OPINION COLUMNS

Berry to succeed Steen as secretary of state

By Ed Sterling | Published Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Gov. Rick Perry on Dec. 19 announced the appointment of Nandita Berry of Houston as the 109th Texas Secretary of State, effective Jan. 7, 2014. She succeeds John Steen, who was appointed by Perry in November 2012.

Ed Sterling

Ed Sterling

As secretary of state, Berry will serve as the state’s chief elections officer, the governor’s liaison on border and Mexican affairs and Texas’ chief protocol officer for state and international matters. The Secretary of State’s Office also serves as the formal repository for official and business records, publishes government rules and regulations, keeps the state seal and attests to the governor’s signature on official documents.

Berry, the governor’s office noted, is “the first Indian American to fill the post.” She is a senior counsel at the law firm of Locke Lord LLP. She is a member of the State Bar of Texas and Houston Bar Association. She is a past member of the University of Houston Board of Regents, and past board member of the Houston Zoo Inc., South Asian Chamber of Commerce, Houston Area Women’s Center and the Community Family Center of Houston.

Berry received a bachelor’s degree from Mt. Carmel College in Bangalore, India, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston and a law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.

REQUEST FOR AID IS MADE

Gov. Perry on Dec. 13 issued a state disaster declaration for certain Central Texas counties following extensive flood damage related to storms that occurred from Oct. 30 to Nov. 16.

Counties named in the declaration are: Bell, Caldwell, Freestone, Guadalupe, Hays, Travis and Williamson.

Perry also requested a presidential disaster declaration, which if granted would bring in millions of dollars of federal aid. In submitting the request, Perry said, “The severe flood damage in Central Texas has affected the lives of many people and left a devastating financial burden on our local communities. I urge President Obama to grant this assistance so Texans can continue their recovery and rebuild their homes, businesses and communities.”

As of Dec. 20, the White House had not made a public response to Perry’s request.

MONTHLY REVENUE INCREASES

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs on Dec. 11 reported that state sales tax revenue in November was $2.41 billion, up 2.8 percent compared to November 2012.

State sales tax revenue continues to grow at a moderate pace as expected, Combs said, and sales tax collections have increased for 44 consecutive months.

Cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts the December local sales tax allocations totaling $579.6 million, up 5 percent compared to December 2012, Combs said.

STATE RECOMMENDS VACCINATION

With flu season on the upswing in the Lone Star State, the Texas Department of State Health Services in a Dec. 17 statement offered these tips:

  • Everyone 6 months old and older should get vaccinated;
  • People should talk to their health care provider about the best type of flu vaccine for them;
  • A nasal spray version is available for healthy people ages 2 to 49 who are not pregnant;
  • And a high-dose vaccine is approved for people 65 and older.

Notably, the health department said, people should cover all coughs and sneezes, wash hands frequently with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer, and stay home if sick.

ROAD FORUM IS ON CALENDAR

Texas Department of Transportation on Dec. 17 promoted the 9th Annual Texas Transportation Forum, Jan. 6 – 8, 2014, in San Antonio.

TxDOT said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx will join transportation experts, government leaders and others.

Among topics to be discussed:

  • responding to emergency events in the aftermath of disasters;
  • how new transportation technologies are making our lives easier; and
  • increasing Texas tourism.

DPS INCREASES ENFORCEMENT

Texas Department of Public Safety announced an increase of patrols for a 21-day period that includes both the Christmas and New Year holidays.

The increased enforcement period started Dec. 13 and will end Jan. 2. During that period, state troopers will focus on DWI patrols in high-risk locations at times when alcohol-related crashes are most frequent.

During the Christmas/New Year holiday enforcement effort last year, the agency said, state troopers made more than 1,200 DWI arrests and issued more than 17,600 speeding citations more than 2,000 seat belt/child safety seat citations, and made 258 fugitive arrests and 211 felony arrests.

Ed Sterling is member services director for the Texas Press Association, headquartered in Austin.

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