Senator Carona's Email Update
[Back to Senator John Carona's Home Page]

EMAIL UPDATE

February 23, 2012

Business and Commerce Committee News...

The drought is predicted to continue for the immediate future and is affecting us in many ways. A landscape contractor wrote on my Facebook page about how the drought is affecting his business/industry ...

"...we see loss of material (landscape) at an alarming rate. We also watched an entire community's landscape go up in flames due to lack of water (brown... turf) and lack of soil moisture. Commercial businesses are affected (value of landscapes). Our industry has been affected in that the workforce has been decreased due to lack of work...."

One drought impact you might not expect is in our ability to have reliable electricity. Electricity uses a lot of water to cool generators, and the drought is drying up their water sources. On January 10, I chaired a meeting of the Texas Senate Committee on Business and Commerce where we heard from agencies like the Public Utility Commission, Texas Water Development Board, and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality; public and private industry members; the Sierra Club; subject matter experts and the public. We even got some advice from Australia on how they handled the same problem (they moved electric plants to the coasts where access to water is constant). We heard many ideas about how we can keep power in the lines and water in the reservoirs. I will be pushing for a sound, conservative policy in the next session of the Legislature.

The Committee also had a forthright discussion with the Insurance Commissioner about the high insurance rates Texans face. I asked the Department of Insurance to provide us with specific points of legislative action we can take to drive down the cost of insurance.

You can watch the recorded hearing and see all the testimony and background material the Committee had access to by going to http://BandC.posterous.com and clicking on "Current Hearing."

Since the January 10 hearing, the Lieutenant Governor has released the interim charges for the Committee as follows:

Visit the Senate Homepage for access to all of the Senate interim charges that have been released to date. All Senate Committee Hearings are posted when announced.

Focus . . .

The Texas Film Commission (TFC) was created in 1971 by Governor Preston Smith in order to foster the film-communication industry in Texas. Through Executive Order, Governor Smith established this Commission as a branch of the Governor's Office. Governor Smith stated that "Texas has a uniquely vast array of resources, natural, human and economic, which lend themselves to the firm and orderly development of a healthy film production industry." Although TFC was originally established in order to further cultivate the film industry in Texas, TFC now also includes television, commercial, video game and animation industries.

The main purpose of TFC is to encourage economic development and job growth through these industries. One of the ways TFC fosters this growth is by offering incentives for productions that take place within the state. The Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program (TMIIIP) was first funded in 2007 and offers certain incentives based on a review of the production company's Texas expenditures. These incentives include payments to the company based on their total, verified expenditures in the state and/or wages paid to Texas residents. Other incentives are available, such as sales tax exemptions, hotel occupancy tax exemptions and fuel tax refunds. For an overview of incentives available to qualifying productions, visit http://governor.state.tx.us/film/incentives/overview.

The economic impact of TMIIIP is tangible. According to the UT Bureau of Business Research, for every one dollar of incentives paid, $18.72 has been generated in private sector economic activity (direct and indirect) within the State of Texas. As of the dates covered by the report, of the $80 million appropriated for the moving image industry incentives ($20 million appropriated for the biennium ending August 31, 2009, and $60 million for the biennium ending August 31, 2011), $58.1 million has been paid or encumbered (payments pending). Based on the approved applications for the incentives, the TFC reports $589.3 million in direct moving production spending in Texas associated with the program (June 26, 2007 through December 31, 2010). Direct spending in the State of Texas by TMIIIP productions multiplies through other industries in the supply chain, including real estate and wholesale trade, food services and health care, to caterers, drycleaners, hotel room nights and car rentals. The TFC also reports moving image industry productions employed a total of 6,519 full-time equivalent (FTE) Texas residents over the four years. More details about the positive economic impact of the Texas Film Commission and the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program can be found in the April 2011 Texas Business Review by the Bureau of Business Research, The University of Texas at Austin.

The Texas Film Commission also offers the following resources to help keep Texas "film friendly":

Redistricting News

There is good news and bad news on the redistricting front. The good news, significant progress has been made since my last Email Update; the bad news, we're not done yet. As you may recall, redistricting challenges have been proceeding on two tracks -- preclearance of the plans in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (D.C. Court) and consideration of legal challenges to the plans, which were consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division (San Antonio Court).

Preclearance Case in the DC Court - A January trial of the preclearance case concluded on February 3, 2012. Shortly thereafter, the D.C. Court issued an advisory opinion informing interested parties that its decision should not be expected for a minimum of 30 days. This means, to date, there is no resolution to the preclearance questions and most likely there won't be for, at best, several more weeks.

Section 2 Claims in the San Antonio Court - You will recall that, since it did not appear that the redistricting suits could be resolved quickly enough to accommodate the state's primary election schedule, the San Antonio Court issued interim redistricting plans, which were intended to be used only in the upcoming round of elections. In response, the Texas Attorney General asked the United States Supreme Court for a stay of the San Antonio Court's order implementing the interim plans. On January 20, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the Attorney General's request by vacating the San Antonio Court's interim plan order and then remanding the case back to the San Antonio Court for further consideration based on guidance provided in the Supreme Court's opinion. The San Antonio Court took up the remanded case in a hearing held on February 14 and 15. Throughout this process, the state and other parties to the redistricting suits have engaged in settlement discussions, which were strongly encouraged by the San Antonio Court.

On February 15, the parties came to an agreement on a plan for the Texas Senate; which is currently under consideration by the San Antonio Court. Because the compromise Senate plan has not yet been made public, we do not know how Senate District 16 may have been affected by the compromise, if it was affected at all. Since virtually no changes were made to the District in other suggested compromise plans, the District most likely remains unchanged (from the Senate map approved by the Legislature) in this last suggested compromise plan.

Where are we now? - It appears for now that court hearings and other proceedings have concluded. We should hear from the D.C. Court sometime over the next month; and, absent further settlements among the parties, the San Antonio Court is expected to introduce new interim plans for the Texas House of Representatives and the U.S. Congress sometime in the next few weeks and enter an order on the compromise Senate plan. Under these circumstances, the most plausible primary date being discussed is May 29. Still, even a May 29 date could be delayed for a number of reasons, including if the new interim plans are challenged or if either of the courts takes longer than expected to render their respective decisions. I am hopeful that all will go well over the next month, and that in my next Email Update I will be able to report that District 16 remains intact and a primary date has been selected.

Did You Know...

Closing . . .

Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you need assistance with a state agency or wish to voice an opinion on any matter to come before the Texas Legislature. I will always appreciate hearing from you.

Sincerely,

John Carona
State Senator - District 16
http://www.carona.senate.state.tx.us/

Capitol Office District Offices
P.O. Box 12068
Austin, TX 78711
512-463-0116
800-662-0334
512-463-3135 (fax)
john.carona@senate.state.tx.us
8080 N. Central Expy.
Suite 1440, LB 44
Dallas, TX 75206
214-378-5751
214-378-5739 (fax)
5401 N. Central Expy.
Suite 300
Dallas, TX 75205
214-521-3884
214-953-1886 (fax)

Top