Texas-Press-Assoc_136574

TEXAS PRESS ASSOCIATION • TEXASPRESS.COM • MARCH 2021 • VOL 96 NO 3 T E X A S P R E S S M ESSENGER President’s Message Keep on keepin’ on “I asked how others around the state handled this most unusual climatology calamity. Knowing Texas newspaper men and women are good at handling challenges, I found their solutions interesting and inspiring.” – See Page 2 By DONNIS BAGGETT Texas Press Association February’s winter storms left Texas state government with a bad case of frostbite. The Texas Constitution al- lows lawmakers only 140 days every two years to do their normal business. More than a month had already expired when the deadly February northers hit, and other than legislation involving the state budget — the only measure the Constitution requires them to handle while they’re in session — lawmakers had yet to assign any bills to committee. Legislators, the governor and most every other elected state official now are scrambling to deal with a monumental issue that wasn’t on their ra- dar before Valentine’s Day: the near-catastrophic failure of the state’s power grid. Irate voters want to know how that happened — and how those of- ficials will make sure it never happens again. Life-or-death public health and safety issues have a way of sucking all the oxygen out of a meeting place — even one as big as the Texas Capitol. The pink granite building, which already was stuffed to the gills with COVID-19 pandemic leg- islation, is suddenly full of hy- perventilating officials who’ve developed an intense interest in electrical generation and delivery. Thousands of pieces of other, unrelated legislation already filed — not to mention the thousands of bills still be- ing crafted — will have a hard time catching their attention. That’s tough news for groups trying to pass legislation, but good news for those trying to kill bad bills. The Texas Press Association fits both descrip- tions. We’re lobbying for a num- ber of good transparency and accountability bills. Here are some important ones that have been filed as of Messenger deadline: • HB 1360 by Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, would fix a transparency problem created by SB 2 last session. The much-ballyhooed tax re- form measure, which was touted as a pro-transparency bill, eliminated the newspaper notice of tax rates and calcula- tion, which actually made the process less transparent. This bill would put newspaper no- tice back into the law. • HB 1416 by Rep. Giovan- ni Capriglione, R-Southlake, would clarify that Saturday, Sunday and holidays (state and federal) are the only days ➤ LEGISLATION, Page 4 Record winter storms, power outages throw wrench into legislative machine ANALYSIS Texas lawmakers lose precious time in 140-day session By CANDACE VELVIN Texas Press Association Pandemic-weary Texas newspapers con- fronted a new disaster Feb. 12-18 as deadly winter storms hammered the state with life-threatening cold, power and water system failures and thousands of miles of treacherous roads. The storms threatened an already fragile state economy and hampered healthcare systems already sorely taxed by COVID-19. The Poynter Institute took note of Texas news- papers’ work in the face of the disaster, noting that “Texas journalists were wasting no time in demanding answers” about the failure of the state’s power grid operated by the Electricity Re- liability Council of Texas (ERCOT). Journalists — particularly those in rural areas — were severely impacted by power outages in their homes and newspaper facilities. ➤ FROZEN, Pages 6-7 Texas newspapers rise to challenge of even more unprecedented times March 14 - 20

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