Reflecting the importance of Texas in the political landscape, U.S. Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama opened campaign offices here on Feb. 16.
Both candidates, who are competing for the Democratic presidential nomination, have begun airing campaign ads in many Texas markets.
And, the two are scheduled to engage in a Feb. 21 debate at the University of Texas. Admission for students, members of the university community and the public was by invitation only due to security restrictions.
Voter education drive begins
With the March 4 Texas primaries only days away, a May election on the horizon and the 2008 general election coming up in November, the move is on to increase the public knowledge about the right to vote.
Texas Secretary of State Phil Wilson on Feb. 11 launched "VOTEXAS," a statewide voter education program funded through the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002.
Wilson, the state's chief elections officer, described the initiative as "Pretty much everything you could ever want to know about voting in Texas."
Information is available at VOTEXAS.org.
Early voting runs Feb. 19 to Feb. 29.
Heart screening program begins
The Texas Education Agency on Feb. 14 awarded a $1 million contract to Championship Hearts Foundation to screen sixth-graders for heart conditions that can cause sudden and unforeseen death.
The Early Cardiovascular Detection Pilot Program, created in 2007 by Senate Bill 7, will screen about 12,750 students enrolled at public schools across Texas, beginning this month.
The contractor will select schools that are geographically and ethnically diverse, the Texas Education Agency said.
AG: watch out for refund scam
The Office of the Attorney General has received complaints from Texans who have received unsolicited electronic mail and telephone calls from purported IRS agents claiming that the taxpayers are eligible for "Bush refunds."
Scammers demand taxpayers' Social Security and bank account numbers, claiming the IRS will use the information to directly deposit "rebate checks" into the taxpayers' accounts.
The IRS does not call or e-mail taxpayers unexpectedly to demand personal information for direct deposits, the AG's office said.
To report this kind of solicitation, call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline, (800) 621-0508, or the Internal Revenue Service, (800) 829-1040.
Wimberley pays 'Robin Hood'
Wimberley Independent School District, about 35 miles southwest of Austin, made headlines across the state last fall when it refused to send its "Robin Hood" tax revenue share to Austin.
But the school district's board of trustees put the issue to a vote Feb. 14 and decided 6-1 to pay "under protest" about 15 percent of the $2.4 million owed.
The Wimberley school district is considered property wealthy under state law, but school officials have maintained that the district could not afford to send the money.
Crime lab grants are awarded
Gov. Rick Perry on Feb. 12 awarded grants totaling nearly $900,000 to nine forensic crime labs.
The money is awarded through the federal Coverdell National Forensic Sciences Improvement Act fund and is distributed by the Governor's Criminal Justice Division.
"Texas must provide law enforcement with the latest in forensic science technology in order to protect our citizens while ensuring our criminal justice system does not wrongfully convict the innocent," Perry said.
Receiving grants are Bexar, Dallas, Harris, Jefferson and Tarrant counties, and the cities of Austin, Fort Worth, Houston and Pasadena.
Comptroller upgrades Web site
Texas Comptroller Susan Comb's Web and graphic design teams have redesigned and re-organized the "Window on State Government" home page to make it more action-oriented, cleaner and easier to navigate.
The address for the page is www.window.state.tx.us.
Users are asked what they want to do - pay taxes, find a tax form, search for unclaimed property or locate other information - and a quick click takes the user to the right location.
A recent addition is "Where the Money Goes," a link to in-depth information about how the state spends taxpayer dollars.