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State Capital Highlights

 

 

Ed Sterling wrote this column for almost three decades, so let’s open by celebrating his contributions to the Texas Press Association and its members. Ed was the calm, steady voice keeping us informed and interested.

I am honored to have been asked by Mike Hodges, TPA executive director, and Donnis Baggett, executive vice president, to continue the important work of keeping Texans up to date on what’s happening in Austin. The world has changed dramatically since Ed started writing in the early 1990s, but the need for being informed remains greater than ever.

The “Capital Highlights” column appears in more than 100 newspapers across Texas, reaching all the way from the Rockport Pilot to the Moore County News- Press and from the Bowie News to the Seminole Sentinel. From his many years of traveling around Texas and talking to editors and publishers, Ed carried in his head the knowledge of each paper and its readers. Please help me help sniff out the most useful news to you. Via email at ccobler@texaspress.com, tell me about the state agencies and topics you want monitored most closely. Are you concerned most about the large players like the Texas Education Agency, or do you want me to report the latest buzz from more obscure agencies like the Texas Apiary Inspection Service?

Despite my penchant for dad jokes, I pledge to keep playing this column straight, as Ed did so well. We need more nonpartisan news, which is why you read and support your local newspaper.

The pandemic remained the theme of the news in July, much of it centering on the economy and education. The week opened with Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s forecast that Texas faces a $4.6 billion budget deficit and closed with the first hurricane of the season, Hanna, making landfall Saturday night near Port Mansfield.

Getting rid of gobbledygook

Jargon isn’t just hard on readers. It also can be bad for business, Texas’ insurance commissioner wrote in a column last week.

Kent Sullivan said he has been promoting plain language since becoming insurance commissioner three years ago. One example of policy legalese he noted: “You may qualify for a contingent non-forfeiture benefit.”

Instead of this gobbledygook, Sullivan wrote, “Why not just say you can still receive benefits even if you stop paying for this policy?”

The coronavirus outbreak has spotlighted potential confusion and costly legal fallout caused by bewildering insurance policy language, Sullivan said. “We need a coordinated effort to strengthen and enforce plain language requirements in state laws,” he added.

CHRIS COBLER is a board memer and past president of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. He welcomes emails at ccobler@texaspress.com.

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