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OPINION: State Captial Highlights: Top candidates debate this week with election on horizon

AUSTIN — A debate scheduled Sept. 29 pits Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, and Dan Patrick, R-Houston, two state senators who are vying to succeed David Dewhurst as lieutenant governor in 2015. Van de Putte, a pharmacist in private life, has served in the Senate since 1999. Patrick, a radio talk show host, was first elected to the Senate in 2009. Whoever wins will preside over the Senate.

On Sept. 30, a second debate between state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and Republican Greg Abbott, Texas attorney general, gives voters another look at the two competing to succeed Rick Perry as Texas’ next governor.

“Now is also a good time to check your registration to make sure you are prepared for Election Day on Nov. 4,” Secretary of State Nandita Berry said Sept. 23. Unregistered voters have until Oct. 6 to get registered, she added, and some 13.6 million Texans already are registered to vote. Early voting begins Oct. 20 and ends Oct. 31.

Perry helps break ground

Gov. Rick Perry on Sept. 22 participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for the SpaceX Commercial Launch Facility near Boca Chica Beach, adjacent to Brownsville, which will launch commercial satellites into Earth orbit.

Perry said the groundbreaking “is the result of years of cooperation between Texas and SpaceX” and his office’s Texas Enterprise Fund “was instrumental in bringing SpaceX to Texas, with a $2.3 million grant in August that will bring 300 jobs and create $85 million in capital investment in South Texas.” The State of Texas also is offering $13 million from its Spaceport Trust Fund to the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corp., Perry said.

Elon Musk, SpaceX chief executive and chief designer, said, “With today’s groundbreaking at Boca Chica, we will begin an investment in South Texas that will create hundreds of jobs and over time contribute hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy.”

Governor will not appear

Visiting state district Judge Bert Richardson on Sept. 26 granted Gov. Perry’s request to be excused from a pretrial hearing scheduled for Oct. 13.

Perry was indicted last month by a Travis County grand jury on felony charges of official oppression and abuse of office. The charges stem from the governor’s threat to veto legislation funding the state’s public integrity unit in 2013 unless Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigned, following her arrest for driving while intoxicated. Lehmberg, who heads the unit, refused to resign and Perry vetoed the unit’s funding.

Energy report is released

State Comptroller Susan Combs on Sept. 23 released a report that she said urges policymakers and elected officials “to discontinue costly subsidies and tax breaks driving development of new electricity generation and allow a more market-driven approach to providing reliable power to millions of Texas consumers when they need it most.”

In the report titled “Texas Power Challenge: Getting the Most From Your Energy Dollars,” Combs also said she “challenges the wind energy industry to ensure taxpayers and ratepayers are not double-burdened with infrastructure costs and tax subsidies for power sources that are intermittent.”

“It’s time for wind to stand on its own two feet,” Combs said. “Billions of dollars of tax credits and property tax limitations on new generation helped grow the industry, but today they give it an unfair market advantage over other power sources.”

Searchers work in Brooks

The Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas State Guard announced Sept. 19 they have special search teams to assist the Brooks County Sheriff’s Office with locating and recovering human remains in remote areas north of the Texas-Mexico border.

According to the announcement, the majority of the remains are suspected to be those of illegal immigrants who died attempting to avoid detection while entering the United States. The first of these search missions began this week and will continue through the weekend.”

‘No Child’ waiver extended

Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams on Sept. 22 announced the U.S. Department of Education granted his request to extend the state’s conditional waiver from specific provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (commonly known as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001).

The extension will run through the 2014-2015 school year pending approval of the agency’s proposal for new teacher and principal evaluation and support systems in Texas. The systems are a specific component of the federal waiver and are scheduled to be piloted in school districts and charters during the 2014-2015 school year.

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