AUSTIN — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Sept. 9 announced he had filed a friend-of-the-court brief “in defense of the First Amendment.”

The brief, he said, explains that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Tracy Healey “exceeded her constitutional authority by attempting to shut down a viewpoint on an issue of scientific debate — climate change.”

Paxton, in the brief, states constitutional objections to the Civil Investigative Demand that Healey issued to ExxonMobil Corporation for its marketing and sale of fossil fuel-derived products and securities. She demanded more than 40 years of internal company documents. Paxton supports ExxonMobil’s effort seeking to block Healy’s demand from being enforced.

Paxton was joined by the state attorneys general of Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Utah and Nevada in asking a federal court in Fort Worth to grant ExxonMobil’s motion for a preliminary injunction against the subpoena.

On the other side, the attorneys general of Maryland, New York, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands joined in an Aug. 8 friend-of-the-court brief in support of Healey’s action.

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, in July subpoenaed Healey to submit documents and information to the committee pursuant to the Civil Investigative Demand. Healey responded, claiming common law and statutory privileges in her decision not to comply with the committee’s subpoena.

Hegar distributes revenue

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Sept. 8 announced he would send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $629.2 million in local sales tax allocations for September.

The amount, based on sales made in July by businesses that report tax monthly, is 1.4 percent less than the amount distributed in September 2015.

“The cities of Houston, Midland, San Antonio and Frisco saw decreases in sales tax allocation,” Hegar said. “The cities of Dallas and Plano saw noticeable increases in sales tax allocations.”

Database ready for use

Comptroller Hegar on Sept. 6 announced the debut of a statewide online eminent domain database, a publicly available tool making it possible to identify which governmental and non-governmental entities have reported to the Comptroller’s office their authority to exercise eminent domain.

“This is clearly an area in which transparency is absolutely essential,” Hegar said. “Knowing who can use eminent domain is the first step to ensuring that this potentially oppressive power is used wisely.”

The database was created to comply with Senate Bill 1812, legislation approved during the 2015 legislative session. The bill requires public and private entities with eminent domain authority to report certain information to the Comptroller’s office.

Currently, the database contains 5,042 entities, including cities, counties, school districts, special purpose districts, pipeline and energy companies, water supply corporations, telecommunications companies and other public and private entities.

Zika count reaches 174

Texas has had 174 reported cases of Zika virus disease, the Department of State Health Services reported Sept. 9. 

Included in the count are 11 pregnant women, two infants infected before birth and one person who had sexual contact with a traveler.

Texas’ four most populous counties lead in cases reported, with Harris County at 51 cases; Dallas, 35; Tarrant, 19; and Bexar, 10. 

There is no vaccine or treatment for the Zika virus, DSHS says, and the best protection to avoid infection is to prevent mosquito breeding and to avoid getting mosquito bites. DSHS is the lead state agency for preparing for, coordinating and responding to public health and medical incidents involving the virus.

Grid should meet needs

The electrical grid that covers all but 10 percent of Texas should be able to handle the state’s projected power needs for the months of October through February, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

ERCOT, the grid’s operating organization, on Sept. 1 released its Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy, a report that examines variables that affect demand. Weather naturally is a major variable.

Warren Lasher, ERCOT director of system planning, said, “We study multiple scenarios, including extreme cases of very cold conditions and outages of significant amounts of generation capacity. Based on the current forecast, we expect to have sufficient generation to carry us through high demand periods during the upcoming seasons.”