State Capital Highlights


AUSTIN — With the end of his longevity record of 14 years as governor less than a year away, Rick Perry took part in policy discussions at the 2014 World Economic Forum Jan. 21-25 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.

Perry was the only U.S. state governor to attend the forum, the governor’s office said. Besides his headline-grabbing words suggesting a softer approach through drug courts on state marijuana laws, Perry said Texas is the place to be for companies seeking a business-friendly environment.

On Jan. 23, during the forum’s widely publicized panel discussion on drug policy, Perry said, “I’m probably the only person who is going to be an anti-legalization person on the stage tonight.” But, in the context of Tenth Amendment/state sovereignty, Perry added, “As the governor of the second-largest state in the country, what I can do is start us on policies that can start us on the road towards decriminalization.”

Also on Jan. 23, while Perry was beyond Texas borders, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, as acting governor, proclaimed a liquefied petroleum gas emergency.
Texas, as a leading producer of the fuel, intends to help alleviate shortages in other states hit by extreme winter weather, Dewhurst proclaimed.
Pursuant to the proclamation, the state of Texas temporarily waived its state licensing, permitting and certification requirements for LPG trucks and operators that meet federal requirements and those of any other state whose governor has declared an LPG emergency. Such states include: Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Campaign reports come in
Candidates’ semiannual campaign finance reports were filed with the Texas Ethics Commission on Jan. 15. Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis reportedly raised in the neighborhood of $12 million each over the last six months, making them the top fundraisers among candidates for various state offices.

Campaign donations of $50 or more must be reported, are public information, and can be looked up via the Texas Ethics Commission’s website,
Abbott, the current attorney general of Texas, and Davis, a state senator from Fort Worth, are considered frontrunners in races to be their respective parties’ nominees for governor in the March 4 primary election. 

Early voting in that election begins Feb. 18 and ends on Feb. 28.
Of many issues that Abbott and Davis have tangled over so far in the campaign, the one that seems to get the most attention is abortion. Davis favors a woman’s right to choose and Abbott is anti-abortion.

3 species will be studied
State Comptroller Susan Combs on Jan. 23 announced plans to support research by state-funded universities on three animal species: freshwater mussels (12 varieties); the spot-tailed earless lizard; and the massasauga, a desert-dwelling, venomous pit viper.
“This will help ensure the best science is available when determining if a species should be listed (as endangered or protected under the federal Endangered Species Act) thereby bringing more scientific rigor to the process,” Combs said.
Ranges of those species “potentially cover 190 of the 254 Texas counties and the economies in these counties contribute about $1.3 trillion of our state’s gross domestic product,” Combs said.
The state will use a competitive process to select the universities that will conduct the studies.

Test-passing rate lauded
On Jan. 21 the Texas Education Agency announced that nearly 309,000 students in the class of 2015 have taken all or most of the end-of-course assessments required for graduation.
Of that number, some 76 percent of students who are in their junior year of high school already have passed the assessments they have taken and are on track to graduate under current requirements.
Education Commissioner Michael Williams praised the achievement.

Jobless rate drops more
Texas Workforce Commission on Jan. 24 reported that the state economy “saw positive job growth in December with the addition of 17,600 seasonally adjusted total non-farm positions over the month.”
Texas’ unemployment rate decreased for the fifth consecutive month, down to 6.0 percent in December and employers added 252,400 jobs in 2013, according to the agency.

The national unemployment rate is 6.7 percent.

Justice passes milestone
Nathan L. Hecht, chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, became the body’s longest-serving member on Jan. 26. Hecht’s first day as a member of the body was more than 25 years ago, on Jan. 1, 1988.
Hecht surpassed the tenure of the previous longest-serving justice, Joe Greenhill, who retired from the court in 1982 and died in 2011. Greenhill served 10 years as chief justice. Hecht was appointed chief justice by Gov. Perry last fall, succeeding Wallace B. Jefferson at the post.


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