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Cronyism: Why Are Republicans in Texas Sponsoring a Bill to Block Competition?
Texas has a longstanding and well-deserved reputation for being a much-less-government state. Which has directly led to Texas being a much-more-economic-prosperity state.
The Lone Star State seems to understand the universal inverse proportion:
More government - less prosperity. Less government - more prosperity.
Now-Donald Trump Administration Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s previous gig - was as the longest serving governor in Texas history.
Perry as governor oversaw a sustained state campaign entitled “Texas: Wide Open for Business.” Which invited businesses in other states beleaguered and overburdened by government - to move to the Lone Star State.
Greg Abbott is Perry’s Texas governor successor. And he has been at least as good as Perry when it comes to keeping the Lone Star government off of the backs - and out of the pockets - of its residents.
With all of that being said, we are all left to wonder why a particular, particularly anti-competition pair of companion bills - are being offered by the Texas legislature.
Specifically by state Senator Kelly Hancock (SB 1938) and state Representative Dade Phelan (HB 3995). Hancock is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Business & Commerce - and Phelan Chairman of the House Committee on State Affairs. So you’d hope they’d know better.
The legislation has to do with electricity - and electricity transmission. Where Texas has yet again been a model of deregulatory success:
“Electricity deregulation in Texas, approved by Texas Senate Bill 7 on January 1, 2002, calls for the creation of the Electric Utility Restructuring Legislative Oversight Committee to oversee implementation of the bill. According to the law, deregulation would be phased in over several years.
“As a result, 85% of Texas power consumers (those served by a company not owned by a municipality or a utility cooperative) can choose their electricity service from a variety of retail electric providers (REPs), including the incumbent utility….
“Since 2002, approximately 85% of commercial and industrial consumers have switched power providers at least once. Approximately 40% of residential consumers in deregulated areas have switched from the former incumbent provider to a competitive REP.”
Ahhh…competition - a fundamental component of any successful economy.
Except the companion bills offered by Hancock and Phelan - create a situation where competition can quite easily be stifled:
“An electric utility may not directly or indirectly provide service to the public under a franchise or permit unless the utility first obtains from the commission a certificate that states that the public convenience and necessity requires or will require the installation, operation, or extension of the service.”
Legalese-to-English translation: Any company that wants to provide service - must first play Mother May I with the government.
And this is not just a routine permit process request. The company must meet some amorphously awful definition of “public convenience and necessity.”
Which means the government has any one of a million obtuse outs - to deny permission to any company it wishes.
To my highly cynical eye and mind - this looks very much like an incumbent protection bill. Designed to allow government to block any and all newcomers - to shield the existing providers from the additional competition.
This isn’t “Wide Open for Business” - so much as it is “Slammed Closed for Cronies.”
Texans should know better.
Here’s hoping they ultimately do.
This first appeared in Red State.