AUSTIN — The State of Texas last week agreed to drop its recently adopted practice of using “weak matches” of Social Security Administration data in purging names from voter rolls as required by a 2011 state law.

What precipitated the agreement was a lawsuit filed Sept. 20 in a Travis County district court by Austin attorneys Buck Wood and David Richards on behalf of four plaintiffs who were among some 70,000 Texans who were mailed a letter from the state’s chief elections officer, Secretary of State Hope Andrade, instructing recipients to fill out a form and send it to their local voter registrar within 30 days — or be presumed dead — and consequently stricken from the list of registered voters.

Pursuant to the agreement, Andrade stopped using weak matches, or part of a name and part of a social security number, to identify deceased or possibly deceased voters.

Names on voter rolls that have been “strong matched” through Social Security Administration death index data will get a letter and have 30 days to respond.

Meanwhile, Oct. 9 was the last day to register to vote. Looking forward, on Monday, Oct. 22, early voting begins.

And, on the subject of voting, Texans last week saw the campaign season move to the front burner with the first of three scheduled debates between incumbent President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney taking place on Oct. 3 and the first of two debates between U.S. Senate nominees, Democrat Paul Sadler and Republican Ted Cruz on Oct. 2.

Broadcast from Denver, the presidential debate featured segments on the economy, health care, the role of government and the act of governing. Online, nonpartisan fact-checking organizations such as have posted information to help viewers sort out what they heard.

School fund finishes strong

Texas Education Agency on Oct. 2 announced “an outstanding return on the investments” of the Permanent School Fund for fiscal year 2011-2012, closing with a value of $25.5 billion and a return of 9.44 percent on its investments.

According to the agency, the fund, which helps pay for textbooks and other educational expenses of school districts, provided $1.2 billion in revenue for public schools over the two years.

School offers $10,000 degree

Gov. Rick Perry on Oct. 2 praised Angelo State University’s new $10,000 degree program and called on more Texas universities to follow suit, the governor’s office announced Oct. 2 in San Angelo.

Joined by Texas Tech University System Chancellor Kent Hance, Angelo State University President Joseph C. Rallo and state Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, the governor applauded Angelo State “for joining the growing list of universities that are thinking hard about how to educate more Texans at a reasonable cost."

Under the program, Perry said, any qualifying student could enter Angelo State as a freshman and in four years leave with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies for less than $10,000 in tuition and fees, starting in the fall of 2013. A list of other institutions have responded to Perry’s call to create $10,000 degree programs.

Enforcement numbers come in

Texas Department of Public Safety on Oct. 2 reported troopers made 1,859 arrests of motorists for driving while intoxicated during an Aug. 19 to Sept. 5 enforcement period that included the Labor Day holiday.

Increased patrols in high-risk locations also netted an estimated 25,000 speeding citations, more than 3,800 seat belt and child safety seat citations, 1,190 fugitive arrests and 877 felony arrests, the DPS reported.

Dewhurst names panel chairs

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Oct. 4 announced the appointment of Senate committee chairs for the 2013 legislative session. The appointees are:

Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, Higher Education; Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, Transportation; Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, Finance; Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, Government Organization; Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, Open Government; Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security; Dan Patrick, R-Houston, Education; and Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, Intergovernmental Relations.

Also, Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, Nominations, Royce West, D-Dallas, Jurisprudence; Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, Economic Development; Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, Health and Human Services; Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, State Affairs; John Carona, R-Dallas, Business and Commerce; Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, Natural Resources; Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, Administration; John Whitmire, D-Houston, Criminal Justice; and Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, Veterans Affairs and Military Installations.