Texas Capital Highlights

By Ed Sterling, Texas Press Association —

AUSTIN —Wendy Davis in mid-September said she would publicly announce
on Oct. 3 her decision to run, or not to run, for governor in 2014.

Sen. Davis, a Fort Worth Democrat now in her second term in the
state Senate, gained acclaim in June when she filibustered for 11 hours
to prevent a vote on legislation that was crafted to rechannel
state-supported women's health care programs and greatly reduce access
to abortion services.

Her action brought the first special session of the 83rd Texas
Legislature to an end and prompted Gov. Rick Perry to call a second
special session for the Republican-controlled House and Senate to pass
the legislation Davis and a cohort of Democrats successfully but only
temporarily managed to block.

Should Davis declare her candidacy, she almost certainly will face
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who months ago announced his
intention to seek the Republican party's nomination for governor. Abbott
made his announcement to seek the governorship soon after Gov. Perry
said he would not seek another term. Perry has been the state's chief
executive since 2000, when as lieutenant governor he succeeded Gov.
George W. Bush, who as president-elect left Texas for Washington, D.C.

Davis, 50, is a mother and an attorney. She earned her law degree from Harvard University.

Obamacare sign-up begins

With Oct. 1 marked as the open enrollment launch under the federal
Affordable Care Act of 2010, the governor's office, the Texas Department
of Health and Human Services and the Department of State Health
Services have had little to offer in the way of information for citizens
concerned about access to health care coverage and the cost of it.

Meanwhile, however, the U.S. Department of Health & Human
Services has been urging all Americans to visit the web site
healthcare.gov to learn about the federal health care law and to enroll
for coverage scheduled to begin Jan. 1. Nearly 5 million uninsured
Texans reportedly will be able to get coverage under the Affordable Care
Act, the federal health agency said.

Gov. Perry, an opponent of the Affordable Care Act, recently
suggested that instead of “Obamacare” the federal government issue
Medicaid block grants to states so Texas and other states could manage
their own health care.

Brown named to high court

Gov. Perry on Sept. 26 appointed Jeff Brown of Houston to fill the
Texas Supreme Court seat vacated in September by Justice Nathan Hecht,
who the governor appointed as chief justice of the court following the
resignation of Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson.

Brown, a Republican, has been serving as a judge on the Houston-based
Fourteenth Court of Appeals since 2007. He earned his law degree from
the University of Houston Law Center and he served as a clerk to Texas
Supreme Court Justices Jack Hightower and Greg Abbott.

Unemployment rate improves

Texas Workforce Commission on Sept. 20 announced that in August the
seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased slightly to 6.4 percent,
down from 6.5 percent in July.

From August 2012 to August 2013, Texas added 274,700 jobs. The trend
line reveals slow but steady improvement, as state's unemployment rate
was 6.8 percent a year ago.

The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics tabulated the national unemployment rate for August at 7.3 percent.

More students take SAT, AP

Public school student participation rates for the College Board SAT
and Advanced Placement exams increased over the previous school year,
the Texas Education Agency reported on Sept 26.

About 156,877 Texas public school students took the SAT college
entrance exam in 2012-2013, reflecting an increase of 0.2 percent from
2011-2012. Test takers in the Class of 2013 represent 56 percent of the
state's public high school graduates and 62 percent of the test takers
identified themselves as minority students.

For the first time in state history, more Hispanic students (59,294)
than white students (58,307) took the SAT in Texas public schools, the
state education agency reported, adding that the 204,795 Texas public
school students who took Advanced Placement exams in 2012-2013 represent
an increase of 5.4 percent from 2011-2012 and a 37.6 percent jump over
the past five school years.

Mobile voter ID stations roll

Texans who don't have photo identification that is acceptable for
voting in Texas may apply for a state-issued election identification
certificate at 25 mobile stations, beginning Oct. 1.

In a joint announcement on Sept. 24, Texas Public Safety Commission
Chair Cynthia Leon and Texas Secretary of State John Steen said the
mobile stations are part of an ongoing effort to provide election ID
certificates to Texans in need of photo identification now required to
vote in elections in Texas.