San Angelo's West Texas Legislative Summit Primed to Discuss Trade Wars in Midst of High Stakes Political Drama Locally
SAN ANGELO, TX — Every August, the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce hosts the West Texas Legislative Summit. The one-day Summit explores state and federal policy in a particular area. In 2016, the topic was public education, then agribusiness in 2017, and last year it was energy and transportation to get energy to the marketplace.
Each year, the selection of topics at the Summit helps move issues. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Midland) said last week that incorporating the West Texas Legislative Summit into his House Agriculture Committee’s nationwide listening tour in 2017 was instrumental in marking up five years of federal agriculture policy in the 2018 farm bill. One of the hot topics then was legalizing the cultivation of hemp. Conaway was the chair of the House Ag Committee when Republicans controlled the U.S. House.
Last year, the Summit highlighted the need to build more pipelines from the oil fields west of here to deliver oil and natural gas for export at the ports of Houston and Corpus Christi. This time last year, the Port of Corpus Christi was having trouble with the Army Corps of Engineers in getting the channel there deepened for VLCCs, or Very Large Crude Carriers. The rush for more pipelines was in response to not only the fracking boom, but also the 2015 law that legalized crude oil exports for the first time since the oil crisis during President Jimmy Carter’s administration. The Port of Corpus Christi project is well underway this year as are pipeline projects.
This year, trade policy of the federal government and its impact on our rural west Texas economy is the topic because this region exports oil, natural gas, and agriculture. Trump’s trade war with China and the need to get the new North American trade deal ratified top the concerns.
Trump ran against the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, calling it the worst trade deal in history and vowed to renegotiate it. The re-negotiated result, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) has improvements over the 1994 NAFTA trade deal some say. Conaway said last week that USMCA “must be passed.” At the Summit, we will ask why exactly USMCA is better than NAFTA. And, what happens if the Democrat-controlled U.S. House doesn’t allow a vote for ratification to move forward?
Chief Agricultural Negotiator Ambassador Gregg Dodd of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will give the keynote address. Also attending is the ranking Republican member of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Rep. Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands). He will participate in a panel discussion with Conaway and Congressman Jodey Arrington (R-Lubbock) that will be led by State Rep. Drew Darby. Brady’s house committee is where ratification of the USMCA begins.
Other topics to be covered at the Summit include “Agriculture Opportunities: Regionally and Globally” and energy policy. Also on the agenda is a panel discussion about transportation and unleashing the trade potential of the U.S. through the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas as well as Texas ports.
Each year, the Summit’s agenda alternates between being run by the state representative’s office or the congressional office of our Congressional District 11. Last week, Congressman Conaway announced he would not seek re-election. The field is wide open for new politicians to run for congress the region and certainly some yet-to-announce candidates will be in attendance. Will anyone announce their intentions to run for Conaway’s vacant seat?
This is also two weeks into the revelation about the Empower Texans secret recording with Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen where the Speaker offered to trade allowing press credentials with Michael Quinn Sullivan’s Texas Scorecard news website if his conservative political activism organization goes after 10 Republican house members, targeting them for defeat in 2020. Rep. Darby of San Angelo is said to be on that list.
Since speakers and topics for each year’s Summit are prepared by San Angelo’s state or congressional representative, and both offices are occupied by popular Republicans — Conaway won re-election in 2018 with over 80 percent of the vote — there aren’t many Democrats who participate. Chamber President Bruce Partain said the Chamber actively invites Democrats, and some may attend this year. The way politics are stacked nationally may also contribute to the dirge of Democrats at the event. “In rural areas, the Republicans still run things,” Partain said. Not one officeholder elected locally, from county treasurer up to congressman, is a Democrat. That is, except for Tom Green County Democratic Party Chairman David Currie.
The 16th Annual West Texas Legislative Summit begins with breakfast at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, August 8, 2019. The first panel discussion begins at 8:30 a.m. The Summit will be held at the Houston Harte University Center at the Angelo State University campus. More details are here.
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