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Home    Education    Legislative    Publications    Calendar    Sunbelt Builders Show    Resources Jan. 4, 2011

Construction spending up for third straight month
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Builders began work on more homes and the government boosted its investment in federal construction projects in November, marking a third straight monthly increase in construction activity after a dismal summer. Construction spending increased 0.4 percent in November, the Commerce Department said. Still, building activity is only 2.3 percent higher than in August, when it had fallen to the lowest level in a decade. The industry has struggled since 2006 when the housing market went bust and helped trigger the worst recession since the 1930s. It also cut into demand for commercial projects such as office buildings and shopping centers. More

Gov. Perry changes up top staff
American Independent    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced several changes to top-level staff, bringing in and promoting key campaign personnel and a former leader of the Texas GOP. One of the departing staffers will return to conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation. Perry's new senior adviser Rob Johnson was campaign manager for his re-election bid. Brandy Marty — who has been the governor's deputy legislative director and House liaison, and who was also policy director for Perry's primary campaign — was named director of Budget, Planning and Policy. More

Report proposes overhaul of property tax breaks for companies
Austin American-Statesman    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
The Texas comptroller, not local school districts, should be in charge of negotiating school property tax breaks to businesses to attract large-scale investments such as manufacturing plants or wind farms, a new report by the Legislative Budget Board recommends. The recommendation, if adopted by the Legislature, would end the decade-long practice of businesses negotiating tax breaks with school districts, not the state. More

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Houston Metro chugs ahead on rail plans
Houston Chronicle    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
After nearly halting light-rail projects last year because of mistakes in its planned purchase of rail cars, the Metropolitan Transit Authority is reviving its rail building program as it becomes more confident the federal government will deliver a $900 million grant. "We're going to rev it up the same way we slowed it down — thoughtfully," said Metro President and CEO George Greanias. Last September, the Federal Transit Administration told Metro it had violated the grant's purchasing rules, among them a requirement that rail cars be assembled in the United States. However, it also gave Metro instructions to get back on track. More

Federal judge clears way for vote on radioactive waste imports
Austin American-Statesman    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
A commission overseeing the importation of radioactive waste is likely to make a decision on whether Texas can accept radioactive waste from three dozen states after a federal judge on Monday lifted a restraining order that prevented a commission from voting on the matter. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, siding with attorneys for the state and the company that wants to dispose of the waste, dismissed a temporary restraining order barring the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission from deciding the matter. More

Cascos begins second term as county judge
Brownsville Herald    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Following an election rocked with controversy, Cameron County Judge Carlos H. Cascos was officially sworn into office Monday evening, starting his second term as county judge. In a ceremony attended by Cascos' family, friends and supporters, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, administered the oath of office to the incumbent county judge, as the judge's wife Candi held the Bible, inside the historic Dancy Building. More

Dallas home prices drop 3.1 percent in index
Dallas Morning News    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
The pace of Dallas-area home price declines accelerated in October. Dallas home prices fell 3.1 percent from a year earlier, according to the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller Home Price Index. That's the biggest year-over-year decline since early 2009 and the fourth month in a row that prices here have fallen in the closely watched index. More

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Private toll roads get new push in Texas
Dallas Morning News    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
It's been easy to overlook in the Dallas area, where two of the largest privately financed toll projects in the country are under way, but Texas' authority to build private toll roads technically has been extinct since summer 2009. Over a long July Fourth weekend two years ago, with time running out on a chaotic special session, the Legislature refused to extend authority for the Texas Department of Transportation to contract with private toll firms beyond Aug. 31, 2009. More

Southeast Texas county defends hurricane spending
Associated Press via Bryan-College Station Eagle    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Chambers County officials are defending their spending of tens of millions of federal dollars for cleanup from Hurricane Ike after a federal audit questioned whether the money was properly used in the Southeast Texas county devastated by the September 2008 storm. An audit report by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General recommended last month that much of the $45 million already paid to contractors and approved by county administrators be disallowed. The review cited non-competitive contracts, shoddy or non-existent record-keeping and ineligible and unsupported costs. More

State senator files bill to create southbound checkpoints into Mexico
Corpus Christi Caller-Times    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
While drug violence spills into Texas from Mexico, a local state lawmaker is trying to hit cartels where it hurts the most — their supply. Legislation has been passed to tighten the flow of contraband coming out of Mexico, but Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, wants to stop guns and money from entering the country from the U.S. Weeks before the legislative session begins Jan. 11, Hinojosa filed Senate Bill 294, which aims to create checkpoints in the Rio Grande Valley for southbound traffic headed into Mexico. More
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