Ed Sterling

AUSTIN - More than 200 Texas Department of Public Safety agents, troopers, pilots and Texas Rangers took part in an Oct. 21 sweep targeting the La Familia Michoacana criminal cartel resulting in 81 arrests in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Austin areas.

The law enforcement work was done in coordination with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Reported as seized in the sweep: 220 pounds of methamphetamine, 23.1 pounds of cocaine, 1 gallon of liquid methamphetamine, $960,000 in cash, 54 guns, 53 vehicles, 1 jet ski, 1 recreational vehicle and two all terrain vehicles, the DPS reported.

Earlier this year, Mexican authorities arrested 27 public officials in the state of Michoacan with suspected ties to La Familia, the DPS reported.

RRC creates

new division

The Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency that regulates the energy industry, last week approved the creation of a new Alternative Energy Division. Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones provided the impetus.

Jones said the new division will focus on existing alternative energy currently under the commission’s jurisdiction and will provide a platform for development of alternative energy forms such as compressed and liquefied natural gas.

Scratch-off to benefit vets fund

A new $2 lottery ticket, The Veterans Cash Scratch-Off, will go on sale Nov. 9.

Proceeds from ticket sales, expected to about $8 million in its first year, will benefit the state’s Permanent Fund for Veterans’ Assistance.

The lottery ticket will provide “a secure revenue stream to fund critical services and programs for veterans and their families. Our veterans have already paid the price, now it is time for Texas to honor their sacrifice,” said State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio.

Van de Putte and state Rep. Chris Turner, R-Arlington, announced the debut of the new game on Oct. 19.

Sunset review list

 is released

State Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, the newly appointed chair of the Sunset Advisory Commission, last week released the names of 28 state agencies to be reviewed in 2010-11.

A few of the agencies on the list are: the Texas Youth Commission, the Texas Department of Transportation, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, the Texas Department of Information Resources and the Public Utility Commission of Texas.

The 12-member commission reviews policies and programs of more than 150 state agencies.

Community college enrollment is up

Enrollment increased by 65,000 at Texas community colleges this fall - an 11 percent increase - the Texas Association of Community Colleges reported last week.

Dr. Richard Rhodes, TACC chair and president of El Paso Community College, and Dr. Rey Garcia, TACC president and CEO, said in a letter to the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker that community colleges in Texas have grown by more than 40 percent since 2000, like “adding the equivalent of seven Texas Tech universities or four Universities of Texas at Austin to the state’s higher education system capacity.”

End of toll fine program in sight

Motorists who have not paid delinquent tolls may still take advantage of the Texas Department of Transportation’s offer to reduce violation fees.

They have until Nov. 30 to pay up. In return for payment of all outstanding tolls, TxDOT says it will waive 90 percent of the administrative and collection fees accrued. To receive the fee reduction, customers must also open a TxTag account and keep it in good standing.

Changes to reduce

wait times

The DPS is doing something to reduce wait times for residents applying for licenses or for renewing them.

As of Oct. 29-30, those motorists who want to reinstate suspended or revoked driver’s licenses or obtain copies of their driving record, instead of showing up at the DPS office will instead submit their required documentation online or by mail.

Giant school aid

fund recovers

The Permanent School Fund overseen by the State Board of Education apparently is mirroring the recovery generally seen in the financial markets.

The fund was down to about $16 billion last spring, but it is now around $22 billion, the Texas Education Agency announced Oct. 23.

The fund, established in 1854, helps pay for textbooks and other educational expenses.