AUSTIN — President Barack Obama visited here on Aug. 9 to appear at a Democratic Party fund-raiser luncheon downtown. Afterwards, he spoke to a crowd of 3,500 people at the University of Texas.
Obama talked about the importance of America’s students getting a college education and stressed how the nation’s economic future is tied to higher education.
A few hours earlier, Gov. Rick Perry greeted the president as he arrived in Austin on Air Force One. Perry passed a letter to the president, requesting the deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border to address national security threats posed by transnational gangs and drug cartels.
After Obama left Austin headed for another fund-raiser in Dallas, there was a “Hands Off Texas” rally at the state Capitol staged by Republicans and other critics of Obama administration policies.
On Aug. 10, Gov. Perry met with border sheriffs in Austin and credited them as “the first line of defense against the growing drug-related violence that is tearing apart northern Mexico” and noted “an absence of adequate federal resources” at the state’s disposal.
On Aug. 12, Congress passed a $600 million border security supplemental appropriations bill that would provide surveillance drones and station more federal customs and border patrol agents where needed.
In an Aug. 13 White House briefing, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters it takes about eight months to train new agents and station them on the border.
In other news, while the president was in Texas, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White attended fund-raisers of his own. Obama told reporters he understood White had a campaign schedule to keep. Obama did not make an issue over the fact that White did not meet with him.
AG sues over drilling moratorium
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Aug. 11 filed a legal challenge to the offshore drilling moratorium ordered by the Obama administration on July 12.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of the State of Texas, Gov. Perry and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, alleges violation of a federal law that requires the secretary of interior to consult with affected states before imposing an offshore drilling moratorium.
Named as defendants are the U.S. Department of the Interior, Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (formerly the Minerals Management Service) and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Michael Bromwich.
“Under federal law, affected states are guaranteed the right to participate in offshore drilling-related policy decisions, but the Obama Administration did not bother to communicate, coordinate or cooperate with Texas,” Abbott said. “Worse, the secretary of the interior failed to consider the economic consequences of his decision, which will cost the Texas economy millions of dollars – and threatens far too many hard-working Texans’ jobs.”
AG files suit over air emissions
Attorney General Abbott on Aug. 9 charged BP Products North America Inc. with illegally emitting about 500,000 pounds of harmful air pollutants from its Texas City refinery for more than a month earlier this year.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recorded multiple violations of the Texas Clean Air Act at the refinery between April 6 and May 16.
Abbott is seeking civil penalties of no less than $50 nor greater than $25,000 per day of each violation of state air quality laws, plus attorneys’ fees and investigative costs.
Bill passes with Texas amendment
The U.S. House on Aug. 10 passed H.R. 1586. President Obama signed the legislation into law the same day.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, on Aug. 5 attached an amendment to prevent Texas’ $830 million share of the $10 billion pot of education funds from being used for purposes other than education through fiscal year 2013.
The prospect of strings-attached federal money prompted written protests from Gov. Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus.
Texas notes earn highest ratings
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said on Aug. 13 that Wall Street bond raters have given their highest possible ratings to $7.8 billion in short term notes Texas will sell to fund public schools at the beginning of the new school year. For information about the bond sale, go to www.trantexas.com.