AUSTIN — Governor Rick Perry on March 16 ordered the activation of what he called a “spillover violence contingency plan” to address recent fatal attacks on American citizens in Mexico.

The plan increases surveillance, intelligence sharing and ground, air and maritime patrols.

U.S. consular officials Lesley Enriquez and Arthur Redelfs, both of El Paso and stationed in Ciudad Juarez, were murdered in that city on March 13.

Perry had penned a letter to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano the day before the murders, asking for the federal government to use unmanned “predator drone” aircraft and 1,000 additional soldiers for missions on Texas-Mexico border.

Perry wrote that 65 percent of the border the U.S. shares with Mexico is in Texas, noting a disparity in federal resources allotted to Texas for border protection.

Napolitano responded that the federal government already maintains sufficient surveillance and interdiction capabilities along the U.S. - Mexico border as a whole.

Since January 2008, a reported 4,700 homicides have been committed across the border from El Paso in Ciudad Juarez, making it one of the most violent cities in the world, the governor’s office stated.

Court sentences YFZ Ranch man

A Tom Green County jury in San Angelo on March 19 sentenced Merril Leroy Jessop of the Yearning for Zion Ranch to 75 years in prison for sexually assaulting a child and of committing bigamy. Jessop also was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.

Jessop, 35, is one of several YFZ ranch residents indicted for sexual assault of a child, bigamy or other charges according to the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

The ranch, four miles northeast of Eldorado in Schleicher County, is owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a polygamist sect.

In April 2008, state, local and federal agents raided the ranch and removed 440 children. The state Department of Family and Protective Services released the children from state care following an order by the Texas Supreme Court in late May 2008 and a state district court order issued a few days later.

Study charts Texas during recession

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas on March 16 published a detailed study of how Texas fared in 2009 while the national and world economies slumped.

“After outperforming the nation the previous four years, the state experienced steep declines in economic activity last year that nearly matched the U.S. freefall,” according to the report.

“Texas lost 338,600 jobs in 2009, and the state’s unemployment rate rose to its highest level in 22 years. The Dallas Fed’s Texas Business-Cycle Index — a barometer of the state’s economic health — plunged 4.6 percent from December 2008 to December 2009.”

But, the report says the  state economy is on a steadier course now, with activity growing in several sectors and improvement likely in 2010 and beyond.

Energy projects to receive grants

Comptroller Susan Combs on March 16 announced 32 renewable energy projects around the state have been selected to receive a first round of federal stimulus grants.

Some $32 million in the first round of Distributed Renewable Energy Technology Program grants will go to cities, school districts, colleges, universities and other local and state government entities.

Combs said that in addition to generating electricity at those sites, the projects will reduce utility costs, cut emissions and save tax dollars.

Lady Bird’s press secretary dies

Mary Elizabeth “Liz” Sutherland Carpenter, 89, of Austin, died March 20 in an Austin hospital.

Liz Carpenter was a Washington correspondent for the Austin American-Statesman from 1942 until 1960, when she joined the staff of then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. She served as a speech writer and joined the staff of first lady, Lady Bird Johnson, as press secretary. After the Johnson presidency Carpenter remained close to the Johnson family for the rest of her life. She was an ardent feminist and a political humorist and author.

Texan who played pioneers dies

Actor Fess Parker, 85, died March 18 of natural causes at his home in southern California.

A Fort Worth native who grew up near San Angelo, Parker graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 1950 and headed for Hollywood.

His best-known Texas-themed work included the title role in the 1955 Disney film “Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier” and as Jim Coates in Disney’s “Old Yeller” in 1957.