Speaker Tom Craddick on Nov. 28 and 29 released lists of legislative interim charges for House committees to study and report on before the 81st Legislature convenes on Jan. 13, 2009.
Here are only a few of the dozens of subjects our lawmakers will be taking a close look at in their respective committees:
• Identity theft;
• Voter fraud;
• College scholarships and student support programs;
• Creation, use, maintenance and preservation of electronic documents;
• Economic development and job growth programs;
• Immigration enforcement and border security;
• Jury service by citizens;
• Protection of homebuyers in mortgage fraud schemes; and
• State employee pay and benefit packages.
Texas House will see new faces
Change is certain in at least seven the 150 seats of the Texas House of Representatives.
Not seeking re-election are state Reps. Dianne White Delisi, R-Temple; Robby Cook, D-Eagle Lake; Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock; Fred Hill, R-Richardson; and Mike O'Day, R-Pearland.
State Rep. Anna Mowery, R-Fort Worth, already resigned, and will be replaced in a Dec. 18 special election runoff to fill her vacant seat.
State Rep. Robert Talton, R-Pasadena, gave up his seat to run for Congress. He is seeking his party's nomination for U.S. Congressional Dist. 22, the seat held from 1984-2006 by former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Now holding the seat is U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Stafford.
State Rep. Rick Noriega, D-Houston, on Dec. 3 announced he will seek his party's nomination to run against incumbent U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-San Antonio.
As far as can be discerned at this point, all sitting state senators intend to hold onto their seats.
Christmas trees arrive at Capitol
On Nov. 28, the state Capitol received shipment of three evergreen trees from a Texas farm in Palestine, including one called "The Angel Tree."
According to House Speaker Tom Craddick's office, the Angel Tree will be decorated with gift tags for 115 foster children currently under the care of Child Protective Services. The tree is on display in the Capitol Extension outside the Capitol Grill cafeteria.
The other two trees will be placed in the governor's and the lieutenant governor's reception rooms.
Crop year 2007 looks like record
Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples announced on Nov. 29 record agriculture production estimates for 2007.
For the first time in history, he said, projections show the Texas agriculture industry will surpass $100 billion in economic impact for the state. The previous high was $85 billion in 2004.
Some of the largest increases this year are from crops used to produce biofuels. Production of grain sorghum was up 440 percent compared with last year, while corn production increased 91 percent, Staples said.
No steroid testing firm named yet
Last spring, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 8, a law requiring random drug testing of Texas high school student athletes, regardless of sport, gender or participation level.
Nearly three-quarters of a million Texas high school students participate in athletics.
The random testing, with oversight by the University Interscholastic League, was supposed to begin in the current school year, but did not, and the UIL has not awarded the testing contract.
The UIL did say Nov. 28 its list of banned steroids will mirror the NCAA's banned anabolic agent list, which contains the names of more than 25 drugs.
TxDOT warns holiday shoppers
'Tis the season to prevent vehicle thieving.
Two holiday season public service announcements by the Texas Department of Transportation remind citizens to lock their vehicles.
In the announcement titled "Open Your Presents First," a man is pictured breaking into a car. The other announcement has a banner that reads, "To a Thief, These Are Holiday Store Windows," and shows cars in a typical parking lot scene.
Group names Perry chairman
The Republican Governors Association elected Texas Gov. Rick Perry chairman for 2008 at the group's annual meeting Nov. 30 at Dana Point, Calif.