AUSTIN - Hurricane Ike’s 40-mile wide eye crossed Galveston Island early on Sept. 13, laying waste to the city of Galveston before plowing its way north through Houston, then heading northeast and out of Texas.
Ike brought with it powerful winds and a 12-foot wall of seawater that wrecked or swamped Galveston homes, businesses and infrastructure. FEMA-directed search and rescue crews moved in to Galveston and other communities as winds and high water began to recede. An estimated 140,000 coastal residents did not obey evacuation orders. On Sept. 14, the governor’s office reported more than 1,900 storm victims had been rescued.
On Sept. 15, nearly 3 million homes were still without power in scores of communities in Ike’s path. Crews began to distribute water, ice and MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) on Sept. 14. Authorities asked that residents not return to stricken areas until further notice.
For evacuees and rescuees whose homes and businesses are still habitable, it could take weeks before power and city services are restored.
The National Weather Service on Sept. 12 had predicted a life-threatening storm surge to hit the Texas coast in advance of Ike as it spun toward Texas as a Category 2 hurricane with winds in excess of 100 mph.
Service to protect Ike evacuees
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Sept. 11 launched Operation Safe Shelter, an emergency service to provide registered sex offender information to evacuation shelter personnel.
The Office of Attorney General established a 24-hour a day, toll-free emergency hotline to allow shelter personnel to inquire whether evacuees are registered sex offenders.
When evacuation shelters contact the Safe Shelter Hotline at (866) 385-0333, officials will access and share information from the state’s registered sex offender database.
Callers should be prepared to provide evacuees’ names, addresses and dates of birth. Shelter managers can use this information as necessary to coordinate specialized housing arrangements or take other action as appropriate, according to the attorney general’s office.
Texas tops California
Gov. Rick Perry and economist Arthur Laffer on Sept. 9 unveiled a study comparing Texas and California.
Laffer’s study suggests that Texas’ lower taxes, reasonable regulations and limited government have created a better economic climate with growth in income, wealth and employment projected to strengthen relative to California and the nation as a whole.
Perry and Laffer presented the study at a forum hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Texas Association of Business and Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute.
A news release from Perry’s office said the study compares the two states’ taxes on labor income, capital income, consumption, overall tax environment, government spending policies and government regulatory policies. The study found Texas’ economic environment more competitive than California’s in five of the categories and equal to California’s in taxes on consumption.
Perry credited “controlled government spending and a reasonable tax environment with creating prosperity and attracting businesses to move to Texas” and expressed the value of “continued government spending restraint and transparency.”
New prepaid tuition fund debuts
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs on Sept. 10 rolled out the Texas tuition Promise Fund, a way for parents to lock in current prices for college tuition and fees for their children.
“You can prepay for a four-year degree, or you can prepay in small bites - for just a few classes or a few semesters. And, best of all, you don’t have to worry about future tuition increases, because you lock in current prices,” Combs said.
The Texas Tuition Promise Fund offers three levels of pricing to prepay undergraduate tuition at schools ranging from public community colleges to four-year state universities. The money also may be used at out-of-state or private universities, with students and their families making up for the difference in cost.
Prepaid tuition accounts must be paid in full and open for at least three years before tuition benefits can be paid, a feature that encourages parents to begin saving early, the comptroller stipulated.