. We pick up where Abbott left off, and present to you a few harbinger's of the coming "California-ization" of Texas:
Renewable Energy California has long been the national leader when it comes to renewable energy, with Texas trailing the pack.
But that's slowly changing. For one thing, Texas' renewable energy portfolio has increased at a steady clip in recent years, rising a hefty 12 percent between 2012 and 2013. While California was busy becoming the country's top solar state, Texas was quietly becoming the nation's largest wind-power producer. Wind-generated power in Texas even set a record last March, accounting for nearly 29 percent of power on the state's grid on a single day, according to the Electric Reliability Corporation of Texas.
Now the state is in the throes of what some have dubbed a solar renaissance, as some public utilities -- namely in Austin and San Antonio -- look to diversify and as solar technology continues its steep drop in price. San Francisco-based Recurrent Energy announced last year that it plans to build a 150-megawatt solar farm in West Texas, a patch of the state with plenty of cheap, sun-bleached land perfect for building industrial-scale solar.
Publicly-subsidized solar? You might as well call us California already...
Payday Lending Texas and California have one thing in common when it comes to regulating predatory payday lenders: both employ a hands-off approach, at least at the state level.
In its review of state payday loan laws, the Pew Charitable Trusts puts both Texas and California in the "permissive" category, meaning both states allow for single-repayment loans with APRs of 391 percent or higher. In recent years, the Texas Legislature and the California State Assembly have failed to pass any meaningful reforms to rein in the industry. And in both states, cities like Houston have grown tired of waiting on lawmakers to hand down state-wide regulations, opting instead to crack down on payday lenders with local ordinances.
At least in Texas we've got Houston Republican State Rep. Gary Elkins, who's willing to fight the good fight. Himself the owner of a chain of payday lending stores, Elkins fought hard in the 2011 and 2013 sessions to kill any statewide reforms. As the Chron reported back in October, Elkins' Power Finance stores in Dallas, San Antonio and Houston have run afoul of all three cities' payday lending ordinances by failing to register with the cities or by blocking regulators from inspecting their books.
While seismic activity isn't entirely unheard of in Texas, we've seen an uptick in tremors and small quakes that just so happens to coincide with the oil and gas drilling boom. While researchers have been dispatched to the Irving area to determine whether there's a correlation, local school kids are already being taught the duck-and-cover drill.
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In-state tuition for undocumented students Both Texas and California are home to sizable populations of so-called "Dreamers," or undocumented students who, through no fault of their own, were brought into the country by their parents when they were kids. So it's not surprising that California and Texas are among the 18 states that grant in-state college tuition for most undocumented students -- what's been called a state Dream Act. In fact, according to the National Conference of State Legislators, the Golden and Lone Star states were the first to take such a stance back in 2001.
It's a practice that, although supported by both George W. Bush and Rick Perry, incoming Lt. Gov Dan Patrick says he wants to repeal. On the campaign trail, Abbott said that if lawmakers passed a repeal of the law, he wouldn't veto it. On the first day of bill filing, GOP state rep. Jonathan Stickland filed a measure to repeal the state Dream Act.
So take that, California.