AUSTIN - Gov. Rick Perry on Sept. 10 announced teams of Texas Rangers and Texas National Guard counter-drug forces have been assigned to help other law enforcement entities to address burglaries of rural homes, ranches and hunting camps in the Texas-Mexico border region.

The specific number, composition and location of these “Ranger Recon Teams” will not be disclosed in order to maintain operational security. Their task is to identify high-intensity smuggling routes in remote areas and conduct operations to reduce border-related crime in these corridors, the governor’s office stated.

Perry also announced the award of $2 million in state criminal justice funds to the Border Sheriff’s Coalition for continued use of video surveillance technology along the border. And, Perry reiterated his call for federal approval of an additional 1,000 National Guard troops for border duty.

List of Perry’s challengers grows

Identifying themselves as candidates to be the state’s chief executive in 2011-15 are incumbent Gov. Perry and fellow Republicans, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Wharton nurse/rancher Debra Medina, and secessionist Larry Kilgore of Mansfield.

Democrats who have declared candidacy or possible candidacy for governor include: oil attorney and former ambassador Tom Schieffer of Fort Worth, former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, Smith County rancher Hank Gilbert, San Antonio public school teacher Felix Alvarado, entertainer Kinky Friedman of Kerrville, hair care millionaire Farouk Shami of Houston, and Mark Thompson of Dallas.

Houston Libertarian Joe Daiell has indicated he will run.

Senator won’t seek reelection

State Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, announced Sept. 10 he will not be a candidate for the Texas Senate in the November 2010 election.

Ogden has represented State Senate District 5 since 1997, serving the past six years as Senate Finance chair. He also served three terms in the Texas House of Representatives.

Ogden’s term will end when his successor is sworn in on the first day of the 2011 regular session of the Texas Legislature.

Missions Park on quarters in 2019

San Antonio Missions State Park has been chosen to represent Texas in the next series of state themed quarter-dollar U.S. coins, the governor’s office said Sept. 9.

The façade of Mission Espada has been recommended to represent the park on quarters that will be circulated beginning in 2019, according to the United States Mint.

$1 billion reached in victims’ fund

Crime victims and their families have received $1 billion in financial assistance since the Texas Compensation to Victims of Crime Fund was created in 1979, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced Sept. 3.

Fees, court costs and restitution paid by those convicted of a felony or misdemeanor in a state, county or municipal court build the fund.

When eligible victims and their families have exhausted all other means of financial support, the fund helps offset the expenses that stem from violent crime.

Coastal improvements in works

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson announced what his office called “the biggest coastal protection effort in Texas history” on Sept. 14 in Galveston at the seawall, one year after the recovery efforts from Hurricane Ike began.

The $25 million, two-year statefederal plan has in store coastline improvements ranging from South Padre Island to Sabine Pass.

In other news, on Sept. 3, Patterson declared South Padre Island beaches the most accessible in Texas and presented the Town of South Padre Island with four new “Mobichair” surf-ready wheelchairs.

Amphibious wheelchairs like the ones awarded to South Padre Island eventually will be distributed “to all of the top tourist beaches in Texas, thanks to money made available by the Texas General Land Office,” Patterson said.

Time is ripe for flu vaccinations

The state health department is encouraging citizens to get their seasonal flu vaccination now, in shot or nasal spray form.

Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. David Lakey said a separate 2009 H1N1 “swine” flu vaccine is expected to be available in mid-October.

Meanwhile, to fight the spread of flu, it’s critical to: (1) wash hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer, (2) cover coughs and sneezes, and (3) stay home if you’re sick. Visit for more information.

DPS publicizes seat belt reminder

All occupants of a passenger vehicle, no matter their age or where they are sitting in the vehicle, must be secured by a safety belt under a new law that took effect Sept. 1, the Texas Department of Public Safety reminded Texans on Sept. 8.