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AUSTIN — The Texas Third Court of Appeals on Sept. 19 overturned former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay’s 2010 conviction on charges of money-laundering and conspiracy in an ethics case brought by the State of Texas.

In a 2-1 opinion, the majority concluded that there was insufficient evidence of any felony offense that generated proceeds and, therefore, that the State failed to establish an element of the crime of money-laundering as alleged in the indictment.

DeLay resigned from Congress in 2006 while the state's lawsuit against him, stemming from fundraising activities in the 2002 election, was in progress. A Travis County jury convicted DeLay in November 2010 but he served no prison time.

Bond elections now listed

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs on Sept. 16 announced an Web page where Texans can find information on November bond proposals being issued by cities, school districts, counties and special purpose districts around Texas. 

More 90 upcoming local bond propositions identified to date and a state bond proposition can be found on the Tell the Truth Texas website, tellthetruthtexas.org. The information includes the entity, purpose of the bond and bond amount.

Buckle up your children

In conjunction with National Child Passenger Safety Week, Sept. 15-21, Texas Department of Transportation on Sept. 17 announced it is offering free, year-round child safety seat inspections conducted by certified technicians.

Texas law requires that children younger than 8 years of age, unless taller than 4 feet 9 inches, must ride in safety seats. A new study by the Texas Transportation Institute found nearly nine out of 10 Texas children were riding in safety seats, but many were not properly buckled. The new study also revealed 37 percent of infants and toddlers in Texas were secured incorrectly — or not at all — when riding in a vehicle.

More patrols come to Valley

Texas Department of Public Safety on Sept. 13 announced the launch of a multi-agency law enforcement initiative to increase the patrol presence in the Rio Grande Valley area of Texas to address public safety issues.

“Law enforcement has identified various criminal activities and unsafe driving behaviors in south Texas that has led to the launch of this short-term enforcement effort in the Rio Grande Valley,” the DPS explained in the announcement. DPS Director Steven McCraw specified criminal activities in the region including human smuggling and trafficking, drug smuggling, stash house operations and home invasions, plus the increase of traffic and crashes on roadways.

Key agencies involved in this law enforcement initiative include the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department, Hidalgo County Constables Precincts 3 & 4, Mission Police Department, U.S. Border Patrol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Texas National Guard, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, and the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

Survey estimates poverty rate

The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey shows more than 4.5 million or 17.9 percent of Texans are living in poverty, nearly two points above the 2008 pre-recession poverty rate of 16 percent. A two-parent, one-child family with annual income of $18,480 or less meets the poverty definition.

The Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin-based, non-partisan think-tank, on Sept. 19 published comments on the survey, calling for more investment in primary and adult basic education and in career development for low-skilled adults to reduce the poverty rate and keep Texas strong.

“Poverty is not an insurmountable problem. We know what works; we’ve proven it before,” wrote Frances Deviney, a senior research associate with the Center for Public Policy Priorities. "It’s time for Texas and the U.S. to decide that our current poverty rates are unacceptable and commit to solutions that we know make a real difference.”

Wild bird prompts letter

Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter on Sept. 13 wrote to Daniel Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, regarding the Lesser Prairie Chicken, a prairie-dwelling bird that naturally inhabits Texas, including parts where oil and gas exploration is on the increase. The non-game, rare-species bird has been a candidate for federal protection since 1998.

“I am writing to express my strong opposition to listing the Lesser Prairie Chicken as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act,” Porter wrote. “As the primary regulator of the oil and gas industry in Texas, an industry that would be significantly affected by this decision, I feel it is imperative that the detrimental impacts of such a listing are fully understood and appreciated.”

Porter went on to note the economic gains tied to the oil and gas industry and added, “I firmly believe this matter should be left for the states to address through a collaborative conservation plan.”

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