AUSTIN — Former Gov. Dolph Briscoe Jr., 87, died June 27 after a lengthy illness.

Briscoe was Texas’ 41st governor. He defeated Frances “Sissy” Farenthold in the 1972 Democratic primary and beat Republican Hank Grover of Houston in the general election. He was inaugurated as governor in 1973, was elected to a second term, and served until 1979.

The Uvalde rancher and oilman was descended from early Texas settlers. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1942 and served in the U.S. Army in Southeast Asia during World War II. He was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1948 and served until 1957. He first ran for governor in 1968 but lost to Preston Smith in the Democratic primary.

During Briscoe’s watch as governor, the Legislature passed the Texas Open Records Act, a groundbreaking law that greatly increased public access to the affairs of state and local governmental bodies. The Legislature changed the law’s name to the Texas Public Information Act in 1993.

Weather readiness plans required

Electric utilities must submit plans to reduce power outages and limit infrastructure damage from weather-related events, says a new rule approved by the state Public Utility Commission.

Utilities are required to file their reports no later than May 1, 2011, and must include vegetation management plans, pole construction standards, post-storm damage assessment procedures and improvements in data collection.

“This rule marks a big step forward,” said PUC Chairman Barry Smitherman. “Utilities in Texas must continue preparing themselves and the electric grid so that reliability before, during and after bad weather is maintained.”

Employment statistics are revised

In revising its employment estimate for May, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics painted a better jobs picture in the Lone Star State.

The revised estimate, released June 25 by the Texas Workforce Commission, shows an increase in total nonagricultural employment growth to 75,200 jobs in May.

The total, which is much higher than the number reported on June 18, includes 31,500 jobs in federal government employment.

Another YFZ ranchman sentenced

On June 22, a Schleicher County jury sentenced Abram Harker Jeffs of the YFZ Ranch near Eldorado to 17 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for sexual assault of a child, a first-degree felony.

A total of 12 YFZ Ranch-related defendants have been indicted on sexual assault of a child, bigamy or other charges and six defendants have been convicted on felony charges and sentenced to prison.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the six other defendants are awaiting trial and prosecutions and those cases are being handled by the office of the attorney general in cooperation with Tom Green County’s 51st Judicial District Attorney Stephen R. Lupton.

YFZ Ranch is owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a sect that in 1890 split from the mainstream LDS Church based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

On March 29, 2008, state and federal agents raided the YFZ Ranch compound near Eldorado and placed bus loads of minor children and their mothers under state protection, pending evaluation and court rulings in regards to their safety.

On May 29, 2008, a Texas Supreme Court decision resulted in a lower court ruling that caused state Child and Family Protective Services to return the children to their families.

DPS takes vehicles, drivers off road

Texas state troopers inspected 6,906 commercial vehicles during Roadcheck 2010, which ran from June 8 through June 10 from Mexico to Canada.

Of those inspected in Texas, 1,738 were placed out of service because they were found to have serious enough safety violations to be removed from service until repairs could be made, the DPS said.

Troopers placed 160 drivers out of service for violations ranging from not properly tracking their hours of service to suspended, expired or canceled driver licenses. Four drivers were placed out of service for drug or alcohol violations and troopers issued five tickets for seat belt violations.

Pass-through projects approved

Eleven road projects around the state, representing a state investment estimated at $280 million, will be funded by the Texas Department of Transportation’s “pass-through” finance program.

The funding was approved by the five-member Texas Transportation Commission, the agency that oversees TxDOT.

Pass-through financing allows local municipalities or private entities to pay for costs to build a transportation project and get reimbursed from the state as the transportation project becomes operational.