News briefs from Austin, the region, and beyond
Putting Straus in Order
The machinations to remove Joe Straus as speaker of the Texas House continue. Establishment conservative Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, and tea party favorite Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, are both trying to tap into conservatives' dissatisfaction with Straus' strictly by-the-rules management style. Their supporters pushed for the House Republican Caucus to select the new speaker itself and then foist its pick upon the Democrats. On Nov. 15, the caucus held a straw poll of its members about adopting that approach: While the full results were not published, the caucus firmly rejected the idea, instead sticking to the tried-and-tested method of a floor vote among all members. Enter Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who offered to host a face-to-face meeting in Austin on Nov. 23 with the three candidates. All agreed to attend; however, it's unclear how the rest of the House will react to having a second-term senator inject himself into the affairs of the lower chamber. So far, the numbers remain on Straus' side, with 74 Republicans and 49 Democrats still pledged to him, from a total of 150 members. – Richard Whittaker
Round Two, Energy-Efficient Boogaloo
The state comptroller's office released details this week on the second round of rebates going to Texans who buy energy-efficient appliances. First made available online last April, the initial rebate offering proved so popular it was gone in a day – and for many people, that day was spent simply trying to access the application form on the comptroller's overloaded website. This time around, participants must first buy the new appliance, install it, and recycle (or "properly dispose of") the old appliance before applying for the rebate via snail mail (complete with documentation proving completion of all the required steps). The $10 million in funds will then be rewarded on a first-postmarked, first-served basis. The program doesn't begin until Dec. 20 – appliances bought before then will not be eligible – but given the program's popularity, anyone hoping to cash in should consider crafting a game plan now. While the program is shaping up to be different (with hopefully fewer kinks) from last spring's, the prized rebate form itself, much like that day in April, remains elusive. As of press time, it had not yet appeared online, but the FAQ section declares simply that it will be available "before the start of the program" and recommends that you "sign up for e-mail notifications" and follow the program on Twitter. If you're old-fashioned, you can simply check www.texaspowerfulsmart.org for details. – Nora Ankrum
Green Choices Abound
For those who may be worried after reading "Austin Energy's Wrinkle in Time" (Nov. 12) that Austin Energy's green power options might be dwindling, you can put your mind at ease. We've since spoken with Karl Rábago, AE's vice president for distributed energy services, to clarify what changes in the market might mean for AE's climate-conscious customers, and he said, "I always plan to have an option for customers who want to do more." Nonetheless, he said, he wants to "change the way we do GreenChoice." Rather than offering another "batch-based" product in which customers subscribe to power coming from a single wind farm, he plans to mix it up a little. "We're going to have some solar coming in; we're going to have biomass coming in. ... We can blend together lots of different products with lots of different features, and we can manage that so they can deliver ... that firm fixed-price guarantee." While he envisions a special portfolio of green products and services for those "customers who want to do more to be climate-responsible and renewable-friendly," he also said, "I do dream of a day, hopefully sooner rather than later, in which it's renewables [that are] the rule and more polluting resources are the exception." – N.A.