Entry for July 27, 2006

The photograph comes from the Texas Center for Policy Studies.

 Texas has a state sunset commission founded in 1977 as a “good government measure”   and in 2000, the Center’s Public Interest Sunset Working Group tried to get the commission to protect the public interest and reform the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission,  now the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality . A report on its website details some of the “Citizen Disappointments,”   which I’ve summarized at the bottom of the page, along with links to the members of the  Working Group. 

At yesterday’s telephone press conference sponsored by OMB Watch, Former Texas State Senator O.H. “Ike” Harris, a Republican who sat on the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission said, 

Sunset is not workable and is beholden to nobody.

OMB Watch says the Texas commission is

impractical, wasteful of government resources, and co-opted by special interests

This appears to be born out by the groups supporting the proposed federal bill, as touted by its sponsor in a July 19, 2006 news release, “Tiahrt Testifies Before Committee on Government Reform.”

Several taxpayer watchdog groups, including Citizens Against Government Waste and the American Taxpayers Union have endorsed GEA.

So who are these watchdog groups?  I turned to the handy Sourcewatch.org to check them out.  I can’t link to the articles, because some type of incompatibility will blow up this page, but you can search on the names to find the listings.

According to Sourcewatch, Citizens Against Government Waste

has campaigned on behalf of the tobacco industry and in favour of Microsoft and against open source software.

Sourcewatch has a bibliography detailing how the group operates. The latest article is from April 2 , 2006 St. Petersburg Times is by Bill Adair, the papers Washington Bureau Chief;  ” For price, watchdog will be an advocate Citizens Against Government Waste made a name for itself by exposing government waste. But it has quietly made a lot of its money by lobbying.”

I’m guessing that Tiehrt actually meant to cite report by the  Natonal Taxpayers Union, formerly headed by Grover Norquist before being tapped by the Reagan White House to head Americans for Tax Reform, the group that laundered some of   Jack Abramoff’s money.  Sourcewatch doesn’t have an article; I’ll have to write one.  Instead see People for th American Way. 

*

Here’s what the Texax commission fail to do, according to the Working Group::

The Sunset Commission missed several golden opportunities, however, to achieve major reforms of TNRCC, an agency which has been roundly and deservedly criticized by many members of the public for its close relationships with the industries the agency is directed to regulate and its failure to be truly responsive to the public. …

The Commission failed to adopt several recommendations of its own staff that were supported strongly by citizens: for example, making the Public Interest Counsel independent of TNRCC through direct gubernatorial appointment of the Counsel (currently hired and fired by the TNRCC Commissioners) and authorizing OPIC to appeal TNRCC decisions to state courts. …

The Sunset Commission failed to adopt its own staff’s recommendation that persons be disqualified from being appointed to the Commission if they have received significant income from a regulated entity within two years before appointment.  In fact, no motion was even made on this recommendation, much less on the tougher citizen alternative that would have specified five instead of two years.   

 in hearings  where affected citizens are protesting a proposed permit to allow a polluter undertake some type of polluting operation… [the TNRCC technical and legal staff]…essentially supports the permit applicant…[having]already “signed off” on the draft permit, so they are obviously going to be defensive about anyone challenging the permit at that point.  This involvement by the agency staff is terribly unfair to those citizens protesting a permit. .. .

The Sunset Commission did not take action on suggestions by citizens that the mission of TNRCC be clearly defined only as protection of public health and the environment, not also promotion of economic development. … 

Basically all funding issues were punted….

Here are links to the members of the other members of the Working Group:s

 

 

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