With grocery bills and livestock feed prices inching higherand higher, Gov. Rick Perry asked a federal agency to help bring relief.

In a letter dated April 25, Perry requested a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency to cut the renewable fuel mandate for ethanol produced from grain by 50 percent.

The waiver, if granted, would provide Texans with relief at thegrocery store and enable the Texas livestock industry to continue providing its big share of the nation’s food supply, Perry said.

“We appreciate the good intentions behind the push for renewable fuels. In fact we're diversifying our state's energy portfolio at a rapid rate, but this misguided mandate is significantly affecting Texans' family food bill,” Perry said.

The renewable fuel mandate increases corn crop diversion to ethanol production through 2015. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 established the mandate. It was amended by the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007.

Count of YFZ children rises

The number of children removed from the polygamist YFZ Ranch near Eldorado on April 3 and ensuing days originally was tabulated at 416. The count increased to 437, and then climbed to 462.

The increase from 437 to 462 accounts for the discovery that at least 25 of the mothers who left the religious sect’s 1,700-acre compound are in fact less than 18 years of age.

Ranch children have been transferred to state-certified foster homes, with their parentage to be determined and legal status still up to Texas courts of law.

In a related development, authorities identified 33-year-old Rozita Swinton, a Colorado Springs, Colo., woman as a “person of interest” in calls made to a crisis hotline that resulted in law enforcement intervention at the ranch compound. The Texas Rangers are investigating.

Due date for tax is extended

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs on April 22 announced that businesses unable to meet the May 15 due date for the franchise tax will have an additional 30 days to submit their returns or file an extension without penalty.

The complexity of the revised franchise tax and the newness of theenhanced electronic reporting methods have caused concern among taxpayers statewide, Combs said.

Panel to study property taxes

House Speaker Tom Craddick on April 24 announced the formation of the Select Committee on Property Tax Relief and Appraisal Reform.

Craddick named Rep. Jim Otto, R-Dayton, as chair and Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, as vice chair of the 13-member panel.

The assignment is to review sections of the tax code and the Texas Constitution that deal with the appraised value of property and the limitation of increases in appraised value.

The panel will report its findings to the 81st Texas Legislature, which convenes Jan. 13, 2009.

School classes will be online

The Texas Education Agency announced April 25 the launching of the Texas Virtual School Network.

Authorized by the Texas Legislature in 2007, the network will provide online courses to students throughout Texas.

Classes for grades 9 through 12 are scheduled to begin in the spring of 2009. A list of approved course offerings will be available this fall.

Briscoe memoir hits shelves

The Center for American History at the University of Texas announced April 23 the release of a personal memoir, “Dolph Briscoe: My Life in Texas Ranching and Politics.” Briscoe served as governor from 1973 to 1979.

Don Carleton, executive director of the history center, conducted a series of interviews with Gov. Briscoe. After each interview, Carleton edited the transcripts to build a narrative in Briscoe's voice. Throughout the process, Briscoe read and revised the text, Carleton said.

Flags fly for Guerrero

Gov. Rick Perry on April 24 directed that flags be flown at half-staff in memory of Lena Guerrero of Austin. The former state representative and Texas Railroad Commission member died April 23 at the age of 50, after a long battle with cancer. Burial was in the Texas State Cemetery on April 26.