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Government The Lone Star Trump No hat, no cattle but Texas business...

The Lone Star Trump No hat, no cattle but Texas business is kicking up its bootheels

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Robert Francis
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

The election? That’s history. Now comes the hard part: governing.

Donald J. Trump became president-elect in an election that upended the business-as-usual applecart of the political elite of both parties – to say nothing of political pundits and the media.

The real estate developer and reality TV star may be a political novice, but he proved far from politically naïve as he took down reliably Democratic strongholds and defied the Republican establishment time and again.

For Texas Republicans tempered in the white-hot cauldron of Ronald Reagan conservatism, the newly-elected, populist-minded, New York-accented president may take some getting used to.

“It’s a historic end of Reganism,” said Kasey S. Pipes, partner and co-founder of Fort Worth-based government affairs firm Corley Pipes. “The party has been a ‘small-c’ conservative party that promotes smaller government and free trade. That’s pretty much over with.

“A big part of [Trump’s] appeal was his opposition to free trade and it did work,” said Pipes. “That’s a very different looking party than we’ve had for 36 years.”

While the presidential campaign was nearly content-free from an issues perspective, Pipes said there are some areas where Trump has made his plans known. And some of those may impact the Lone Star State.

“Because Trump is more of a populist than a conservative, it will be interesting to watch him on spending,” he said. “He’s not going to be as uncomfortable as a typical Republican president.”

Infrastructure

One area of spending where Trump has made clear his intensions is infrastructure – and that could have a big impact on Texas.

Trump has discussed investment proposals, including roads, bridges and airports, that range from more than $500 billion – double what Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton sought – to $1 trillion over a decade. He said in his victory speech Nov. 9 that he aims to make America’s infrastructure “second to none” while putting millions of people to work and doubling economic growth.

The timing is ripe: The average age of the nation’s fixed assets in 2015 was 22.8 years, the oldest dating back to 1925.

“There’s no doubt we have a dire need to address the crumbling infrastructure,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist for consulting firm IHS Inc. of Lexington, Massachusetts.

Some of that spending would undoubtedly end up in Texas, says Pipes. “We’re a big growing state, so in this case, his uniqueness as a post-Reagan populist could be a benefit to the state.”

Political Texans and Trump

The fact that Trump will have his own party in charge of both houses of Congress could help increase the profile of Texans in Washington.

Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, is on the Appropriations Committee, a key committee for funding projects around the country, which would be key for spending, Pipes notes.

Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, was a key Trump booster and he is in the running for the National Republican Congressional Committee, a group that is key to raising funds for Republicans in the House. Already known for his ability to raise funds, taking charge of that would increase his profile in Washington. D.C., and nationally, Pipes says. 

(Update: Williams was defeated in that bid.)

But it’s not just Republicans that might see a higher profile. Pipes said that because the Republican majority in the House is slim, leadership will be looking to partner with more pro-business and pro-growth Democrats, like Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Arlington. “His role could rise in this environment and that would be great for North Texas,” said Pipes.

Energy

While the energy industry has blossomed under President Obama – at least until oil prices began declining two years ago – industry officials have chafed under what they see as the growing encroachment of regulations.

For those in the energy business, Trump appears to be just their cup of Texas tea – i.e., crude oil.

“[Trump] is a supporter of hydraulic fracturing, increasing oil and natural gas production in the U.S., increased production on federal lands and offshore, and improving of infrastructure (including pipelines),” said Alex Mills, president of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, in his weekly column.

The Trump transition teams have turned to Mike McKenna for advice on the Energy Department, and to David Bernhardt – former Interior Department solicitor general under President George W. Bush – on the Interior Department.

“Both are smart, canny individuals who understand the nuances of the Departments for which they’ve been asked to provide assistance,” Scott Segal, co-head of government relations at the legal and lobbying firm Bracewell, said in an email.

McKenna, who is president of the firm MWR Strategies and who worked for both the Energy and Transportation departments, has lobbied on behalf of Dow Chemical, Koch Industries, Southern, GDF Suez and TECO Energy.

Bernhardt, a partner at the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, has represented a wide variety of clients on regulatory issues such as the Endangered Species Act but has not lobbied for corporations.

In addition, Myron Ebell, head of energy and environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, had headed Trump’s transition team on the EPA. Ebell has been a skeptic about climate change and has called many mainstream climate studies false.

Trump himself has called the concept of global warming everything from a “hoax” to “bull–” to a scheme “created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

Segal said a Trump administration would be “clearly in favor of enhanced exploration and production of oil and gas as a tenet of energy, economic and national security policy.”

His key advisers have included Oklahoma-based shale oil producer Harold Hamm and North Dakota Republican Congressman Kevin Cramer. Trump has spoken to conferences on shale drilling in both North Dakota and Pennsylvania, rich shale drilling territory. Segal said that Trump has said he would “‘revoke policies that impose unwarranted restrictions on new drilling technologies,’ which may be an oblique reference to new restrictions proposed on methane emissions from oil and gas production.”

On renewable fuels for vehicles, Trump has been generally supportive of ethanol, Segal said, but he wants to alter renewable fuels policy to help refiners who have paid substantial amounts for tradable credits under a complex scheme.

But Segal cautioned that “a Trump administration, given the nature of the campaign that was waged, has the freedom not to be doctrinaire. Since the campaign was run largely outside the strictures of traditional party policy, a Trump administration is in a sense free to develop energy policy to its own liking and based on facts on the ground as it sees them.” – The Washington Post and Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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