AUSTIN — Soon after news broke of a mass shooting by a lone gunman at a Connecticut elementary school on Dec. 14, Gov. Rick Perry asked Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams to direct Texas school districts to review their emergency operation plans.
“It is essential that we ensure all Texas schools are equipped and ready to carry out a strategic plan to secure the safety of students and staff in the event of a threat such as the one that occurred today,” Perry said.
Perry also referred school districts to the Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University in San Marcos as a resource to assist in developing a plan of response or improving an existing plan.
A 2005 state law requires school districts and public junior colleges to adopt and implement a multi-hazard emergency operations plan that includes district employee training and mandatory school drills to prepare students and employees for responding to an emergency.
In a statement of condolence following the Connecticut shooting in which 20 schoolchildren and six adults were killed, Perry said, “The fact that so many victims were children weighs heavily upon the hearts and souls of each Texan and every American.”
Texas’ chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General Greg Abbott, had this to say:
“As a board member of the Texas School Safety Center, I am committed to making sure educators, students and law enforcement are working together to prepare Texas schools for the unthinkable. We must not wait until it’s too late to act. We remind all schools to review their school safety plan to ensure they have proper procedures to keep students and campuses safe.”
Speaker draws challenger
Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, speaker of the 150-member Texas House of Representatives for the 2009 and 2011 legislatures, is seeking a third term in that high office.
Competition for the leadership role comes in the form of Republican David Simpson of Longview, who is entering his second two-year term representing House District 7.
State Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, earlier had announced his candidacy for the speakership, but on Dec. 10, Hughes withdrew and announced his support of Simpson for speaker.
Simpson in effect said the race would not be about conservative credentials so much as style in administering the rules of the House in allowing what legislation reaches the House floor for debate.
On Jan. 8, opening day of the 83rd Texas Legislature, a vote will be called to choose who is to be the next speaker, as a matter of routine business.
DNA system hits milestone
Texas Department of Public Safety on Dec. 12 announced its DNA indexing system, which through cross-referencing and matching helps solve homicides, sexual assaults, burglaries and robberies, had reached its 10,000th “cold hit” resulting in an arrest or conviction.
Since 1998, the DPS reported, its CODIS Lab, which shares data with a nationwide FBI database, has helped solve 644 homicides, 3,399 sexual assaults, 4,273 burglaries, 556 robberies, and hundreds of other miscellaneous crimes in Texas and other states.
Texas law requires registered sex offenders and convicted felons sentenced to Texas Department of Criminal Justice or juveniles committed to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department facilities to provide a DNA sample.
Sales tax collections improve
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs on Dec. 12 reported that state sales tax revenue in November was $2.34 billion, up 13.1 percent compared to November 2011.
Collections were strong in retail trade, manufacturing, oil and natural gas, construction and telecommunications, Combs said.
December local sales tax allocations totaling $552 million will be sent to cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts, up 15.5 percent compared to December 2011, she added.
LBJ Library to cut ribbon
The LBJ Presidential Library, located on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, on Dec. 22 will open a redesigned core exhibit, and much more.
The opening, on what would have been Lady Bird Johnson’s 100th birthday, features unprecedented access to private telephone conversations of President Lyndon B. Johnson, an interactive Vietnam War exhibit showing elements of the president’s decision-making process, and new theaters and films about the president, civil rights, LBJ’s legacy and the First Family.
Also available will be a downloadable “app” and handheld guide to give visitors the choice of several different tours, including a tour in Spanish.