Gov't-Business

State Capital Highlights

By Ed Sterling, Texas Press Association

Texas, Mexico exchange words over military force at border
AUSTIN – While the governor and group of trade-with-Texas promoters were in Japan and China last week, the 13th anniversary of the “9-11” terrorist attacks on the United States was broadly observed. Perry acknowledged the anniversary from afar and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who serves as acting governor when Perry is out of the state, also made a similar, solemn statement on Sept. 11.

Perry posted another statement in absentia, calling attention to the fact that some 1,000 National Guard troops, at his request, had taken positions at observation posts along the Texas-Mexico border to deter crossings of the Rio Grande by terrorists and drug traffickers. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto reacted, criticizing the deployment of National Guard to the border as a less-than-neighborly act.

Dewhurst responded to President Nieto’s statement, saying, in part: “I find it puzzling and frankly offensive that the government of Mexico chose the 13th anniversary of the most tragic attack on our homeland to call on Texas to throw open our international border to illegal immigration, trafficking in drugs and human lives, and potentially even terrorists who wish to harm America.”

Rosalba Ojeda, Mexican consul general in Austin, followed with her own calmative statement, saying: “Mexico has collaborated with the U.S. to ensure that our common border becomes a prosperous and dynamic region to benefit the people that inhabit the area on both sides. Mexico, through the Consulate General of Mexico in Austin, Texas, recognizes the message expressed by the Government of Texas as an invitation to open up a space for coordination and dialogue, which is most welcomed.”

Meanwhile, over the ensuing weekend, the Texas Capitol was being readied for the traditional Diez y Seis de Septiembre Mexican Independence Day celebration, with festivities that draw a multiethnic crowd numbering in the thousands.

Staples decries meatless day
An editorial concerning “Meatless Monday” by state Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples was published in the Austin American-Statesman on Sept. 8.

“Recently,” Staples wrote, “I learned some Texas school districts, such as Dripping Springs ISD, have adopted a policy deemed ‘Meatless Mondays’ for some of their campuses. These actions have me very concerned.

“Restricting children’s meal choice to not include meat is irresponsible and has no place in our schools. This activist movement called ‘Meatless Mondays’ is a carefully orchestrated campaign that seeks to eliminate meat from Americans’ diets seven days a week, starting with Mondays.

“For those Texans who choose not to eat meat, I say more power to you. If you want to take the personal challenge to go meatless on Mondays, go right ahead. However, we cannot force such an agenda-driven diet on anyone who has not chosen such a diet, especially our school children.”

In other news, Staples on Sept. 10 announced the Texas Department of Agriculture will receive $317,600 in federal funding to help growers and handlers of organic agricultural products defray the costs of obtaining organic certification. Grant funds will be available to help producers recover part of the cost of applying for the U.S. Department of Agriculture organic certification and applications are due Oct. 31.

Dewhurst speaks on TWIA
Lt. Gov. Dewhurst on Sept. 9 spoke at a Senate Business & Commerce Committee hearing with the permission of the chair, Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler.

The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) has insured obligations that have grown from about 85,000 policies representing $16 billion since January 2003, to more than 270,000 polices representing almost $77 billion currently, Dewhurst said.

“Should Texas, God forbid, endure two targeted Category 5 hurricanes in a single year, the impact on the state budget from claims on TWIA’s $77 billion in coverage could be devastating. I encourage the senators to explore ways to carefully move Texas coastal policy holders to commercial insurance carriers over time, thus avoiding a rate shock and reducing the risk of a massive financial tsunami to Texas taxpayers,” Dewhurst added.

Sales tax revenue rises
State Comptroller Susan Combs on Sept. 10 announced state sales tax revenue in August was $2.57 billion, up 7.5 percent compared to August 2013. Revenue gains, she said, were led by remittances from the oil and natural gas, wholesale trade and retail trade sectors. Also, fiscal year 2014 ended (on Aug. 31) with total collections at $27.27 billion, up 5.5 percent over fiscal year 2013. Combs said the Office of the Comptroller will send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts their September local sales tax allocations totaling $627.8 million, up 9.2 percent compared to September 2013.

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