Texas Cities Follow Dallas' Lead and Stand Up to Payday Lenders. Is the State Next?

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Psychonaught
That gleaming wad of cash comes with a 600+ percent interest rate, if Texas predatory lenders have anything to say about it.
In Dallas, the political atmosphere for payday lending reform is optimistic. After three years of ordinances limiting lending practices, the local movement has spread to 17 other cities across the state. Today, Dallas City Councilman Jerry Allen went before the Amarillo City Council to try and recruit that city to the fight club against loan sharks. "The momentum just continues to gain," Allen told Unfair Park. "After the 2011 session, I realized that the state wasn't really going to do anything so I got back and worked with the city."

And increased limitations can't come quickly enough: Texas has some of the most lax lending laws in the country, with the highest surcharges. There is no cap on lending fees, and some interest rates soar over 600 percent. Moreover, statewide payday lending reform has failed in the Legislature for the past three sessions.

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TxDOT Told Woman Her Ten Commandments Sign Was an Ad, Is Now Backtracking

Categories: Legislature

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George Bannister
The Ten Commandments are OK in their original tablet format, but not as giant signs along the highway.
If you think Texas' highways are too beautiful to sully with cheap, unpermitted signs, you're not alone. Under the Highway Beautification Transportation Code, the Texas Department of Transportation has some very strict, un-Texas-like regulations dictating the types of signs people can display. First, for what is allowed: businesses along highways can post signs on their own premises, advertising for themselves.

Seems fair, until you learn what isn't allowed, at least not without a very expensive permitting process: signs displayed on private property that advertise for something other than yourself. That includes the words of the Lord.

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Sandra Crenshaw, Mental Illness and the Race for the Texas Legislature.

Categories: Legislature, Media

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Sandra Crenshaw, talking with Schutze when she was on the City Council. during the Don Hill corruption trial in 2009.
No one who knows former Dallas City Council member Sandra Crenshaw would dispute her intelligence or obsessive dedication to public service. It's her long and well-documented history of erratic behavior, the most recent case involving the alleged theft of a rental car, that raises questions about her fitness to hold public office.

Suffice to say that pretty much everyone was flummoxed when The Dallas Morning News endorsed her in the race for Texas House District 110 over the weekend.

Weirder still, the editorial offers only glancing allusions to Crenshaw's past antics. She "has her own shortcomings," the paper writes, and is "no stranger to handcuffs." But if she is able to "slow down and focus," she will do a far better job than incumbent Toni Rose.

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Texas Is Considering Accepting High-Level Radioactive Waste, and Environmentalists Are Pissed

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A rendering of a possible nuclear storage facility in West Texas.
The United States has never quite figured out what to do with its spent nuclear fuel, some 68,000-plus highly radioactive tons of which is sitting in temporary storage at the nation's 104 nuclear power plants. The plan has been to bury the stuff in a secure geological formation deep underground, but, with Nevada's Yucca Mountain now effectively off the table, it's not clear where that will be.

On Friday, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus put the Lone Star State on the short list, instructing the House Committee on Environmental Regulation to study the disposal of high-level radioactive waste and its potential economic impact and recommend state and federal legislation to make that happen in Texas.

On a certain level, this makes sense. Texas, after all, has large underground formations in arid, sparsely populated areas along with broad, lax environmental regulations and, with its embrace of Waste Control Specialists' facility in Andrews County, a proven willingness to serve as a dumping ground for lower-level radioactive waste.

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Dallas State Rep. Jason Villalba Makes a Play for Sriracha

Categories: Dish, Legislature

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Via Facebook
Jason Villalba's egg sandwich just wouldn't be the same without Sriracha.
When Denton City Councilman Kevin Roden first made his pitch to bring Sriracha to North Texas last October, it seemed like an impossible long shot. What chance did a lone municipal official, bearing no tax breaks or economic development incentives, have of convincing the manufacturer of the most delicious condiment on the planet to come to town?

But the momentum is building, people.

Less than two months after Huy Fong Foods was forced to shutter the Irwindale, California factory where it manufactures the spicy, Asian-style chile sauce with the instantly recognizable rooster label, luring the company has entered the realm of state politics.

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"Justice Undone" -- Texas Lawmakers Mull Tougher Punishments After "Affluenza" Case

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On Thursday, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst became the latest Texas politician to insert himself into the debate over the sentence handed down to 16-year-old "affluenza" victim Ethan Couch, who killed four people during a drunken joy ride earlier this year. Days after gubernatorial candidates Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis chimed in with expressions of outrage, Dewhurst has charged the Texas Senate with studying whether the punishment for intoxication manslaughter offenses is adequate.

"Having lost my own father to a drunk driver in my youth, I have a particular interest in this issue because I know the devastation it causes," Dewhurst said. "I am wholeheartedly committed to the safety of our citizens and believe that recent cases indicate existing sentencing options may leave justice undone."

Tapping into public outrage over a controversial criminal case is a time-honored political technique. The danger arises when this type of populist politicking translates into actual legislation, which tends to be terrible.

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Dewhurst Looks to Beat Back NSA Snooping and Big Data With Privacy Protection Agenda

Categories: Legislature

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Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst unveiled his interim charges to the Senate Committee on State Affairs Friday, and they are, to say the least, pretty ambitious. They read like red meat for the paranoid-hacker constituency at times, but they also include the bones of some common-sense privacy protections.

And they may appeal to a broader electorate, which is probably why Dewhurst is staking out a position as bulwark against Big Brother. He's offered up a slate of nascent policy prescriptions for the legislature to study during the off-season. We'll see how much our growing institutional distrust moves the needle next year.

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Sen. Troy Fraser Spanks Regulators Over Move Toward "Socialized" Electricity

Categories: Biz, Legislature

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State Sen. Troy Fraser, left, is very, very irritated.
State Senator Troy Fraser had clearly been spoiling to tee off on Texas' electric regulators. At a committee hearing Monday, Fraser excoriated Texas Public Utility commissioners Donna Nelson and Brandy Marty for proposing changes to the state's electric marketplace that could cost Texans billions of dollars.

In a series of testy exchanges, Nelson in particular was chastised for failing to reach out to the Legislature before she and Marty signaled their approval for a "mandatory reserve margin," or the surplus amount of electricity available for shortages -- a vote that caught fellow commissioner Ken Anderson off-guard. It's widely believed that this is a step toward a capacity market, which would require retail electric providers -- and, ultimately, you and me -- to pay generators a subsidy to build new power plants or guarantee that they will have a set amount of electricity available. It would be a dramatic shift away from the current system, where profits come only from the sale of power.

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John Carona's Primary Opponent is Attacking Him for Pushing "Barack Obama Freeway"

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John Carona and Don Huffines
The billboard, featuring John Carona's miserly grin accompanied by the words "Our State Senator," went up months ago on Central Expressway, long before Carona's reelection bid had drawn an opponent. Perhaps he sensed that, with the current political climate what it is, a primary challenge would be inevitable. Or perhaps he simply wanted to remind the hundreds of thousands of commuters that pass beneath his gaze each day of his power and benevolence in true Big Brother fashion.

Whatever the reason, investing in the billboard was a shrewd investment, now that real estate developer/car-dealership scion Don Huffines has stepped into the race.

Huffines, as The Dallas Morning News' Wayne Slater reported this week, will be challenging Carona from the right.

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Federal Judge: HB 2 Places "Undue Burden" on Texas Women

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U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel never intended to wade into the abortion wars. He made that much clear in the preamble to his ruling, handed down today, in Planned Parenthood's lawsuit over Texas' new abortion restrictions:

Today there is no issue that divides the people of this country more than abortion. It is the most divisive issue to face this country since slavery. When compared with the intensity, emotion, and depth of feeling expressed with regard to abortion, the recent arguments on affordable healthcare, increasing the debt ceiling, and closing the government retreat to near oblivion. Sincere and caring persons of good will are found on both sides of the issue, but neither side will ever change the position of the other. Legislatures and courts will continue to be confounded by the issue for the foreseeable future. No ruling of this court will sway the opinion regarding abortion held by anyone. And, indeed, that is not the role of this court. The court may not and will not decide whether there should be abortions in Texas. This court is charged only with determining whether certain provisions of House Bill 2 are consistent with the Constitution of the United States under existing Supreme Court precedent.
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