A federal shutdown arching over Texas and the rest of the nation since Oct. 1 resulted in the temporary closure of many facilities and the furloughing of millions of employees.
On Oct. 16, the shutdown ended when both houses of Congress adopted a continuing appropriations act that does three things: increases the nation’s debt limit, allows the treasury to pay bills and returns the federal government to full operations, at least until mid-January.
John Cornyn, Texas’ senior senator, and freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, both Republicans, voted against the act. Cruz headed contingents in both houses to defund the federal health care law (“Obamacare”) in exchange for compromises on the federal budget. Those efforts resulted in the shutdown. As for the Lone Star State’s 36 U.S. House members, all 12 Democrats voted in favor of the compromise and all 24 Republicans voted against it.
Lawmakers and the executive branch generally have indicated their willingness to work toward timely solutions to the nation’s financial issues in over the next three months in order to avoid the next fiscal cliff. Democrats and a contingent of Republicans, while in a compromising mood, continue to wrestle over “Obamacare” and how its cost dynamics affect other areas of the federal budget in the long term.
PERRYS TAKE OVERSEAS TRIP
For economic development purposes, Gov. Rick Perry and First Lady Anita Perry left Texas on Oct. 15 bound for London and Jerusalem. The couple’s scheduled return is Oct. 25. No tax dollars would be used for travel and accommodations on the trip, the governor’s office said.
COURT TO HEAR TEXAS CASES
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Oct. 15 to hear six cases to determine if the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration exceeded its authority to regulate greenhouse gases from stationary sources, the Texas Railroad Commission reported.
Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman expressed hope that the court would put a damper on EPA rules governing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, factories and motor vehicles.
STUDENTS SAY NO TO DRUGS
More than 1,000 Texas fifth-grade students donned mustaches and pledged to remain drug free at the 16th annual Red Ribbon Rally Thursday at the State Capitol on Oct. 17.
The children raised this chant to their peers: “I mustache (must ask) you not to do drugs!”
Red Ribbon Week began as a grassroots movement to honor the memory of Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, a federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent who was kidnapped, tortured, and killed by drug dealers in Mexico in 1985, organizers said.
BUS AWARENESS STARTS NOW
Texas Department of Public Safety is urging drivers to obey state law by not passing any school bus that is stopped and operating a visual signal, either flashing red lights or a stop sign.
Highway Patrol troopers are enhancing their efforts to catch those drivers who break the law as part of National School Bus Safety Week, Oct. 21-25,
“The moment when students are entering or exiting the bus is one of the most dangerous times of a student’s trip; and drivers who pass a stopped school bus create a potentially deadly situation,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “The safety of Texas children is paramount, and DPS will not tolerate those who break the law and put our children at risk.”
EARLY VOTING PERIOD BEGINS
Secretary of State John Steen, the state’s chief elections officer, announced early voting for the Nov. 5 Constitutional Amendment election begins Monday, Oct. 21, and runs through Friday, Nov. 1.
Texas voters may vote at any early voting location in the same county as their voter registration.
This will be the first statewide election with photo ID requirement in effect for in-person voting.
“I encourage all Texans to check now to make sure they have the required photo ID if they plan to vote in person,” said Steen. To find out where and when to vote, and about photo ID, visit VoteTexas.gov.
MONEY PROPOSED FOR PROJECTS
An additional $250 million may be available for Texas highways impacted by energy sector traffic, state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, announced Oct. 15.
The funding would go to 70 maintenance and repair projects statewide, where repairs are necessary because of the high volume of oil and gas industry truck traffic.
Despite the fact that oil and gas development in the Eagle Ford Shale contributed more than $1.24 billion in state revenue in 2012 alone, TxDOT has proposed converting some paved state highways in the shale region to unpaved roads, Zaffirini said.
Ed Sterling is member services director for the Texas Press Association, headquartered in Austin.