AUSTIN - The Texas Transportation Commission on Aug. 29 met and voted in response to an Aug. 21 letter signed by Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick urging the commission to get rolling on the issuance of highway construction bonds.
The five-member commission, appointed by the governor to oversee the Texas Department of Transportation, voted unanimously to issue $1.5 billion in highway construction bonds to support 2009 projects that would have been unfunded or underfunded because of a $1.1 billion shortfall.
Commission Chair Dierdre Delisi said she has instructed TxDOT to identify projects that are ready to move forward and expects TxDOT to present these projects to the commission later this month.
By amending the Texas Constitution, voters gave the state permission to issue short term highway construction bonds when they approved Prop. 12 on Nov. 5, 2007, and Prop. 14 on Sept. 13, 2003.
The state will address long-term transportation funding in the 81st regular session of the Texas Legislature, which convenes Jan. 13, 2009.
Hurricane hits, conventions go on
Gov. Perry and President George W. Bush were in Texas Sept. 1 to check on Hurricane Gustav relief operations.
Before Gustav came ashore Sept. 1 as a Category 2 hurricane, it prompted orders resulting in the evacuation of nearly 2 million people from southern Louisiana and coastal counties of Texas near the Louisiana border.
Despite threatening weather, contingencies of politically active Texans traveled to their respective national party conventions.
At the Republican National Convention Sept. 3 in St. Paul, Minn., Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams made the motion to nominate Sen. John McCain as the GOP candidate for president. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst announced Texas’ 140 delegate votes for McCain.
The Aug. 27 roll call vote at the Democratic National Convention in Denver stopped before the Texas delegation announced its tally, because Sen. Barack Obama earlier had received enough votes to secure the party’s nomination for president.
In other news, two Austin men on Sept. 5 were charged in a Minneapolis federal court for illegal possession of Molotov cocktails. The men allegedly had planned to use the incendiary devices to disrupt the GOP convention in St. Paul.
Repeal of TIF tax takes effect
The Texas Legislature in 2007 passed HB 735 by Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, a law to repeal the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund or “TIF tax” effective Sept. 1, 2008.
The Legislature created the TIF in 1995 to help fund the expansion of broadband services and conquer the so-called “digital divide” that left rural Texas with inadequate service.
Lt. Gov. Dewhurst on Sept. 2 said Texans had paid more than $1.5 billion in TIF surcharges.
Dewhurst, who pushed for the repeal as president of the Senate, said he wanted to let Texans “keep more of their hard-earned money,” and thanks to the repeal, their telephone bills will be impacted this month.
More children get their shots
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Sept. 4 that the immunization rate for Texas children climbed to 77.4 percent in 2007, ranking Texas 22nd compared with the other 49 states. It’s the highest ranking ever for Texas.
The immunization series, for children ages 19 months through 35 months, includes four doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, three doses of polio vaccine, one dose of measles-containing vaccine, three doses of Hib vaccine, three doses of hepatitis B vaccine and one dose of varicella vaccine.
“The progress that Texas has made is the result of aggressive and sustained efforts of state and local partners along with families,” said state health commissioner Dr. David Lakey.
School districts seek tax hikes
More than 100 Texas school districts will be asking voters to approve tax increases this fall, the Austin American-Statesman reported Sept. 3.
That’s about one in 10 of Texas’ 1,038 independent school districts.
The need for tax increases has been attributed to inflation: nearly everything is costing more and teachers need salary increases to keep from losing ground.