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Texas Press Association State Capital Highlights
Governor and challengers have kind words for Sen. Kennedy
Wednesday, September 2, 2009 • Posted September 1, 2009

AUSTIN -- Gov. Rick Perry and challengers released statements following the death of U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who died Aug. 25 after battling brain cancer.

“Senator Kennedy carried on his family’s tradition of service to our country, devoting his life to the causes that mattered most to him,” Perry said. “We can all admire and should respect a life lived with such consistent adherence to a deeply-held set of beliefs. Anita and I extend our sincere condolences and prayers to his family and friends.”

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is competing with Perry to be the Texas Republican Party’s nominee for governor in 2010, said, “While Ted Kennedy and I disagreed on many issues, we were strong allies in the fight against cancer. The Kennedy-Hutchison cancer research bill is a tribute to his determination that the battle against this dreaded disease continue. Cancer may have claimed his life; it did not dampen his spirit or his will.”

Tom Schieffer, Democratic candidate for governor, said of Kennedy, “Throughout his long and illustrious career, he was the strong voice for education, fairness and compassion in our society. That voice is quiet now but his legacy will continue to speak to all those who believe that government can make a positive difference in people's lives.”

Kennedy, 77, was buried near his slain brothers, President John F. Kennedy and U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery on Aug. 29.

Deadline for shots is extended

Parents have more time to get their children vaccinated in accordance with state rules for school attendance.

The Texas Department of State Health Services extended until Oct. 1 the deadline for kids to get vaccinated for meningitis, tetanus-diphtheria-whooping cough and chicken pox.

Without the time extension, full immunizations would have been required beginning the first day of school.

Panel briefed on Swine flu

The Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security met on Aug. 20.

Dr. David Lakey, Commissioner of the Texas Dept. of State Health Services, said there have been at least 5,000 cases of H1N1 “swine” flu in Texas over the summer, with probably many more unreported.

Lakey said the current pandemic has been much milder than anticipated and that this has given the state time to learn more about the disease and be prepared for additional outbreaks in the fall.

Suehs named to top spot at HHS

Gov. Rick Perry named Thomas Suehs of Austin executive commissioner of Health and Human Services, effective Sept. 1, for a term to expire Feb. 1, 2011.

The executive commissioner oversees the operations of five health and human services agencies with a combined annual budget of $30 billion and staffed by more than 50,000 employees.

Suehs succeeds Albert Hawkins, who Perry appointed to lead the agency in January 2003. Hawkins announced his retirement in May.

Note sale will help state budget

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs announced Aug. 25 that the state’s sale of $5.5 billion in tax and revenue anticipation notes achieved an interest rate of 0.48 percent, the lowest rate the state has ever received on its annual sale of short-term notes.

“We had an impressive sale and an excellent interest rate — the best Texas has ever had,” Combs said.

Texas will use the proceeds of the sale to distribute state funding to public schools early in the upcoming fiscal year and manage its cash flow between the start of the fiscal year and the arrival of tax revenues later in the year. The notes will be repaid Aug. 31, 2010.

More road projects are possible

The Texas Transportation Commission on Aug. 27 gave preliminary approval to the state department of transportation for more mobility projects that may be covered under the federally funded American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

It all depends on whether funding becomes available as a result of “under-runs” on the previously approved mobility projects. Funds would be spent on projects in the region of the state in which the under-runs were generated.

Parks agency approves grants

More than $9 million in competitive parks and recreation grants for city and county parks and other sites across the state was approved by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on Aug. 27. The grants support the acquisition, development and beautification of city and county parks.

Of the total, the Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso areas were awarded a combined $3.8 million from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Urban Outdoor Recreation Grants program. San Antonio also was awarded $1 million from the agency’s Indoor Recreation Grants program.

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