When we at BOR write about what Texas Republican elected officials are doing, it is nearly always to report on how they are putting political concerns ahead of the needs of actual Texans. This is so often the case that a report of one of our current Republican statewide officials doing something to help protect Texans will probably be met with lots of incredulity. But for once, it’s not too good to be true–Republican agriculture commissioner Sid Miller has actually moved to increase consumer protections for Texans.
In 2011, then-State Rep. Sid Miller voted in favor of massive budget cuts that cut 30% of the state agriculture department’s budget. But now, as agriculture commissioner, Sid Miller is pushing for that funding to be restored. KXAN reported that “restoring the funds would mean $11 million more to create a new consumer fraud unit and many other things.” As Miller is now realizing, it’s pretty difficult to get things done when your department has no funding.
Miller has big plans for bringing the department forward and increasing the work it is doing to protect Texas consumers. Some of the things he’d like to do include:
- Increasing manpower to inspect Texas’ 400,000 gas pumps
- Adding monitoring of taxi meters
- Addressing a two-year backlog of fraud cases
- Hiring 47 new inspectors: 31 for general weights and measures, 8 for pesticide investigations, and 8 to create a new consumer fraud unit
- Initiating a yearlong audit of the agriculture department
Miller explained his motivation for requesting the audit, which is something that has never been done before. Said Miller, “It’s not a witch hunt, nothing against the previous administration. I want this as a baseline for me going forward. The satisfaction that everything’s good. If there’s something wrong there I want to get it fixed now.” For once it’s a rational and sensible approach to running state government coming from a Republican official.
KXAN noted that, “Inspectors checked 133,000 gas pumps in 2014. About 6 percent – or 8,600 pumps – were not compliant, meaning the pumps were either giving off too much or too little gasoline.” New inspectors would be able to examine even more of the pumps, making sure that they are functioning properly and not leaving Texans hanging at the pump. Miller’s plans would also increase inspections of pest control companies and taxi meters, two other services that millions of Texans use.
Whether Sid Miller receives the funds to do all of these projects is now in the hands of the Republican legislature. While Miller is a fellow Republican, the legislature’s general disdain for spending money on things that protect Texans’ best interests means that the response to his request is up in the air. Sid Miller certainly isn’t perfect (he authored the 2011 bill mandating pre-abortion sonograms, for one thing) but it is heartening to see him using the office of agriculture commissioner to pursue common sense policies that, for once, put Texans first.