AUSTIN — U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced her intention to stay in the race to be the Republican Party of Texas’ nominee for governor while continuing to serve in the Senate.
In her Nov. 14 address in Houston to the Texas Federation of Republican Women, Hutchison said she would not give up her Senate seat as long as a national health care bill and cap-and-trade energy legislation are on the table.
“I realize this will keep me in the Senate past the primary election,” she said.
Recent polls show incumbent Gov. Rick Perry leads Hutchison by about 12 points.
Senators question commission head
At a Nov. 10 hearing of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, John Bradley, newly appointed chairman of the Texas Forensic Science Commission and Williamson County district attorney, said the commission had no written policies or rules yet and that guidance from the Legislature is needed.
Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chair of the criminal justice committee and dean of the Senate, asked Bradley if the commission would continue to investigate the arson report that contributed to the Cameron Todd Willingham murder conviction and recent execution.
Bradley, who Gov. Perry brought in as chair when the investigation of the Willingham case already was in progress, said the commission will continue, but he refrained from stating a timetable for doing so.
Whitmire asked Bradley if his role as a district attorney presented a conflict of interest for him. Bradley said he believed it did not.
Some committee members expressed concern over whether the commission would conduct its business in an open and transparent way. Bradley responded that confidentiality is critical in the early stages of the investigatory process.
Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, raised questions over the governor’s possible influence over the commission. Bradley countered with an insinuation that Ellis’s position on the national board of directors of the Innocence Project might be a problem.
Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said he wants the commission to focus on forensic mistakes and prevent “junk science” from entering into the legal process.
New agency absorbs old duties
A new state agency, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, opened Nov. 2. The “DMV” is taking over certain responsibilities formerly shouldered by the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Department of Public Safety and a few other agencies. TxDOT will provide services and facilities to the DMV until the agency can stand on its own.
Gov. Rick Perry appointed former car dealer Victor Vandergriff as chairman of the nine-member board that oversees the agency. Created last spring by the 81st Texas Legislature, the DMV will have about 650 full-time employees, who will carry out the following responsibilities:
• Vehicle titling and registration;
• License plates;
• Disabled driver placards;
• Vehicle dealer licensing and enforcement;
• Motor carrier operating authority;
• Grants to law enforcement to prevent vehicle theft; and
• Texas Lemon Law assistance.
The Texas Department of Public Safety will continue to issue driver’s licenses.
Slower economy cuts into revenue
A tamped down economy has slowed spending enough to result in decreased state sales tax collections. That might force a downward adjustment in state revenue. And that, in turn, could mean stop-gap measures may be needed to keep government functioning smoothly.
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, whose job it is to make revenue estimates and keep the state fiscally on target, suggested that sales tax revenues this holiday shopping season, which extends into the new year, could improve the picture.
Combs is expected to give a new revenue estimate by the end of the month.
Texas still behind on H1N1 doses
Last week the state was set to get 320,000 doses of H1N1 “swine” flu vaccine. The Texas Department of State Health Services regularly places orders in efforts to get the Lone Star State’s current allotment of the vaccine, which is 3.3 million doses. Texas expects to receive 13 million doses of the vaccine by January.