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Texas Press Association State Capital Highlights
States’ federal lawsuit targets e-book dealers
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 • Posted April 19, 2012

AUSTIN — Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and 15 state attorneys general on April 11 filed an antitrust lawsuit against a trio of book publishing firms and a computer giant, alleging the companies colluded to fix the sales prices of electronic books.

Named as defendants are Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Simon & Schuster Inc., Macmillan Holdings LLC and Apple Inc.

Filed in federal court in Austin, the case claims the defendants violated the states’ antitrust laws and the federal Sherman Antitrust Act.

Abbott issued this statement: “Colluding to fix prices violates antitrust laws and raises costs for customers. In this case, three of the nation’s largest publishing companies worked together to gain control of retail prices and raise the price of e-books. The defendants colluded to use the agency distribution model to effectively eliminate free market competition and allow publishers — rather than the marketplace — to set the price of e-books.”

Joining Texas as plaintiffs are Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont and West Virginia.

Abbott’s statement says a two-year investigation led by his office and coordinated with the offices of the Connecticut attorney general and the U.S. Department of Justice reveals that Penguin, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan conspired with other publishers and Apple to raise prices artificially by imposing a distribution model in which the publishers set the prices for bestsellers, resulting in some $100 million in overcharges to customers.

The states, Abbott said, seek injunctive relief "to reverse the effects of the defendants’ anti-competitive conduct as well as damages for customers who paid artificially inflated prices for e-books.”

Also, according to a news release from the Texas Attorney General’s office, the states "have reached an agreement in principle with e-book publishers Harper Collins and Hachette to provide significant consumer restitution as well as injunctive relief."

Deferral of policy allowed

State Education Commissioner Robert Scott has decided to allow public school districts and charter schools to defer implementation of a provision in current law that makes a student’s performance on an end-of-course assessment to count as 15 percent of their final course grade.

The opportunity to defer applies only to the current school year, but ultimately, the decision whether to include state-required end-of-course examination scores as part of course grades will be determined locally by school districts and charter schools, the Texas Education Agency announced April 12.

The law still requires students who are first entering the ninth grade in the 2011-2012 school year to achieve a cumulative score on the end-of-course assessments to complete their graduation requirements. Districts and charter schools are expected to notify the Texas Education Agency of their decisions to defer or not to defer.

State Sen. Truan dies

Retired state Sen. Carlos F. Truan, 76, died April 10 at his home in Corpus Christi.

Truan was the dean of the Senate when he chose not to seek reelection in 2002. He served for eight years as a state representative and 20 years as a state senator.

An April 17 private burial in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin was scheduled.

Garcia named to RRC

Elizabeth Ames Jones’s resignation as a member of the Texas Railroad Commission in February created an opening on the agency's three-member board. Gov. Rick Perry appointed H.S. “Buddy” Garcia to the post by last week.

Garcia, a resident of Austin and a native of Brownsville, was a member of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality from 2007 to 2009 and earlier served as a deputy secretary of state and border commerce coordinator. Garcia also previously served as a senior advisor to Gov. Perry and state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville.

Andrade: Ignore bogus email

Texas’ chief elections officer, Secretary of State Hope Andrade, on April 11 said false information was circulating via a bogus email message suggesting there would be a statewide constitutional amendment election that includes a homestead property tax exemption measure.

Andrade reminded voters the May 12 Uniform Election is for local elections only and there is no statewide proposition on the ballot. “If you receive an email claiming such a proposition is on the ballot, please disregard it and do not forward it to help stop the spread of this false information,” she said.

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