Texas voters will decide the fate of nine proposed amendments to the state constitution in the coming election.

Early voting began Oct. 21 and runs through Nov. 1. Numbers reported Oct. 25 showed that voting is on track to outpace turnout in recent elections.

The Secretary of State’s office reports daily voting totals for the 15 most populous counties in the state, and by the end of Oct. 24, the fourth day of early voting, about 95,000 Texans had cast a ballot at the polls in those counties. That was more than double the 45,379 voters who had voted at the same point in 2011 constitutional amendment election, the Secretary of State’s office said.

The Nov. 5 constitutional amendment election is the first statewide election since photo ID requirements for voting in person went into effect. Computer users who have an Internet connection can see daily voter turnout numbers for early voting in this and past elections by visiting the elections tab at sos.state.tx.us.

Focus of week is safety

On Oct. 21, the Texas Education Agency and Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University jointly pointed school districts and charters toward resources available to help address and combat bullying and cyber-bullying on campuses.

That message, part of Texas Safe Schools Week, Oct. 20-26, fit with a law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011 mandating that schools make campuses safer for all students. Gov. Rick Perry, in his Oct. 4 Texas Safe Schools Week proclamation, said, “All children deserve to learn in an environment where they feel safe and free from harm.”

State law defines bullying as “engaging in written or verbal expression, expression through electronic means, or physical conduct that occurs on school property, at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, or in a vehicle operated by the district and that has the effect or will have the effect of physically harming a student, damaging a student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to the student’s person or of damage to the student's property; or is sufficiently severe, persistent, and pervasive enough that the action or threat creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for a student.”

Texas School Safety Center’s inaugural Texas Bully Prevention Summit in San Marcos is set for Oct. 30.

A&M Israel is planned

On location in Israel on Oct. 23, Gov. Perry and Israeli President Shimon Peres, joined by Texas A&M University Chancellor John Sharp and other TAMU System executives, announced the creation of an international branch of Texas A&M University in Israel.

Funding for development and construction of the campus, to be located in the predominantly Arab city of Nazareth, will come from private donations.

The governor’s office released a statement on the topic, saying, “Locating a branch campus of Texas A&M University in Israel will further strengthen the economic and cultural ties Gov. Perry has worked for two decades to foster between Texas and Israel. In developing the new campus, a strong emphasis will be placed on building bridges of peace and understanding through education among the region's vibrant and diverse cultures and religions.”

Williams resigns from Senate

In early October, state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, announced he would not remain in office for the 2015 session of the Texas Legislature.

Last week, Williams, an accountant by trade, said he would resign from office, effective at midnight, Oct. 25.

Williams chaired the budget-writing Senate Finance Committee in 2013. In 2011, he chaired the Senate Transportation Committee. He began is legislative career in 1997 as a House member. In 2003 he was elected to the Senate.

Enforcement push slows crime

The Texas Department of Public Safety on Oct. 24 announced results of an enforcement initiative titled, “Operation Strong Safety.”

Targeting the Rio Grande Valley, this state, local and federal multi-agency effort brought about an increase patrols Sept. 15 through Oct. 4 to address three public safety issues: criminal activity; commercial vehicles traffic on roadways and unsafe driving practices.

“These 24/7 saturation patrols were sustained until the cartels were forced to curtail their drug and human smuggling operations in the targeted area,” the DPS reported. Beefed up law enforcement in the area resulted in decreases in the illegal trafficking of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, U.S. currency and stolen vehicles, plus a list of other positive effects.

Ed Sterling is the director of member service for Texas Press Association. Capital Highlights is provided to member publications and their readers.