Political Report

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The Legislative Report
By SHEILAH PEPPER
The Gazette Staff
Capitol dome to get 10-month overhaul
States officials announced Dec. 11th that a project to repaint and repair the landmark dome on the Texas Capitol would begin in late February or early March. The top-knot will be surrounded with scaffolding for about 10 months.
The Goddess of Liberty statue atop the dome will also be cleaned. It will not be taken down but will remain in place to be polished. "This will be a significant maintenance project ... the first since the dome was painted in 1992 during the restoration of the Capitol," said John Sneed, executive director of the State Preservation Board, which oversees the 1888 statehouse.
The work will start at the goddess and move downward to the base of the dome. The project is expected to be complete by December 2010.
Food stamp system to be reviewed
State Auditor John Keel said Dec. 23rd that he is reviewing Texas' food stamp application system.
The audit comes at the request of Health and Human services Executive Commissioner Tom Suehe, who took the unusual step of requesting a review of a part of his own agency.
He said the problems could be attributed to high turnover, staff shortages, natural disasters, and the economic downturn.
Texas has been failing to process food stamp applications within the 30 days required by the federal government. Recently, a legal aid group sued the state, seeking to force Texas to meet the deadlines.
Federal officials also say they want Texas to stop fingerprinting food stamp applicants, which is done in just three other states.
A spokeswoman for the state health commission said that the agency has taken steps to address the problems, including adding 674 eligibility workers since September. In December, the state had processed 62.8 percent of the applications within 30 days, an increase from 57.5 percent in November.
On the political scene, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott filed in late December to run for re-election in 2010, seeking a third term in the office he has held since 2003.
Top stories in Texas politics in 2009
Even after modification, the controversial Voter ID legislation, in the end, failed to pass. A Memorial Day talk-a-thon by Democrats prevented it from making it to the House floor for final passage. However, this stunt also took a lot of other legislation down with the ID measure.
Governor Rick Perry went after Washington D.C. big time. He was highly critical of the federal stimulus bill and also went after the Congress' health care bill plus the cap and trade bill. The governor gained some national attention when he came out to support the Tea Party protestors.
Finally, there was the non-resignation of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. It had been expected last summer. Then it was postponed to the fall. Finally, she announced she would stay in Washington to fight the Democrat's health care bill and the cap and trade legislation. She said she would remain in the primary race for governor, and no matter how the primary turned out, she would not resign her Senate seat until after the primary vote.
A Happy New Year to all.