State Capital Highlights

By Ed Sterling, Texas Press Association —

AUSTIN — The Texas Third Court of Appeals on Sept. 19 overturned
former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's 2010 conviction on charges of
money-laundering and conspiracy in an ethics case brought by the State
of Texas.

In a 2-1 opinion, the majority concluded that there was insufficient
evidence of any felony offense that generated proceeds and, therefore,
that the State failed to establish an element of the crime of
money-laundering as alleged in the indictment.

DeLay resigned from Congress in 2006 while the lawsuit stemming from
the fundraising in the 2002 election was in progress. A Travis County
jury convicted DeLay in November 2010 but he served no prison time.

Bond elections now listed

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs on Sept. 16 announced an Web page where
Texans can find information on November bond proposals being issued by
cities, school districts, counties and special purpose districts around
Texas.

More 90 upcoming local bond propositions identified to date and a
state bond proposition can be found on the Tell the Truth Texas website,
tellthetruthtexas.org. The information includes the entity, purpose of
the bond and bond amount.

Buckle up your children

In conjunction with National Child Passenger Safety Week, Sept.
15-21, Texas Department of Transportation on Sept. 17 announced it is
offering free, year-round child safety seat inspections conducted by
certified technicians.

Texas law requires that children younger than 8 years of age, unless
taller than 4 feet 9 inches, must ride in safety seats. A new study by
the Texas Transportation Institute found nearly nine out of 10 Texas
children were riding in safety seats, but many were not properly
buckled. The new study also revealed 37 percent of infants and toddlers
in Texas were secured incorrectly — or not at all — when riding in a
vehicle.

More patrols come to Valley

Texas Department of Public Safety on Sept. 13 announced the launch of
a multi-agency law enforcement initiative to increase the patrol
presence in the Rio Grande Valley area of Texas to address public safety
issues.

“Law enforcement has identified various criminal activities and
unsafe driving behaviors in south Texas that has led to the launch of
this short-term enforcement effort in the Rio Grande Valley,” the DPS
explained in the announcement. DPS Director Steven McCraw specified
criminal activities in the region including human smuggling and
trafficking, drug smuggling, stash house operations and home invasions,
plus the increase of traffic and crashes on roadways.

Key agencies involved in this law enforcement initiative include the
Hidalgo County Sheriff's Department, Hidalgo County Constables
Precincts 3 & 4, Mission Police Department, U.S. Border Patrol, the
Federal Bureau of Investigation, Texas National Guard, Texas Alcoholic
Beverage Commission, and the Texas Attorney General's Office.

Survey estimates poverty rate

The U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey shows more than
4.5 million or 17.9 percent of Texans are living in poverty, nearly two
points above the 2008 pre-recession poverty rate of 16 percent. A
two-parent, one-child family with annual income of $18,480 or less meets
the poverty definition.

The Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin-based,
non-partisan think-tank, on Sept. 19 published comments on the survey,
calling for more investment in primary and adult basic education and in
career development for low-skilled adults to reduce the poverty rate and
keep Texas strong.

“Poverty is not an insurmountable problem. We know what works; we've
proven it before,” wrote Frances Deviney, a senior research associate
with the Center for Public Policy Priorities. “It's time for Texas and
the U.S. to decide that our current poverty rates are unacceptable and
commit to solutions that we know make a real difference.”

Wild bird prompts letter

Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter on Sept. 13 wrote to Daniel
Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, regarding the
Lesser Prairie Chicken, a prairie-dwelling bird that naturally inhabits
Texas, including parts where oil and gas exploration is on the increase.
The non-game, rare-species bird has been a candidate for federal
protection since 1998.

“I am writing to express my strong opposition to listing the Lesser
Prairie Chicken as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species
Act,” Porter wrote. “As the primary regulator of the oil and gas
industry in Texas, an industry that would be significantly affected by
this decision, I feel it is imperative that the detrimental impacts of
such a listing are fully understood and appreciated.”

Porter went on to note the economic gains tied to the oil and gas
industry and added, “I firmly believe this matter should be left for the
states to address through a collaborative conservation plan.”