AUSTIN - In the space of three months last summer, the Texas coast suffered punishing blows from three hurricanes: Dolly, Gustav and Ike.
Because of the resulting breadth and depth of disaster in coastal counties, Gov. Rick Perry on Nov. 20 announced the creation of the Governor's Commission for Disaster Recovery and Renewal.
It's an advisory panel of public and private sector experts who will create a plan to assist communities in recovery.
Perry also directed the Texas Department of Transportation to assist with debris removal in Southeast Texas.
"Two months after Ike's landfall, Texans are still sleeping in cars or tents outside of padlocked trailers," Gov. Perry said. "Mounds of debris are piled up in coastal communities, creating health hazards while Washington remains mum about whether it will provide the same level of resources it did for Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.
"These situations clearly demonstrate that the federal government's recovery system is broken. I am confident this new commission will find solutions to these challenges as well as create a plan to speed recovery and accelerate economic development."
Job one is to address the housing shortage for residents whose homes were destroyed by the hurricanes.
State seeks to curb trafficking
Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transporting or obtaining of a person for labor or services for the purpose of subjecting victims to involuntary servitude, slavery or forced commercial sex acts.
On Nov. 17, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, held a news conference to announce the release of the Office of the Attorney General's new 57-page report, "The Texas Response to Human Trafficking."
The study details the impact of human trafficking on Texas and examines how changes in the law could reduce human trafficking and provide better services for victims.
Van de Putte said she plans to advance state efforts to eliminate human trafficking in Texas in the upcoming legislative session.
Abbott said, "The state of Texas must continue to focus on preventing human trafficking and protecting its victims."
Former Texas AG Mattox dies
Former Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox died in his sleep Nov. 20 at his home in Dripping Springs. He was 65.
Mattox served as the state's chief law enforcement officer from 1983 to 1991. He also served Texas as a state representative, 1972-76, and as a U.S. congressional representative from 1976-82. He ran for governor in 1990 and lost to Ann Richards in the Democratic primary. He also ran for U.S. Senate in 1994, losing to Richard Fisher in the primary. In 1998, he tried to win back the office of attorney general, but lost to Republican John Cornyn.
Gov. Perry ordered flags to half-staff in memory of Mattox Nov. 20-21.
Another files to be next speaker
Now 10 lawmakers have filed to be the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives in the upcoming 81st regular session of the Legislature.
The latest is State Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, who filed on Nov. 18.
The 150-member body will vote on opening day, Jan. 13.
The list of speaker candidates presently includes incumbent House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland and Reps. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, Delwin Jones, R-Lubbock, Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, Allan Ritter, D-Nederland, Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, and Solomons.
Texas sounds call for retirees
The Texas Department of Agriculture is promoting a growing list of Texas cities and counties as friendly and attractive places for Americans looking for the perfect place to spend their golden years.
So far, the agency's GO TEXAN Certified Retirement Community Program presently includes 22 cities and counties, including Athens, Canyon, Clifton, Cuero, De Kalb, Duncanville, Franklin County, Gun Barrel City, Harlingen, Longview, Lufkin, Nacogdoches County, Odessa, Palestine, Panola County, Paris, Pittsburg, San Augustine County, Shelby County, Texarkana, Tulia and Winnsboro.
Created in 2005 by the Texas Legislature, the program helps smaller communities draw attention to their attributes through national marketing and promotional work.