TAB News Briefs
Nov. 8, 2012

Lots of new names, but GOP still dominates legislature
The Texas Tribune
Many of the names have changed, but the situation is essentially the same — the Texas Legislature has fewer Republicans in it than before the election, but the GOP still holds commanding majorities in both the House and the Senate. The current House has 102 Republicans and 48 Democrats. Based on unofficial results reported by the Texas secretary of state's office, the new one will have 95 Republicans and 55 Democrats.More

Election could set stage for gridlock in Texas legislature
The Associated Press via Houston Chronicle
Texas voters may be setting the stage for gridlock when the Legislature meets next year, replacing moderate Republicans with conservatives and Democrats. No one really questions whether Republicans will lose their supermajority in the Texas House after Tuesday's election; the only question is by how much? Republicans hoped to limit their losses to six seats. Democrats hoped to win more than eight. More

With presidency decided, lawmakers face policy hurdles
The Texas Tribune
"Wait until we see who's president." It's been an oft-repeated refrain in the last year from state agency heads and Republican elected officials pressed to act on everything from the federal health care act to environmental reforms. Now that the deal is sealed — four more years of the Obama administration — that line won't hold up. So what does the outcome, a major win for Democrats, mean for the key policy hurdles facing the overwhelmingly conservative Texas Legislature — and the interest groups and constituents who guide them?More

Analysis: Waiting for housing to drive the US economy
The U.S. housing market is on the mend, but the so-called "missing piston" of the world's biggest economy doesn't have enough power to get the broader recovery firing on all cylinders any time soon. Construction and related activity will help rather than hinder U.S. economic growth this year for the first time since 2005. That was before the housing bust helped push the United States into recession, triggering the global financial crisis.More

List of improving housing markets expands to 125 in November
The number of U.S. housing markets showing consistent improvement in three key measures of strength expanded by 22 in November to a total of 125, according to the National Association of Home Builders/First American Improving Markets Index. This marks a third consecutive monthly gain for the index, which now includes representatives from across 38 states as well as the District of Columbia. Markets added to the list in November include such geographically diverse locations as San Diego, Calif.; Gainesville, Ga.; Omaha, Neb.; Louisville, Ky.; and Charlotte, N.C.More

Texas sales tax revenue up 8.2 percent in October
Forth Worth Star-Telegram
Texas' sales tax revenue in October was $2.03 billion, up 8.2 percent from the same month a year ago, the Texas Comptroller said. "The state's growth in sales tax revenue continued to be led by collections from the oil and natural gas-related sectors," Comptroller Susan Combs said in a release. "We also saw strong consumer spending drive gains in retail trade and the restaurant sector as well."More

Texas Soil and Water Conservation District concerned about landfills over recharge zones
The Vindicator
Planning and constructing a landfill over any aquifer recharge zone is a big no-no according to Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDS). SWCD directors representing 216 Texas SWCDS attending their 72nd Annual Meeting October 29-31 in Bastrop approved a resolution to seek legislation that would bar the construction of a landfill over an aquifer recharge zone. "To place a landfill over an aquifer recharge zone is not only negligent and irresponsible, but it increases the risk of contamination to major regional sources of water," said Russell Bading, Chairman of the Comal-Guadalupe Soil and Water Conservation District that sponsored the resolution.More

What the election results mean for the utility industry
Renew Grid
Although it is doubtful that voters entered the booths with utilities in mind, Barack Obama's next four years in office will likely continue to affect the industry regarding renewable energy, smart grid initiatives and cybersecurity. It is no secret that President Obama has a strong stance on renewables. During the presidential debates, he noted that the U.S. doubled renewable energy production since he first took office, and he also called for energy independence.More

The Economist: Texas taxes
Victoria Advocate
The Tax Foundation's annual ranking of state and local tax burdens is out, and once again Texas falls among the lowest. For 2010, Texans paid some $3,104 in state and local taxes, measured on a per-capita basis. Comparing to per-capita income of $39,142 yields a state-local tax burden of 7.9 percent, which ranks 45th. By comparison, in top-ranked New York, the burden is $6,375 (12.8 percent). In New Jersey it's $6,689 (12.4 percent), and for third-ranked Connecticut, the burden is $6,984 (12.3 percent). At the other end of the spectrum are Alaska with $3,214 (7.0 percent) and South Dakota at $3,035 (7.6 percent).More

Austin wants to negotiate its role on state lands
Austin American-Statesman
As a state agency inches forward on plans to redevelop a variety of state-owned tracts across Austin, from a portion of Camp Mabry to the Capitol complex, the Austin City Council is preparing to negotiate its role with the state. "With so much property at play," said Council Member Sheryl Cole, "we need to be at the table." Cole is offering a resolution, along with a draft agreement with the Texas Facilities Commission, that she says would help ensure that the state's goals fit into the city's overall land development plan.More

Housing variables improve, signaling good news for Waco
Waco Tribune
Waco's housing picture continues to improve, according to a new report from the Texas Association of Realtors. The report shows that 648 homes were sold during the period between July and September, which is 23.9 percent more than were sold during the same period in 2011. It also was more than the 579 homes sold during the second quarter of this year. Statewide, 66,746 homes were sold in the third quarter, which is 14.17 percent more than those sold in the same quarter last year. But more homes (67,611) were sold during the second quarter this year.More

EPA delays commercial lead paint rule until 2015
The Environmental Protection Agency will not expand the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting regulation to include all public and commercial buildings until 2015. PHCC Government Relations Director Mark Riso recently met with the Lead Paint Coalition in Washington, D.C. in preparation for the hearing process for this proposed rule, scheduled to begin the summer of 2013. Compliance with the new rule will be required by 2016.More

Home remodeling spending set to accelerate
Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University
An improving housing market and record low interest rates are driving projections of strong gains in home improvement activity through the end of the year and into the first half of 2013, according to the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) released recently by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. The LIRA suggests that the seeds for what appears to be a very robust remodeling recovery have been planted, with annual homeowner improvement spending expected to reach double-digit growth in the first half of 2013.More

Trammell Crow Residential plans apartments on banks of Trinity River in Oak Cliff
The Dallas Morning News
The Alexan Trinity development will be near Methodist Dallas Medical Center and will be served by the new streetcar line running from downtown to north Oak Cliff. Developer Trammell Crow Residential's next apartment project is guaranteed to offer residents postcard views of the Dallas skyline. The builder's 166-unit rental community in Oak Cliff will be constructed on about three acres across from downtown on the banks of the Trinity River. (Registration may be required to view.)More

Louisiana lieutenant governor hears Amtrak proposal
The Associated Press via San Antonio Express-News
Supporters of a proposal for 80 mph passenger trains between Shreveport-Bossier City and Dallas-Fort Worth have told Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne that the project wouldn't be very expensive or difficult. Dardenne tells the Times he can see obvious benefits. He says the project appears "doable" on the surface, but he wants to see results of a feasibility study expected to be completed by March.More

How the smart grid makes buildings more sustainable
Buildings consume significant amounts of energy. The Energy Information Administration in the Department of Energy reported that buildings accounted for 72 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption in 2006 and this number will rise to 75 percent by 2025. This is split almost 50/50 between commercial and residential buildings.More

For self-healing concrete, just add bacteria and food
New Scientist
Like living bone, concrete could soon be healing its own hairline fractures — with bacteria in the role of osteoblast cells. Worked into the concrete from the beginning, these water-activated bacteria would munch food provided in the mix to patch up cracks and small holes.More