Ed Sterling

AUSTIN - During the H1N1 “swine” flu outbreaks last spring, many Texas schools closed, leaving about half a million students without access to meals normally provided under the National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs. 

“There are thousands of children who depend on the meals served at school every day, and we want to make sure schools have the option of continuing this crucial service, while still protecting those students from any public health threat,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said.

In response to a letter from Staples to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, a change in federal policy now lets schools serve meals and receive federal reimbursement during a public health emergency. Meals can be served as a “grab and go” option, or through delivery. Schools are asked create a plan to distribute meals in a “non-congregate” setting to help minimize the spread of disease. Schools also should alert all families of meal service, in particular those families of students who are eligible for free and reduced meals. State Rep seeks governor’s help State Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, on Aug. 13 wrote a letter to Gov. Rick Perry informing the chief executive that the state has been tardy in processing nearly one-third of the new applications for the federally funded nutritional assistance program within the required 30 days. Turner pointed out that participation in the nutrition program qualifies needy Texans for utility and telephone bill discount programs. Turner asked for the governor’s help in getting the state Health and Human Services Commission and the Public Utility Commission to speed the certification.

DPS tries out rolling billboards

Come October, the Texas Department of Public Safety will be under-staffed. The DPS on Aug. 7 said about 250 more troopers are needed. Looking to boost its recruiting efforts, the DPS is turning some of its vehicles into rolling billboards — a new twist in the genre of help-wanted advertisements.  The agency seeks applicants who are U.S. citizens at least 20 years of age and who have completed 90 hours of college credit or an associate’s degree. Law enforcement or military experience may be used toward fulfilling the college requirement.

Hutchison kicks

off campaign

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, on Aug. 17 in her hometown of LaMarque, officially launched her campaign to challenge Gov. Perry to be the Republican nominee for governor.

Watson decides

Senate is for him

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, announced he would not run for governor in 2010, despite an effort to draft him as a candidate.

DPS provides list

of new laws

On Sept. 1, hundreds of new laws passed by the 81st Texas Legislature will take effect.  The Texas Department of Public Safety on Aug. 11 released a select list of new criminal laws or changes to current criminal laws. Here are samples of a just a few of them: • It will be illegal to use a wireless communication device in a school zone unless the vehicle is stopped or a hands-free device is used. Cities or counties wanting to enforce this law must post a sign at the beginning of each school zone to inform drivers that using a wireless communications device is prohibited and the operator is subject to a fine. It is a defense to prosecution if the operator was making an emergency call.

• Applicants under the age of 18 must take the driving skills exam to receive a driver license. 

• Occupants of a vehicle must be secured by a safety belt, no matter where they are seated. 

• Children younger than 8 years of age must be restrained in an approved child passenger safety seat unless the child is at least 4 feet, 9 inches in height. [The fine is no more than $25 for a first offense and $250 for a second offense.]

• The DPS may not issue a driver license or identification card to a person who has not established a domicile in Texas.

• The DPS may not suspend a concealed handgun permit if the holder fails to display the permit to a peace officer when told to do so.

• Internet usage by certain registered sex offenders is restricted, and registered sex offenders must provide information about their e-mail addresses when they register. 

• A court may immediately seal juvenile criminal records if the juvenile successfully completes a drug court program, or another special program ordered by the court.