A task force of volunteer lawyers traveled to San Angelo to assist in the YFZ Ranch child protection cases, the Texas Supreme Court press office reported April 18.

The volunteers were in San Angelo for an April 17 custody hearing concerning the 416 children taken from YFZ Ranch, a polygamist settlement owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The church is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon Church.

In early April, state agencies entered the ranch near Eldorado and took the children into custody after an anonymous caller said she had been beaten and sexually abused at the site.

“Overwhelmed court staff in Schleicher and Tom Green counties have been assisted by Carl Reynolds, executive director of the Texas Office of Court Administration, in what is being called the largest child-custody case in U.S. history,” according to the report.

The Texas Supreme Court’s Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families is engaged in the process, helping channel resources and train lawyers, child-protection social workers and other staff involved with courts handling child-protection cases.

The volunteers responded to an appeal by the Texas Access to Justice Commission and the State Bar of Texas for qualified lawyers across Texas to volunteer their time to represent parents and children in the case.

Perry declares re-election plan

Texas voters aren’t scheduled to elect a governor again until November 2010, but Gov. Rick Perry, said April 17 he plans to seek re-election.

Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, regarded as a strong potential candidate to be the next governor, said she is only focused on the present since it’s kind of early to be declaring.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, also a Republican and a potential candidate for governor, said he is working on the 2009 legislative session, which convenes in January.

In 2000, then-Lt. Gov. Perry took over as governor when then-Gov. George W. Bush became president. Perry was elected to a full term in 2002 and reelected in 2006.

Cities get tobacco money

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs announced her agency has distributed $92.3 million to Texas communities from the Tobacco Settlement Permanent Trust Account.

The money, released April 16 to two cities, 159 counties and 135 hospital districts, is to help cover costs of indigent health care provided during 2007.

“This year the state is sending 12 percent more money to communities responsible for providing indigent care,” Combs said. “This money comes from Texas’ settlement with tobacco companies and will help communities offset the costs of providing medical care for those who cannot pay.”

Since the first distribution of funds in April 2001, local entities have received nearly $430 million from the trust fund.

In other news, Combs said local law enforcement agencies and schools may apply for block grants of up to $40,000 to help enforce state laws prohibiting sale or distribution of tobacco products to minors.

The application deadline for schools is May 1. The deadline for police departments, sheriffs, constables and district attorneys to apply for grants is May 9.

“Texas minors illegally buy or smoke 67.6 million packs of cigarettes each year,” Combs said. “These grants help our communities enforce the law and educate violators about the risks of teen smoking.”

Metal purchases reportable

It is legal to recycle metals, but theft of pipe, tubing, fittings and wire made of copper and other valuable metals is on the increase. Businesses that pay cash for metal are required by law to report their purchases and file paper reports. But now, there is an easier way to file the report.

Purchases may be reported electronically by using the new “Metal Recycling Entity Registration” link on the Texas Department of Public Safety home page, txdps.state.tx.us.

Corridor ad spending is noted

Advertising helped stimulate interest in public forums the TxDOT hosted across the state on the proposed Trans-Texas corridor projects.

TxDOT says $590,064 has been spent on TV ads, $60,000 on Internet banner ads and $154,766.77 on newspaper ads for a total of $804,830.77