State Capital Highlights

Secretary of State posts early voting turnout numbers

Ed Sterling

Ed Sterling

The Secretary of State’s Elections Division on Oct. 31 posted early voting turnouts for each of the state’s 15 highest-population counties: Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar, Travis, Collin, Denton, El Paso, Fort Bend, Hidalgo, Montgomery, Williamson, Galveston, Nueces and Cameron.

Of the 8,978,313 registered voters in those counties, 1,715,731 voted early in person or by mail. That’s a 19.11 percent cumulative early voting percentage. To compare with the last midterm election, in 2010, the cumulative early voting total for those 15 counties was 1,731,589 ballots cast out of 8,339,034 registered voters, or 20.76 percent of the total.

After polls close at 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 4, anyone with an Internet connection will be able to access vote tabulations posted by the Office of the Secretary of State’s at the website www.sos.state. Election results in races for statewide offices will be recapped in next week’s State Capital Highlights column.

Governor greets Toyota

Gov. Rick Perry on Oct. 27 welcomed New York, N.Y.-based Toyota Motor North America Inc. to Plano, where its new headquarters will be built. The manufacturer’s relocation to Plano is supported by a $40 million investment from the businessluring Texas Enterprise Fund administered by the governor’s office.

The facility, to be completed in late 2016 or early 2017, will bring nearly 4,000 jobs and more than $300 million in capital investment to North Texas, according to Perry’s Oct. 27 statement. Toyota Motor North America, combined with 21 on-site suppliers, already supports some 6,000 jobs in San Antonio, including 2,900 from its $2.3 billion manufacturing plant.

TxDOT ends gravel policy

Texas Department of Transportation in the summer of 2013 announced a plan to convert 83 miles of “significantly damaged paved roads” in the Eagle Ford Shale energy-producing region to gravel surface as a temporary budget-cutting measure.

In an Oct. 24 letter to the Legislative Budget Board, TxDOT announced the formal termination of its “high-end unpaved road conversion policy” and requested access to $402 million in additional funding for Fiscal Year 2015 with half going to safety projects across the state and the remainder toward roadways affected by the state’s growing energy sector.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst praised TxDOT’s announcement, saying, “Texas families and businesses in both rural and urban areas deserve a comprehensive first-rate transportation system and they’ll get it.

Nurse recovers from Ebola

Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. David Lakey on Oct. 28 expressed relief when Amber Vinson, a nurse with Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, was declared free of the Ebola virus last week. She was in isolation and receiving treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

“We are so pleased that Amber Vinson has been declared free of Ebola. She is one of the health care workers who bravely provided care to the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States. Through excellent health care and her own courage, she beat the disease. Based on the clinical and lab findings, people are not at risk of getting the disease from her, and she has been completely cleared. We wish her the best as she transitions back to a normal life, and we welcome her back home to Texas,” Lakey said in an official statement.

Summit focuses on bullying

“Bullying remains one of the most prevalent and widely discussed topics pertaining to school safety and security,” Texas Education Agency announced during Texas Safe Schools Week, Oct. 19-25.

During the week, Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University in San Marcos and the Texas Education Agency spotlighted resources available to help school districts and charters address and combat bullying and cyber bullying on campuses. Also, Texas School Safety Center presented the 2nd Annual Texas Bully Prevention

Summit on Oct. 30 in San Marcos.

Drought conditions persist

Gov. Perry on Oct. 28 announced the renewal of the emergency disaster proclamation the governor originally signed in July 2011, certifying that exceptional drought conditions posed a threat of imminent disaster in specified counties in Texas.

This month, the proclamation applies to 98 of the state’s 254 counties. In contrast, the proclamation applied to 113 specified counties last month. The drought proclamation directs that “all necessary measures, both public and private” as authorized by state law “be implemented to meet that threat” and “all rules and regulations that may inhibit or prevent prompt response to this threat are suspended for the duration of the state of disaster.”

ED STERLING is the Director of Member Services at Texas Press Association.

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