TAB News Briefs
Dec. 13, 2011

Texas comptroller declares economic recession over
The Associated Press via Bloomberg Businessweek
The Texas comptroller said that the economic recovery is taking hold, producing higher than expected tax revenues and possibly resulting in a budget surplus in 2013. In a letter to the Legislature, state Comptroller Susan Combs said tax collections were on pace to produce a $1.6 billion budget surplus for the fiscal biennium ending in 2013. That means the state could earn $82.7 billion over the next two years, while the 2012-2013 budget is only $81.1 billion. That represents an 8.2 percent increase in state revenues over the 2010-2011 budget cycle.More

What went wrong with foreclosure aid programs?
USA Today
The Obama administration's initial foreclosure-prevention programs, launched in early 2009, were intended to help 7 million to 9 million people. So far, they've aided about 2 million, and not all of those are out of foreclosure danger. Programs begun later have also faltered. One intended to help at least 500,000 has helped just a few hundred a year after its launch. Another initiative to extend $1 billion to help the jobless or underemployed avoid foreclosure ended in September, obligating less than half of its funds.More

Uncertainty rules as candidate filing period nears end
Houston Chronicle
A panel of federal judges in Washington, D.C., announced plans to hold a trial Jan. 17-26 to determine whether the legislative and congressional maps drawn by Texas lawmakers comply with the Voting Rights Act. The announcement comes three days after the U.S. Supreme Court granted a request by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to block the use of interim maps drawn by a trio of San Antonio judges, leaving candidates uncertain of where and when they are competing, in the midst of a filing period that ends Thursday.More

Judges to offer guidance to party leaders after Supreme Court blocks map
Austin American-Statesman
Republican and Democratic leaders across the state are awaiting guidance from a panel of federal judges who will meet today in San Antonio to sort out the chaos created when the U.S. Supreme Court blocked congressional and legislative redistricting maps last week. Few party leaders seemed certain how to proceed with elections now that there aren't defined districts for the U.S. House of Representatives, the state House and the state Senate. And with filing deadlines and primaries looming, the anxiety flows from party leaders to candidates.More

CDM gets extension for disaster housing program
The Galveston County Daily News
Galveston officials and homeowners are hoping that a Massachusetts-based firm hired more than two years ago to manage the disaster housing recovery program will complete the program within a year. According to an amended contract, CDM has until Nov. 10 to complete the $160 million Community Development Block Grant program meant to repair and rebuild homes hit by Hurricane Ike. Originally, CDM's contract with the city was set to expire Dec. 31.More

Buyers want smaller, energy-efficient homes with high-end details
San Antonio Express-News
Media rooms? Out. Multipurpose game rooms? In. Sprawling square footage? Out. Compact and energy efficient? In. As San Antonio peers into 2012, five custom-home builders share their thoughts of what trends are taking off here and which ones are fading away. There is much common ground.More

Border Patrol constructing unmanned Texas border crossing
Reuters
There are no boots on the ground at the newest port of entry between Mexico and Texas, which is under construction on the Rio Grande in the remote Big Bend National Park. That's because people who are crossing into and out of Mexico will show their papers to a machine when it opens in the spring.More

Can David Dewhurst hold off Ted Cruz and Tom Leppert in Senate primary?
Houston Chronicle Texas on the Potomac Blog
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst enters the U.S. Senate campaign with considerable cash and name recognition, but a couple of Republican challengers are nipping at his heels, both certain they can pull off an upset. Dewhurst's front-runner status in the March 6 GOP primary election is undisputed. But former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz each is confident he can force Dewhurst into a runoff and then turn up the heat in a one-on-one match.More

Obama prepares to trim National Guard on US-Mexico border
Houston Chronicle Texas on the Potomac Blog
President Barack Obama will reduce the 1,200 federally paid National Guard troops deployed along the U.S.-Mexico border amid questions about the cost and fading impact of a marquee operation to back the U.S. Border Patrol, the Houston Chronicle has learned. The Obama administration will revamp the way it deploys military personnel along the boundary, shifting from "boots on the ground" to stop people from crossing illegally to a broader mission that relies on aerial detection and additional border intelligence analysis.More