Week of Feb. 15-21, 2016

Supreme Court halts EPA pollution abatement rule
AUSTIN — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Feb. 9 heralded the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 order that put on hold a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule requiring power producers to cut back on the release of pollutants emitted mainly from coal-burning operations.
In reacting to the order, Paxton and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the leaders of a coalition of 29 states and state agencies, declared victory over the rule referred to as the Obama Administration’s “Clean Power Plan” or as the EPA “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units.” 
Texas and West Virginia originally challenged the rule on Oct. 23, 2015, the day it was published in the Federal Register. The coalition requested a halt to rule on Jan. 26. Coalition members argue that the Clean Power Plan “fundamentally changes the nation’s energy policy in violation of federal law,” according to Paxton. “The Obama Administration clearly exceeded its authority in imposing this plan, which would cost taxpayers and consumers alike hard-earned money in exchange for less-reliable service,” Paxton added.
However, EPA Director Gina McCarthy said she “remains fully confident in the legal merits of this rule” and that the rule “squarely fits within the Clean Air Act.” 
In accordance with the Supreme Court order, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has been scheduled to hear oral arguments on the merits of the case on June 2. 
Tax revenue to be sent
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Feb. 10 announced that his office would send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $867.1 million in local sales tax allocations for February.
The amount, based on sales made in December 2015, is 0.7 percent less than the amount distributed in February 2015. 
“Energy-centric cities such as Odessa, Midland, Corpus Christi and Houston continued to see decreases in sales tax allocation,” Hegar said, but added that other areas of the state “helped to somewhat offset those losses as cities such as San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas saw moderate increases in allocations.”
Texas leads in exports
Last week the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released a report ranking Texas as the top exporting state in the nation for the 14th consecutive year.
Gov. Greg Abbott on Feb. 9 praised the state’s performance and said, “This year I plan to lead more business development missions to bolster our state's economy and create opportunities for Texas businesses to further compete in the global marketplace.”
Abbott pinpointed three facts in the report:
- Texas exported more than $251 billion in goods in 2015;
- Texas exports alone accounted for more than 16 percent of U.S. goods exported in 2015 and for the third year in a row; and 
- Texas surpassed California for high-tech exports for the third year in a row.
Request for aid is granted
Gov. Abbott on Feb. 9 announced that his request had been granted in the form of a presidential disaster declaration for 25 Texas counties that sustained damages in severe weather in late December. 
Abbott thanked President Obama and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for granting his request. “We will continue to work with our FEMA partners to rebuild these counties and ensure that they come back stronger than ever,” he said.
Formation rate increases
Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos on Feb. 8 announced a four-percent increase in new businesses formed in January, compared with January in the previous year.
“The increase of new businesses formed in the state reflects a belief that Texas is still a great state for business,” Cascos said. “I applaud all the entrepreneurs and business leaders continuing to invest in and grow the Texas economy.”
The 14,281 certificates filed in the month of January were for the formation of for-profit and professional corporations, limited liability companies, limited partnerships and professional associations.
The year-over-year growth for January echoes the overall trend in 2015. Last year, a total of 165,026 businesses were formed in the State of Texas, an increase of almost 5 percent from 2014, according to Cascos.
Recruitment initiative begins
Gov. Abbott on Feb. 10 announced the launch of his University Research Initiative to help Texas institutions of higher education recruit nationally recognized researchers as faculty members. 
Under the initiative, eligible institutions can apply online for matching grants to assist them in attracting distinguished researchers, Abbott said.
The Governor’s University Research Initiative grant program was enacted in 2015 by the 84th Texas Legislature.