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Texas Press Association State Capital Highlights
Governor goes to Italy, Promotes Texas
Wednesday, September 19, 2012 • Posted September 21, 2012

AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry returned to Austin on Sept. 12 following a multi-day overseas trip.

While in Italy, Perry addressed an annual international economic development forum. He touted Texas’ workforce, universities and business climate and encouraged investment in and trade with Texas, telling his audience, “… we’ve created a fertile environment where innovators are free to create and nurture their ideas and where government stays out of the way. That’s good for any type of company and it’s particularly good for innovative young companies seeking firm footing during their early years.”

Perry’s office reported that no tax dollars were used to pay for the Italy trip. Part of the trip for the governor and first lady Anita Perry was to visit with Formula One or “F1” racing contacts. The sport is scheduled to debut on Nov. 16-18 at the new Circuit of the Americas track and facilities erected this year on the eastern outskirts of Austin. Through Comptroller Susan Combs, the state agreed to reimburse the racetrack operators $25 million per race, provided the race generates that amount in state taxes. The reimbursement deal is good for 10 years, with one race per year.

Rister to head RRC

Texas Railroad Commission, the state’s three-member energy regulatory agency, on Sept. 11 appointed Milton Rister as executive director.

Rister, who has served as director for administration for the governor’s office since 2010, served as executive director for the Texas Legislative Council from 2006 to 2009 and served as a senior advisor for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in 2005.

Rister’s first day on the job will be Oct. 1. The Railroad Commission has 750 full-time employees and a 2012 operating budget of about $75 million.

Revenue increases again

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs announced Sept. 12 that state sales tax revenue in August was $2.34 billion, up 18.5 percent compared to August 2011.

“The strong business and consumer spending trend boosted the monthly sales tax revenue, as did money remitted at the close of the state’s tax amnesty which ended in August,” Combs said in a news release. “The state’s sales tax revenue for fiscal 2012 was $24.1 billion, about 12.6 percent higher than the previous fiscal year. Collections from business sectors such as the oil and natural gas industry and consumer sectors including retail trade increased sales tax revenue for the fiscal year.”

Further evidence of the state’s overall economic health: September sales tax allocations to cities, counties, transit systems and special taxing districts showed double-digit increases. With billions of dollars more than expected coming in, underfunded categories of the state budget could enjoy windfalls, depending on how the governor's office and the Legislature, which convenes in January, respond.

Stretch of road goes to 85

Forty miles of State Highway 130 between Austin and San Antonio now boast the highest public highway speed limit in the nation: 85 miles per hour. The Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees the Texas Department of Transportation, approved the speed change under a 1999 state law, Transportation Code Chapter 545.

The law says the commission may establish a speed limit not to exceed 85 miles per hour on a part of the state highway system if:

(1) That part of the highway system is designed to accommodate travel at that established speed or a higher speed; and

(2) The commission determines, after an engineering and traffic investigation, that the established speed limit is reasonable and safe for that part of the highway system.

Lawmaker, justice dies

Robert Alton “Bob” Gammage, 74, of Llano and originally of Houston, died Sept. 10. Gammage was a former state representative, state senator, U.S. representative, Texas Court of Appeals judge and Texas Supreme Court justice. He ran for governor in 2006 but was defeated in the Democratic Party Primary Election.

Gammage was one of the “Dirty Thirty” – a coalition of state representatives in the 1971 Legislature who successfully fought against corruption in the upper levels of state government and spurred voters to a large-scale defection from incumbent officeholders.

If living, please respond

Secretary of State Hope Andrade, pursuant to a state law that took effect Sept. 1, 2011, sent letters to more than 70,000 Texans, asking them to acknowledge they are living by completing and returning a form within 30 days. Those who don't respond could be deleted from voter registration rolls.

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