AUSTIN - The Office of the State Auditor on Aug. 28 released an audit report on the Texas Department of Transportation’s Financial Forecasting and Fund Allocation.

The overall conclusion was that “ineffective internal communication, a complex reporting structure and misunderstanding of reported data led TxDOT to overschedule $1.1 billion in planned contract awards for fiscal year 2008.”

And, the audit specified, “although the [TxDOT] has made organizational changes that should help reduce communication obstacles in the future, its reporting process still needs improvement.”

Texas law requires TxDOT to contract for an independent audit of its management and business operations in 2007 and every 12 years after 2007.

Independent, external audits of TxDOT processes found weaknesses related to those the state reported.

New telemarketing

rules to come

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott publicized the Federal Trade Commission’s Aug. 25 announcement of a new rule governing prerecorded telemarketing calls.

Beginning Sept. 1, 2009, telemarketing companies must obtain call recipients’ written permission before contacting them with a prerecorded message. More immediately, effective Dec. 1, 2008, prerecorded telephone marketing calls must have an opt-out mechanism so that recipients can elect not to receive those unsolicited calls in the future.

Telemarketers with pre-existing customer relationships will be allowed to continue using prerecorded messages to contact those customers only for one year after the rule is published in the Federal Register. At that time, telemarketing companies will need their customer’s written permission before calling anyone with a prerecorded message.

However, under the new regulations, charitable organizations can continue contacting their members or previous donors, but will need to offer an opt-out mechanism once the new rule goes into effect.

The FTC’s new rule will not prohibit customers from receiving certain prerecorded informational calls, such as those that announce flight delay notifications, upcoming appointments, or similarly helpful information. These phone calls are unaffected by the new rule because they are not used to market products or services to the recipient.

Healthcare-related phone calls also are exempt from the new regulations. For complete details on the rule, go to www.ftc.gov.

Lottery privatization

considered

State lawmakers met Aug. 27 at the Capitol to hear ideas on whether to privatize the Texas Lottery.

Scott Dudley of the Legislative Budget Board said the state’s share of lottery proceeds is 26 to 28 percent, and 75 percent of the proceeds come from $50 million in scratch-offs sold each week. But, Dudley said, sales are declining.

Representatives of some of the nation’s largest brokerage houses testified at the hearing. All pretty much agreed that the Texas Lottery could become more profitable, and that privatization is worth a look. Lawmakers also heard anti-gambling testimony. Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, said she would want to make sure revenue from privatizing the lottery goes to fund education.

DPS cautioned holiday travelers

Before Labor Day weekend, the Texas Department of Public Safety sent out a reminder that drinking alcohol and driving shouldn’t be mixed and wouldn’t be tolerated.

These points were made:

• A Driving While Intoxicated conviction stays on an offender’s criminal and driving record forever.

• For the first offense, the law allows a maximum of six months in jail, a $2,000 fine and a one-year driver license suspension.

• A DWI conviction also carries a $1,000 surcharge for three years, in addition to any other fines or costs associated with the arrest.

The plan was for more law enforcement officers than usual to patrol roads, highways and interstates across Texas.

LBJ centennial is marked

On Aug. 27, the 100th anniversary of the late President Lyndon B. Johnson’s birth was celebrated in Austin and at the Johnson family ranch in Stonewall. The LBJ Library and Museum staged a birthday party and launched “Space,” a new display featuring the race to the moon in the 1960s.