AUSTIN - Their goal, they said, is to finance a “world-class transportation system.”
Texas’ top three elected officeholders co-signed an Aug. 19 letter to Texas Transportation Commission Chair Dierdre Delisi expressing their collective wishes for a plan to fund transportation projects over the next biennium.
Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick told Delisi to prepare for an Aug. 29 bond review board meeting with certain goals in mind:
• End the practice of funding the Texas Department of Public Safety with gas taxes that are needed for road construction. Use general revenue to fund the DPS.
• Create a finance entity that will allow the state’s public investment fund managers to put money directly into state transportation projects that offer a “potential solid long-term return.”
• Pass enabling legislation and appropriations for the Prop. 12 bonds approved by voters.
In November 2007, voters approved Prop. 12, amending the state constitution to authorize $5 billion in general obligation bonds for transportation projects.
In September 2003, voters approved Prop. 14, allowing short-term borrowing by the Texas Department of Transportation. Perry, Dewhurst and Craddick instructed Delisi to prepare to begin selling $1.5 billion in Prop. 14 bonds in September.
Executive order begins Blue Alert
An executive order signed by Gov. Rick Perry on Aug. 18 launched Blue Alert, a communications network to help track down suspects who flee after killing or seriously injuring federal, state or local law enforcement officers in the line of duty.
Blue Alert, based on the AMBER and Silver Alert programs, combines efforts of the DPS, the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management and TxDOT.
When Blue Alert is activated, the suspect’s vehicle information will be displayed across the state primarily via TxDOT dynamic message signs and media broadcasts. Alerts instruct the public to contact local law enforcement via 911 if they have information related to the offense.
Immigration policies in question
Two Republican state lawmakers have asked Attorney General Greg Abbott if the Texas Legislature has the authority to deter local governments from adopting policies, or invalidate existing policies that hinder state enforcement of federal immigration laws.
In the request for an opinion, Rep. Frank Corte of San Antonio and Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston wrote that “sanctuary cities” advocate policies that are favorable to illegal immigrants.
To support their views, the lawmakers cited the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007, which prohibits sanctuary cities and bars local governmental bodies from creating policies to limit or prevent local law enforcement officers from communicating or cooperating with federal officials on the immigration status of a person.
Online certification testing grows
Applicants took more than 50,000 online Texas teacher certification tests via the Internet in the past year.
And, Texas is leading the nation in online certification testing, the Texas Education Agency reported Aug. 20.
Online testing has been available in Texas since 2004-2005. Test takers have five hours to complete an exam, but the average completion time is between three and four hours. The results come back in about a week.
Karen Loonam of the State Board for Educator Certification said she expects online testing eventually will be the sole method for certification but she does not expect paper and pencil tests to disappear anytime soon.
Interim DPS director is named
The Texas Public Safety Commission named Texas Highway Patrol Major Stan Clark of Garland interim director of the Texas DPS on Aug. 15.
Clark will take office on Sept. 1 and serve until the Texas Public Safety Commission, which oversees the DPS, has selected a permanent director.
Clark has been with the DPS since 1973. He has worked at DPS offices in Tyler and McAllen, and has been a member of the DPS Capitol Police force.