State Capital Highlights

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AUSTIN — State Comptroller Susan Combs on Jan. 14 released "Texas Water Report: Going Deeper For The Solution,” a study of water issues Texas faces, and a set of recommendations.
"Texas has been prone to cycles of drought for centuries and there is no reason to expect that basic pattern to change,” Combs said in bringing attention to the report. "Yet our state has changed and its booming population and economy are creating an increasingly unquenchable demand for water,” she added.
Available now at the comptroller’s web site (cpa.state.tx.us) the report also explains the $2 billion in new funding for water projects approved Nov. 5 by voters in a constitutional amendment. Voter approval was a positive step, Combs said, adding, "We need a revolution in water technology. We need a breakthrough in this field, and some of our state funding should be used for innovative technologies which increase conservation.”
In the report, Combs recommends:
- A "prize framework” to be established by the Legislature, "to reward those who develop proven new, cheap sources of drinking water.”
- Cost-effective supplements to reservoirs and aquifers.
-  A grant program to provide assistance to local water authorities "including but not limited to” cities, counties, river authorities, water conservation districts and municipal utility districts that achieve "meaningful and verifiable increases in water efficiency due to conservation activities.”
"Although we tend to point to the historic drought as a singular cause for our water problems today, we’re not blameless,” said state Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, in quoted material included in Combs’ release.
"Moreover, there exists no single silver bullet solution. To make matters more complicated, Texas is so geographically and meteorologically diverse, that what may work in one part of the state would be ineffective in another. 
That is why it is so critical that the Legislature continue to promote conservation and innovation for municipal, industrial and agricultural water uses,” Duncan said.
Drought disaster continues
Gov. Rick Perry on Jan. 16 renewed his July 5, 2011 drought disaster proclamation certifying that exceptional drought conditions posed a threat in 120 counties in Texas.
"State rules and regulations that may inhibit or prevent prompt response to this threat are suspended for the duration of the state of disaster,” according to the document.
Get flu shot, says first lady
With medical providers seeing an increase in flu across Texas, Anita Perry, first lady of Texas, on Jan. 9 said it’s not too late for Texans to get immunized.
"As a nurse, I know how safe and effective the flu vaccine is, and how easy it is to get. I’m urging all Texans to protect themselves and their fellow Texans from this potentially deadly disease by getting vaccinated,” she said in a Jan. 9 announcement along with state Health and Human Services Commissioner Kyle Janek. Flu kills an average of 23,600 Americans a year, say statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Safety meetings scheduled
The State Fire Marshal’s Office on Jan. 13 announced plans to conduct a series of meetings with county officials and first responders to reinforce best practices for ammonium nitrate storage facilities. 
Partnering in the initiative are the Texas Division of Emergency Management, Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas Office of the State Chemist, and Texas A&M Engineering and Extension Service. The purpose of the meetings is to review lessons learned from the April 2013 fertilizer plant fire and explosion in West, Texas, best practices for storage of ammonium nitrate with facility management, and response techniques and strategies of first responders to these type of incidents.
Meetings were scheduled in Edinburg Jan. 15, Hillsboro, Jan. 23, and Pasadena, Jan. 31.
‘Wanted’ program sets records
Texas Department of Public Safety announced Jan. 14 its Texas 10 Most Wanted Program set records in 2013 in total captures, including sex offender apprehensions.
The program’s 32 total apprehensions during the past year broke the record of 30 arrests in 2012. 
The 19 captured sex offenders exceeded the previous record of eight also set in 2012. And, the $77,500 paid in rewards is the second-highest total payout in a year, the DPS stated.
DPS Director Steven McCraw said, "Tips from the public are just as essential to the success of this program, and we are grateful for the public’s efforts to protect our communities from these dangerous criminals and sexual predators.”