AUSTIN — What took place here Oct. 15 might turn out to be the closest thing to a gubernatorial campaign debate Texans will get before the Nov. 2 election.
The Austin stations KUT-FM, KLRU-TV and TexasTribune.org teamed up to conduct separate hour-long interviews of Gov. Rick Perry and challenger Bill White, with Evan Smith, editor in chief and CEO of TexasTribune, pitching questions.
Listeners across the state submitted questions for the candidates, too. Subjects covered included the state budget, crime along the Texas-Mexico border, teen pregnancy and abstinence education, the death penalty, political appointments and more.
To listen to each candidate’s thoughts on the issues, see the archived videos posted online at www.texastribune.org.
Perry appeals FEMA aid denial
Gov. Perry on Oct. 12 sent a letter to President Obama appealing the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Oct. 9 decision not to grant Texas a presidential disaster declaration for 13 counties for flood damages related to Tropical Storm Hermine.
The governor had requested federal aid on Sept. 20 for Bell, Blanco, Cameron, Coryell, Denton, Hill, Jim Wells, Johnson, Medina, Tarrant, Travis, Willacy and Williamson counties.
Hermine ripped through Texas in early September, bringing heavy rains and flooding that damaged bridges, destroyed homes and caused several deaths.
Texas joins foreclosure group
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Oct. 13 joined a coalition of 49 state attorneys general, state-level mortgage regulators and bank oversight agencies that will jointly investigate foreclosure processing procedures.
The coalition will look into whether individuals who confirmed information supporting foreclosures actually had personal knowledge of the facts to which they swore, the attorney general’s office said.
Some lenders recently acknowledged using electronic devices to “robo-sign” sworn documents.
The group also will review whether foreclosure paperwork was signed outside of the presence of a notary public.
Panhandle rep seeks speakership
State Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, on Oct. 13 announced his intention to run for speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.
The 150-member House elects a speaker every two years, when it convenes in regular session. The 82nd Texas Legislature is scheduled to convene on Jan. 11, 2011.
Chisum, first elected to the House in 1989, cited his experience and leadership skills as qualifications. He said the conservative agenda of the Republican majority eroded last legislative session under current speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio.
In putting himself forward for the speaker’s post, Chisum reminded House members of his service on the powerful House Appropriations and Ways and Means committees and his commitment to a conservative agenda. Chisum criticized Straus, saying the speaker relies too much on the support of Democrats.
Book festival draws big crowd
More than 200 Texas and nationally known authors appeared at the 15th annual Texas Book Festival at the State Capital Building Oct. 16-17.
First lady Laura Bush, a former teacher and librarian, was the driving force that established the festival in 1995 and she was in Austin to kick off last weekend’s festival.
Attendees enjoyed author readings and presentations, panel discussions, book signings, and musical entertainment. Estimate: more than 40,000 people participated.
Appellate court upholds pledge
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Oct. 13 ruled that the Texas Pledge of Allegiance is constitutional.
The decision rejects an appeal filed by a Dallas couple, who unsuccessfully argued that the state’s pledge violated the First Amendment’s establishment clause because it contains the words, “under God.”
The federal district court issued a decision rejecting the plaintiffs’ challenge in 2009, and the plaintiffs appealed their loss to the Fifth Circuit.
Court overrules Keller warning
A court of review on Oct. 11 vacated the State Commission on Judicial Conduct’s sanction of Sharon Keller presiding judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals.
The court of review said the State Commission on Judicial Conduct acted unconstitutionally and failed to follow correct procedures when it issued an informal warning to Keller after she refused to keep her courtroom open past 5 p.m. for a last-minute death row appeal in 2007.