Five stories that have North Texas talking: Tesla battery factory could skip Texas because of regulations; Ag commissioner candidate winning votes with anti-campaign; ALEC conference coming to Dallas; and more.
Texas regulations may be hurting state’s bid to win Tesla battery factory. While Governor Rick Perry has been busy extolling the virtues of Texas’ minimal regulations to court out-of-state businesses, the Texas Tribune reports that Texas could lose the addition of high tech manufacturing plant because of protectionist practices of all things. Tesla, the electric car manufacturer headed by Elon Musk, announced in February that Texas was one of four states being considered for a new battery plant for the cars. The plant could bring as many as 6,500 jobs according to the Tribune article. However, Tesla has been prevented from selling directly to customers in Texas because of laws requiring manufacturers to sell through regulated car dealerships. “The issue of where we do business is in some ways inextricably linked to where we sell our cars,” O’Connell told Bloomberg this month. “If Texas wants to reconsider its position on Tesla selling directly in Texas, it certainly couldn’t hurt.” While Governor Perry has supported legislation that would allow electric car manufacturers to sell directly to customers, it’s unclear if Wendy Davis or Greg Abbott would revisit the rules in place. Regardless, the company says it will most likely pick a factory location before the Legislature meets again next year. UPDATE: The AP reports that New Mexico governor Susana Martinez is considering calling a special legislative session to create tax incentives for Telsa to build its battery plant in her state.
- Family of Texas man on board missing Malaysian Airlines turns to social media to keep search going. Hope was renewed for Philip Wood’s family that he could still be alive after authorities revealed that the missing flight may have actually been intentionally diverted from its original route. Wood’s family has begun a public campaign on Facebook and Twitter to push for greater efforts in the search for the missing plane. “The focus should be put on utilising any and all resources for the search and rescue; there must be more international pressure,” says a Facebook posting. Philip Wood, an IBM engineer, was traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, where was based. The family says they want the public to push for more international pressure to expand the search. “The passengers of Flight MH370 are still out there,” says another posting. “There has been no news to prove otherwise. We appreciate all the love, support and prayers. We must not give up hope!”
- Rural Texas county could be first major nuclear waste storage site in years. Officials in Loving County told the Associated Press that they want to develop a disposal facility for spent nuclear rods from Texas’ four nuclear plants, and possibly other plants. Loving county is the nation’s least populated county and located in far west Texas. Loving County Judge Skeet Lee Jones told the AP that he has gotten support from officials at the local, state, and federal level, and that a nuclear storage site would be a financial boon for the area. There is a low-level radioactive waste site nearby, but this facility would handle more potent radioactive materials. Loving County’s population is currently 84, and ironically one of the residents against the proposed facility is Judge Jones’ father, Elgin Jones. Jones spent time in Japan after nuclear bombs were dropped on the country during World War 2. "If they put (a storage site) in Loving County I know there's going to be some accidents," said the former Loving County sheriff. "It's just a matter of time. That stuff is dangerous."
- Dallas will host controversial group's annual meeting this summer. While Dallas is busy building its bid for the 2016 Republican National Convention, the city will already be hosting another gathering of conservative political activists and lobbyists this summer. ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) will hold its annual meeting the weekend of July 30 to August 1. No agenda or details have been released yet but past speakers at ALEC events have included conservative darlings like Sen. Ted Cruz and Governor Bobby Jindal. ALEC brings together state lawmakers and corporate members to develop legislation that promotes “free market” principles. The Texas Observer reports that Texas State Representative Joe Strauss and other Republican lawmakers are being recruited to raise money for the annual meeting. The group had mostly flown under the public’s radar until reports emerged that ALEC had helped devise controversial legislation like Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. The Farmers Branch ordinance struck down recently by a federal court was also modeled on legislation proposed by ALEC. An article in the Guardian newspaper last summer highlighted how backlash from the killing of Trayvon Martin and Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law led many lawmakers to distance themselves from the group and create a funding crisis for ALEC.
Agricultural commissioner candidate’s anti-campaign winning votes, and fans. The Dallas Morning News highlights the unlikely success of Democrat Jim Hogan’s campaign for Texas agriculture. The Cleburne native managed to garner more votes than rival Kinky Friedman in their primary, despite having no staff, campaign manager, or budget. His first place finish surprised party leaders, who had supported third-place finisher, Hugh Fitzsimons. Hogan all but refuses to campaign or travel. He doesn’t have a campaign website, though fans created one for him. But what the former dairy farmer has launched is a charm offensive with quotes like this, “Why do you want to stick thousands of dollars of road signs along the road, then pick them up and burn them?” Political scientists interviewed in an NPR story about Hogan's win suggest it might really just come down to Jim Hogan having a familiar-sounding name. Hogan will go up against Friedman again in a runoff in May, with the winner facing off with either Republican challengers Sid Miller or Tommy Merritt.