State Capital Highlights by Ed Sterling


AUSTIN — Counting down to Primary Election Day on March 4, Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis remain the presumptive frontrunners for governor in their respective party races.

For lieutenant governor, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio stands alone as the Democrat vying for that powerful office, while Republican primary voters will have a field of four candidates to choose from in that race: incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst; Jerry Patterson, land commissioner; Todd Staples, agriculture commissioner; or Dan Patrick, chair of the state Senate Committee on Education. 

While agreeing on most issues, one popular way those four Republican candidates seek to differentiate themselves is by publicizing lists of endorsements by various political action committees and other special interest groups.

Last week Abbott, the current state attorney general, said corruption and gangs are a threat to security along the border with Mexico. His likening the border region to a third world country, however, drew a blistering response from South Texas residents.

Davis, a state senator from Fort Worth, focused on public school funding. She pointed to a pending state district court case dealing with fairness in the education finance system and called on Abbott to stop defending the state law that sparked the case. Davis suggested that the state Legislature be called into special session to revise the law. Abbott has said that as attorney general, it’s his job to defend state laws against court challenges. 

Davis also spoke in favor of gay marriage and “open carry” by local option. An open carry law would allow Texans who have the appropriate state permit to wear a firearm in plain view in public. Abbott previously has made his opposition to gay marriage known and he labeled Davis’s open carry statement as political opportunism.
Early voting began Feb. 18 and will end on Feb. 28.

Business filings increase
Texas Secretary of State Nandita Berry on Feb. 10 reported that in calendar year 2013, some 150,979 certificates of formation creating new limited liability companies, corporations, and limited partnerships were filed with her office. 

The number of filings, she said, represents a 5.6 percent increase from 2012, when the office received 142,872 filings.

“We’ve cut red tape and made it possible in many cases to start a new business in Texas virtually overnight. Texas is wide open for business. Welcome to the land of opportunity,” said Berry, who appointed by Gov. Perry and sworn in on Jan. 7.

Sales tax revenue is up
State sales tax revenue in January was $2.3 billion, up 8.3 percent compared to the previous January, state Comptroller Susan Combs said Feb. 12.
Combs said increases across all major sectors of the economy indicate “continued expansion in both consumer and business spending, and brings the growth in fiscal year-to-date collections to 4.6 percent compared with the previous year. Sales tax revenue has increased for 46 consecutive months.”

Cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts would be sent their February local sales tax allocations totaling $802.1 million, up 8.2 percent compared to February 2013.

UT chancellor steps down
After a five-year tenure, Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa announced Feb. 10 that he would step down as head of The University of Texas System but will serve until a successor is named.

Cigarroa will become the head of pediatric transplant surgery at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio while also serving as a special liaison to the board of regents to advise on the development of the new University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and medical school.
Cigarroa served as president of the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio from 2000 to 2008 before being named the first Hispanic chancellor of the UT System in late 2008.

Seat belt campaign begins
Texas Department of Transportation announced Feb. 14 the launch of its annual “Teen Click It or Ticket” campaign to address the leading cause of death among teens ages 15 to 20: motor vehicle crashes. 

The campaign features videos and a wrecked truck exhibit “to highlight the consequences of not wearing a seat belt, such as costly tickets, lost driving privileges, injuries or even death,” TxDOT said.

Educational toolkits available to campus classrooms include posters, banners, parking lot signage, morning announcements, a school newspaper article, a parent brochure and more.


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