AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry’s popularity as a Republican presidential candidate quickly vaulted the Paint Creek native to the top of at least three national polls last week.
Perry committed to a couple of live debates with fellow GOP contenders in September. Moderators and participating candidates are expected to focus on Perry’s performance with emphasis on budget issues, job creation, education and health care. He has much more of a record to peer into than the others, with 26 years in elected office including the last 10 as governor.
Meanwhile, during a break in fundraising and other campaign-related tasks, Gov. Perry issued a proclamation dated Aug. 22 calling for a Tuesday, Nov. 8, election in which registered Texas voters will have the opportunity to yes or no to each of 10 proposed amendments to the state constitution.
Texas lawmakers approved the legislation proposing the amendments during the legislative session that ended May 30.
Staples letter requests hay
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples sent a letter dated Aug. 25 to other states’ agriculture officials requesting hay donations for drought-stricken Texas cattle raisers. The idea is to identify sources of hay and get the contact information posted on the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Hay Hotline.
“The need for hay is dire and getting more desperate each day,” Staples said Aug. 26. According to the state extension service, Staples said, agriculture losses due to the 2011 drought have already reached $5.2 billion and are now the costliest in state history for Texas farmers and ranchers.
Short-term notes are sold
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs reported the state’s Aug. 23 sale of nearly $10 billion in one-year cash flow notes from the state of Texas “was very well-received by the financial community.”
High demand for the notes drove the interest rate down to 0.27 percent – the lowest interest rate the state has received on its annual short-term notes.
Buyers bid about $31 billion, more than three times the amount offered for sale, Combs said.
Proceeds from these “tax and revenue anticipation notes” will be used to distribute state funding to public schools early in the upcoming fiscal year and to help state government manage its cash flow between the start of the fiscal year and the arrival of tax revenues later in the year, Combs said.
Business fee ruled constitutional
The Texas Supreme Court on Aug. 26 ruled and issued an opinion upholding the constitutionality of the state’s sexually oriented business fee.
State laws that took effect over the last few years requires the collection of a $5 per-patron fee from establishments that combine alcohol and live nude entertainment. According to chapters 47 and 102 of the state Business and Commerce Code, fees collected are transferred quarterly to the office of the state comptroller and credited to a fund for sexual assault prevention programs.
Jerry Strickland, spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General, called the decision “a victory for the State of Texas and, more importantly, victims of sexual assault.”
Appeals court upholds conviction
The Third Court of Appeals in Austin on Aug. 26 affirmed former YFZ Ranch resident Michael George Emack’s conviction for sexually assaulting a child. The court rejected Emack’s appeal asserting that authorities’ search violated his rights under the First and Fourth Amendments, and ruled that law enforcement authorities’ April 2008 search of the YFZ Ranch in Schleicher County was based on probable cause and therefore was legally justified.
After the ruling Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said, “The search warrant authorizing law enforcement to enter the YFZ Ranch was legally proper – and ultimately led to the indictment and conviction of multiple men, including Warren Jeffs, who sexually assaulted children.”
Earlier in August, Jeffs was transferred to a state prison facility in Huntsville to begin serving consecutive sentences of life and 20 years.
TxDOT names interim chief
Long-time Texas Department of Transportation Executive Director Amadeo Saenz retired at the end of August, and the agency last week named 25-year TxDOT employee John Barton to hold the post as interim executive director.
Now, with TxDOT embarking on a modernization phase, a national search is on to find candidates for the agency’s top post. Barton, former assistant executive director for engineering operations at the agency, is an applicant.