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Texas Press Association State Capital Highlights
Time to get serious about implementing state water plan
Wednesday, November 9, 2011 • Posted November 10, 2011

AUSTIN — Drought and the 2012 state water plan were the subjects of a day’s worth of testimony in a Nov. 2 interim hearing of the House Committee on Natural Resources. Chairman Allan Ritter, R-Nederland, before receiving input, said the current drought represents “a crossroads for the state of Texas” and “we’re all going to have to get serious about implementing our state water plan.” The state’s 2012 water plan is now in the draft phase.

In testimony, Texas State Climatologist John Nielson Gammon estimated the drought would last at least two years. Bob Rose, a meteorologist with the Lower Colorado River Authority, said the drought could grow worse in 2012 and that Texas is experiencing a “cold Pacific period” that could last a decade or longer.

Jerry Clark, Sabine River Authority general manager, said his agency has enough water in storage to last for years in drought conditions, but water managers across the state should investigate increasing storage capacities.

Scott Hall, Lower Neches Valley Authority director, said he issued water shortage warnings throughout the year and it’s time to develop ground water resources, additional storage and more interface between reservoirs.

Bill West, Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority general manager, suggested three things need to happen on a larger scale: conservation, life-style changes and projects.

Hay Hotline aids farms, ranches

Farmers and ranchers, reeling from the worst one-year drought in Texas history, are making use of the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Hay Hotline. State Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples on Nov. 2 announced the hotline lists more than 1,000 hay producers from 42 states selling forage. The hotline makes it easy for those in need of feed to connect with those who have a surplus. “Texas is the national leader in cattle production so it is critical that we preserve the herds on which all of America relies,” Staples said.

No rush to polls in early voting

With the fate of 10 proposed constitutional amendments and many local bond referendums in the hands of voters, data compiled by the Secretary of State reveal no rush to the early voting polls. Texas has more than 13 million registered voters and as of Nov. 3, only 1.67 percent of them had taken advantage of early voting.

Secretary of State’s Hope Andrade’s office posted daily voting data for Texas’ 15 most-populous counties during the Oct. 24-Nov. 4 early voting period before the Nov. 8 constitutional amendment election.

According to cumulative totals posted through the close of business on Nov. 3, Travis, the state’s fifth most populous county, had the highest cumulative percentage with 2.95 percent of its 581,576 registered voters having cast ballots. Hidalgo, the 10th most populous county, had the lowest turnout with 0.59 percent of its 285,888 registered voters having cast ballots.

Texas noted for business climate

Texas made the November 2011 cover of Site Selection magazine after earning the publication’s Top Business Climate in the nation ranking. The ranking is based on data such as competiveness and tax climate and a survey that asked corporate executives with site selection responsibilities to name the states they considered most business friendly.

Joining Texas in the top five were Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina, in that order.

Executives cited Texas’ tax climate, pro-business climate, available workforce and economic development incentives as reasons to relocate or expand a business in the Lone Star State.

“This top ranking further affirms our efforts to generate an environment where new jobs can be created and maintained,” Gov. Perry said Nov. 1. Also, the governor noted, according to USA Today, Texas has moved past New York as the nation’s second largest economy, and the Wall Street Journal has credited the state’s low taxes and employer friendly environment with helping make Texas the job creation capital of the nation. And, Texas is ranked as the top exporting state in the nation for the ninth year in a row.

Accountability ratings changed

Following the appeals process, the Texas Education Agency changed the state ratings of nine school districts and 63 campuses.

Eight campuses and one district moved up to an Exemplary rating (the highest) and 16 campuses and five districts moved up to a Recognized rating, while 39 campuses and three districts managed to upgrade their Academically Unacceptable rating to the Academically Acceptable level.

However, ratings remained unchanged for most districts and campuses. Overall, 72 of the 202 district or campus appeals were granted, the Texas Education Agency reported on Nov. 2.

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