AUSTIN – President Barack Obama on Feb. 17 signed H.R. 1, the economic stimulus package, and Gov. Perry took pen in hand to write the president a letter that made it clear he was against the stimulus before he was for it.
Other Republican governors expressed misgivings about accepting the money, but it appears most state chief executives will accept their states’ share of the $787 billion package after all.
Texas’ share is estimated at $17 billion, which includes about $5 billion for Medicaid and almost $4 billion for public and higher education.
“On behalf of the people of Texas,” Perry wrote, “please allow this letter to certify that we will accept the funds in H.R. 1 and use them to promote economic growth and create jobs in a fiscally responsible manner that is in the best interest of Texas taxpayers. I remain opposed to using these funds to expand existing government programs, burdening the state with ongoing expenditures long after the funding has dried up.”
Perry went on to express pleasure in meeting President Barak Obama in Philadelphia, and said, “I appreciate your concern for the Texans displaced by Hurricane Ike.”
On the subject of Hurricane Ike recovery, Perry on Feb. 17 announced he asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to waive or extend for 180 days the deadline to file proof of loss requirements for flood insurance policyholders whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Ike.
Perry said that currently, policyholders are required to file proof of loss by March 12, but an extension would allow Texans the same amount of time to file their claims as was allowed following Hurricane Rita in late summer 2005.
“With so many Texas homes suffering flood damage related to Hurricane Ike and so many families who have not yet been able to rebuild, a deadline of March 12 is unrealistic,” Gov. Perry said. “I urge FEMA to waive or extend the deadline so that Texans with flood insurance have adequate time to file their claims.”
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Feb. 18 said he and his staff have started looking at the federal economic stimulus bill, a 1,100 page document. He said lawmakers should be wary about relying on one-time payments from the federal government.
Speaker Joe Straus appointed a House Select Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding.
Child protection bills are filed
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith on Feb. 19 joined forces to advance state and federal legislative efforts to protect young Texans from child predators.
“With sexual predators increasingly using new technology to prey upon children, it is critical that law enforcement stay ahead of the criminals,” Abbott said.
“Innovative legislative responses to high tech crimes are vital to the ongoing success of our crackdown on cyber predators and online child pornographers. Thanks to creative legislative initiatives at both the state and federal levels, law enforcement will have the legal tools we need to help protect Texas children.”
Abbott expressed support for SB 689 by state Sen. Florence Shapiro and HB 1239 state Rep. Aaron Peña, legislation embodying recommendations he made last fall. The bills would require that convicted sex offenders provide their e-mail addresses, mobile telephone numbers, social networking aliases and other electronic identification information to the Department of Public Safety’s sex offender registry.
Cornyn, Abbott’s predecessor as attorney general, sponsored the Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today’s Youth (SAFETY) Act of 2009 in the U.S. Senate and Smith, a former Texas legislator, sponsored companion legislation in the U.S. House.
Health agency takes over recall
The Texas Department of State Health Services on Feb. 20 announced would take over the recall of products shipped from Peanut Corporation of America’s Plainview plant after getting no response from the company to a Feb. 12 recall order.
Manufacturers, distributors and retailers believed to have received products from the company in 2008 are being notified of the recall by DSHS food safety personnel and asked to take appropriate action to protect consumers. DSHS is hoping to find additional customer lists from prior years in the company’s records.