AUSTIN - Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate inched one tenth of a point higher to 8.0 percent in August, which translates to 62,200 more people out of work.

Chairman Tom Pauken of the Texas Workforce Commission on Sept. 18 said, “Despite our strong Texas economic foundation, the national recession continues to have an adverse impact on our state.”

The national rate of unemployment stood at 9.7 percent for the month of August, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics released Sept. 4.

Meanwhile, in the context of high unemployment nationwide as compared with conditions in Texas, Gov. Rick Perry made this comment while addressing a business group in Houston on Sept. 17:

“Why is Texas kind of recession-proof, if you will? As a matter of fact … someone had put a report out that the first state that’s coming out of the recession is going to be the state of Texas … I said, ‘We’re in one?’ “

Court hears open records case

The Texas Supreme Court on Sept. 17 heard arguments in a case pitting The Dallas Morning News and the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

The case stems from the newspaper’s public information request for an updated state payroll database in November 2005.

In December 2005, then-Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn released the requested information, except for state employees’ birth dates, arguing that releasing birth dates would expose them to identity theft.

The newspaper said birth dates make it possible to distinguish workers who have the same name, and there is no specific statutory exception that closes off the information. The Texas Attorney General’s Office sided with the newspaper.

A ruling is pending.

More stimulus funding comes in

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs announced Sept. 18 that local and state governmental bodies are welcome to apply for about $17 million in federal stimulus funds for transportation efficiency projects.

Grants are administered through the comptroller’s State Energy Conservation Office.

Of the $17 million, $11 million can be used to help purchase alternative fuel vehicles, pay for alternative fuel conversions and buy equipment for alternative fuel stations. Alternative fuels include natural gas, propane, hydrogen, ethanol, electricity and bio-diesel.

And $6 million is available for synchronizing traffic lights on major routes to smooth traffic flow and for replacing LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs in traffic signals.

Redistricting panel

 to meet

On Sept. 30 the Texas House Committee on Redistricting will meet at the John H. Reagan Building at the state Capitol.

The Census Bureau will make a presentation at the meeting on the upcoming 2010 federal census.

Data gleaned in the 2010 U.S. Census will be used by the Texas Legislature in adjusting the sizes and shapes of Senate, House, State Board of Education, state judicial and congressional districts.

SBOE reviews social studies

The State Board of Education, at its Sept. 18 meeting, reacted to proposals made by expert reviewers and review teams of educators, parents and citizens who have suggested updates to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, the curriculum standards.

The board expressed favor for including content such as Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, civil rights leader César Chávez, astronaut Neil Armstrong and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in the curriculum.

The board also approved an across-the-board cut of 4.74 percent to the maximum cost the state will pay per textbook. The state will need to purchase about 6.2 million English language arts books for kindergarten through twelfth grade next year, so the reduction will cut costs by about $23.1 million.

Publishers will be asked to rebid their materials based on the restrictions imposed by the cost-cutting measures.

Hutchison edges ahead in survey

In a statewide telephone survey of 790 likely Republican primary voters in Texas, Rasmussen Reports said Sept. 17 that

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison had edged ahead of incumbent Rick Perry in the race for governor.

The survey conducted by Rasmussen Sept. 16 showed Hutchison with 40 percent to Perry’s 38 percent, and Wharton rancher Debra Medina with 3 percent. That left 19 percent in the “not sure” category.

Voter registration

ends soon

The deadline to register to vote in Texas’ Nov. 3 election is Monday, Oct. 5.

Eleven proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution will be on the ballot.