AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry on Aug. 19 called for lawmakers to enact tougher penalties for the crime of human trafficking in Texas.
Lawmakers will meet next when the 82nd Texas Legislature convenes at noon on Jan. 11, but more pressing is Election Day, Nov. 2, only two months away.
Former Mayor Bill White of Houston, a Democrat and incumbent Gov. Perry’s main challenger, also says he wants tougher penalties for human trafficking.
Even if Perry and White agree on human trafficking, other topics of interest to Texans — the state budget, health care reform, highway construction, education, public safety prisons, border security and more topics of interest — remain undebated by the two.
Well, they do manage to point out differences in their approaches to those subjects in press releases, but Perry is still standing back from White’s call for a live debate until White makes public more of his personal income tax returns.
White released his mayor-era tax returns in June, but the Perry campaign demanded White’s tax returns from the span of time in 1993-1995 when White served as deputy U.S. Energy secretary in the Clinton Administration.
Advice: take hot weather seriously
For weeks, temperatures across the state have been hitting 100 degrees or higher and older people, young children, people with chronic diseases and those without access to air conditioning are most at risk of heat-related illness.
The Texas Department of State Health Services is reminding the public to take actions such as these to prevent heat-related problems:
• Find and stay in an air conditioned area, either at home or at public places like malls, libraries or community centers.
• Never leave anyone in a parked vehicle, even for a short time.
• Call 911 if you see an unattended child in a vehicle. Check often on older friends, neighbors and family members. Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugary drinks.
Test scores show improvement
Class of 2010 Texas high school seniors posted a higher average score on ACT mathematics and science tests than any other class of seniors in the last decade, the Texas Education Agency reported on August 18.
The class of 2010 scored 21.4 on math and 20.9 on science. The average overall composite score for the class of 2010 matched the class of 2009 at 20.8.
The Texas Education Agency said 92,615 high school seniors took the ACT this year, while 82,640 from the class of 2009 took the test last year. That’s a 12 percent increase in the rate of participation.
The ACT is a standardized test for high school achievement and college admissions.
Legislators promote tax ‘holiday’
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs predicted shoppers would save $59.3 million in state and local sales taxes during the sales tax holiday. State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and state Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, held a Capitol press conference on Aug. 17 to kick off the statewide Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday, which ran August 20-22. Ellis and Strama said the state would realize a net gain in sales tax receipts because shoppers also will purchase many items that are taxable.
Ellis wrote the legislation to create the sales tax holiday in 1999, and Strama helped pass an expansion to the list of tax-free items.
Energy forum to be held in Mexico
Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson on Aug. 18 promoted the 17th annual U.S.-Mexico Border Energy Forum to be held Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 in Chihuahua, Mexico.
The city of Chihuahua is about 215 miles south of Juarez, Mexico.
Forum programs will focus on “clean” energy including natural gas, wind, solar and geothermal.
“This forum is all about maximizing our energy dollars while minimizing our environmental impacts and in the process, sharing our knowledge and expertise with our friends and neighbors,” Patterson said.
More than 200 leaders from the U.S. and Mexico representing industry, government, education and environmental organizations are expected to attend.
Agency reports no uptick in jobs
The rate of joblessness in Texas stayed at 8.2 percent in July, the Texas Workforce Commission reported on Aug. 20. In May and June, the rate also was 8.2 percent. Texas has gained 168,900 jobs, total, since January, according to the commission.