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Lawmaker asks to use rainy day fund for drought needs

 

AUSTIN -- Texas should spend some of its “rainy day fund” on water issues, state Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, suggested in a letter to Gov. Rick Perry last week.

Deuell pointed to U.S. Drought Monitor data that says 94 percent of Texas is classified as abnormally dry, adding that the state climatologist called the months of October and November the driest in Texas history.

In his Dec. 6 letter, Deuell asked for the State Water Plan to be funded. He did not mention a dollar amount, but noted the existence of a “growing consensus that action needs to be taken now to ensure the future water needs of our state.”

The state’s economic stimulus fund -- widely referred to as the rainy day fund -- totals somewhere between $8 billion and $10 billion. The governor has called the rainy day fund “critical to our ability to respond to and recover from disasters and emergencies, whether they’re natural or man-made.”

The State Water Plan, written by the Texas Water Development Board, is supposed to be a blueprint to secure Texas’ water needs 50 years into the future. But to finance projects that conserve, capture, channel and move water supplies, it takes money that the Legislature has been reluctant to appropriate and spend and last session was averse to selling general obligation bonds as a way to fund the water plan.

Texas’ water planning process is based on a bottom-up, consensus-driven approach that integrates the efforts of 16 Regional Water Planning Groups made up of members representing agriculture, industry, environment, public, municipalities, business, water districts, river authorities, water utilities, counties and power generation.

As referenced above, exceptional drought continues to grip Texas.

Gov. Perry on Nov. 30 renewed the July 5, 2011, drought disaster proclamation for another 30 days for 180 of Texas’ 254 counties.

The proclamation directs that all necessary measures, as expressed in state law, both public and private, be implemented to meet the threat prolonged drought poses to public health, property and the economy.

Regents say yes to med school

State Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-San Benito, on Dec. 6 announced the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System passed a measure that paves a path to create a medical school in the Rio Grande Valley.

While the board of regents passed the measure, the Texas Legislature, which convenes Jan. 8, must give approval for the progress to continue.

The idea is to merge UT Brownsville and UT Pan American in Edinburg into one new UT system that will house the new medical school. Regents also approved the $100 million over the next 10 years needed to accelerate the transitioning of the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen to a free-standing school of medicine.

“This is a very important issue, which is very dear to my community. ... The Rio Grande Valley, as well as the rest of the State, will greatly benefit from the creation of a new medical school in South Texas,” Lucio commented. “Moving forward on this will be one of our top priorities this session.”

Commissioner resigns

Buddy Garcia, one of three members of the Texas Railroad Commission, resigned effective Dec. 7.

A former member of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Garcia was appointed to the commission -- the state agency that regulates the oil and gas industries -- by Gov. Perry on April 12, 2012.

Stepping into the spot vacated by Garcia is newly elected Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick.

DPS: Program is effective

Interdiction for the Protection of Children, a program administered by the Texas Department of Public Safety is working, the agency reported on Dec. 6.

The program trains state troopers and officers to “identify, recognize, intervene and remove endangered children without obvious signs of abuse being present.”

As a result of this training, DPS said, officers have made 20 criminal arrests and recovered 62 missing or exploited children since 2010. Some 2,600 officers in Texas and approximately 1,900 officers nationally and internationally outside of Texas have received the training.

Unemployment

Total nonfarm payroll employment nationwide increased by 146,000 jobs in November, the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics reported on Dec. 7. The increase in jobs nationally reduced the unemployment rate to 7.7 percent, the lowest in four years.

Texas Workforce Commission November employment statistics are expected to be released soon.

Fort Hood has big impact

Fort Hood, the U.S. Army post in the central Texas counties of Bell and Coryell, had an economic impact of $25.3 billion in the state during fiscal 2011, according to a new analysis released last week by state Comptroller Susan Combs.

 
 
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