Come again when you can't stay as long

Texas legislators adjourned their second special session today sine die. That’s Europekingnese for “drop dead.”

How many millions did the legislature spend on these two special sessions? $4 million? More? Certainly not less. Gov. Rick “Pompadour” Perry called the Lege back twice after the 2005 regular session and they responded by passing no laws related to the main reasons for those sessions. That would be bills to change the ways public schools are financed along with a tax bill (raising taxes or lowering taxes — it’s all in the eye of the beholder).

But by jiminy they did manage to pass a telecommunications bill favorable to SBC Communications and other companies such as Verizon during this special session. And why shouldn’t the Lege pass such a bill? Good ol’ Andrew Wheat and the others at the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice, based in Austin, gives this analysis of the telecommunication lobby’s bountiful givings to Texas lawmakers:

“Lobby records filed by the end of this year’s regular session tag SBC as Austin’s leading lobby force by far. Its army of 123 lobbyists—who reported up to $6.8 million in SBC fees—gave this giant well over twice the lobby clout of runner-up TXU (TXU paid 47 lobbyists $2.7 million.) Verizon, the next-largest beneficiary of the new telecommunications bill, paid 38 lobbyists another $1.8 million. As such, SBC and Verizon lobbyists outnumbered the 150-member Texas House.”

And what will we get in return for it? Well, SBC and the proponents of the telecom bill promise us the moon, stars, the outer rings of Saturn, and may throw in a new toaster oven. But what we really will get, I predict, is what is known in Costa Rica as “squat.”

The bill, which Gov. Hairball has yet to sign, paves the way for phone companies to compete with traditional cable TV companies. The worst of both worlds. SBC and Verizon are planning to spend a gazillion dollars for technology known as IPTV or Internet Protocol Television. It is billed as the next generation of technology that can provide video and Internet service to consumers through upgraded fiber optic telephone lines. A recent “USA Today” article about SBC’s quest for an IPTV kingdom explains a few bugs have to be worked out:

“IPTV works fine in the lab, where conditions are pristine. But throw IPTV into a live, working network with millions of paying customers, and all bets are off. Indeed, nobody knows how IPTV will behave once it is “scaled,” or rolled out, to millions of paying customers. One of the largest IPTV installations in the world is in China, and that one has only about 500,000 customers.”Scaling is clearly an issue,” says Jeff Weber, an SBC vice president in charge of IPTV. “And anybody who tells you otherwise isn’t just dumb — they’re lying.”

Hey, it’s only money.

It may be just as well that the Texas Lege did not pass any kind of tax reform because what had been proposed didn’t look like it was the kind of reform that benefits me. And after all, when you are talking about tax reform, who is more important than No. 1, eh?

I just wish the legislature hadn’t spent so damned much of the taxpayer’s money to do nothing. Of course, I’m sure SBC doesn’t see it that way.

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