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Texas Press Association State Capital Highlights
Hurricane Ike recovery begins in Texas
Wednesday, September 24, 2008 • Posted September 23, 2008

AUSTIN - Hurricane Ike augered through the state Sept. 13-14, battering Galveston and other communities along its path.

Gov. Rick Perry pledged to residents of stricken areas that the state would see them through the restoration process.

Perry’s office reported that as of Sept. 18, 211 shelters were open throughout Texas housing more than 21,941 evacuees; more than 1,360 truckloads of water and 1,201 truckloads of ice have been distributed throughout storm-affected areas.

Nearly 10,000 utility workers, many from out of state, set about the task of restoring power. As of Sept. 20, about one third of the estimated 3 million people were still without power.

Reopened businesses and many more signs of recovery from the hurricane are popping up, but there is much unresolved for thousands of people. The governor urged displaced Texans “to remain patient and stay where they are until local officials deem their neighborhoods are safe enough for their return.”

For those displaced by the hurricane, Perry ordered that hotel and motel taxes be waived through Oct. 14 and FEMA set up transitional housing help. Evacuees may phone 2-1-1 from any Texas landline or Texas cell phone to get information on how and where to apply for food stamps and other assistance.

Insurance companies have been extra busy. For example, Farmers Insurance said that as of Sept. 16, the company had received more than 50,000 Ike-related claims.

Farmers sent claims buses to sites in Houston, Beaumont, Humble Pasadena, Pearland and Sugar Land to help customers file on-the-spot claims.

And what about beloved pets and livestock left behind in the storm? The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reported it was working with the Texas State Animal Resource Team and other credentialed animal care agencies to assist and provide resources.

AG provides info-aid to evacuees

Attorney General Greg Abbott and his office have had a big role in the return to normalcy after Hurricane Ike.

On Sept. 15, Abbott launched a hotline to help custodial parents get child support payments.

Also on Sept. 15, he announced that more than 3,300 evacuees had been screened in an effort to identify registered sex offenders staying in shelters.

On Sept. 16, Abbott reminded Texans to report price gougers. Also on Sept. 16, he detailed the rights of evacuees when they stay in hotels.

On Sept. 17, he offered tips on ways to avoid disaster-related scams and that same day he also said emergency shelters had called in 5,555 evacuee names for his office staff to compare with the Department of Public Safety’s sex offender registry.

As of Sept. 18, Abbott’s office identified 18 people residing in emergency shelters as sex offenders and 36 more people as possible matches with the sex offender database.

And on Sept. 19, Abbott said, “When disaster strikes, many Texans want to make generous donations to charitable organizations. Before reaching for their wallets, Texans should ask questions and check the facts to make sure they are not about to hand their money over to a scam artist posing as a charitable cause.”

Combs parts with Lehman Bros.

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs on Sept. 17 severed the state’s contract with Lehman Brothers Inc. to provide marketing and client services to TexPool and TexPool Prime, investment pools used by local governmental bodies.

Lehman Brothers Inc. is owned by Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Sept. 15.

Combs assured investors that the bankruptcy filing poses no threat to local governments invested in TexPool and TexPool Prime. Those kinds of investments are managed by a separate company, Federated Investors Inc., she said.

Eyes of Texas on bailout plan

Attention will be on Congress over the next few days, to see how lawmakers react to the Bush administration’s proposed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street financial institutions that are suffering the cascading effect of failed home mortgages. Texans will have a big stake in the outcome.

Big dates in upcoming election

Monday, Oct. 6, is the last day for Texas residents to register to vote in the Nov. 4 general election. Early voting begins Oct. 20 and ends Oct. 31.

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