Ed Sterling

AUSTIN - In mid-July, Texas AgriLife Extension Service estimated agricultural losses at about $4 billion. And now, nearly 80 counties are in a state of emergency due to severe drought conditions ruining crops and endangering livestock.

The Wall Street Journal, CNN and other major out-of-state media put Texas’ record-high temperatures and record-low rainfall in front of readers and viewers last week.

Commodity market watchers and economists admitted nervousness over worsening drought conditions in Texas and potential effects nationally.

On July 29, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department water specialist Cindy Loeffler said, “It’s not as bad as the drought of record in the 1950s, but if it continues through summer and into fall, we’ve got a problem. What’s made this so bad is the record heat. Unless something miraculous happens, this will be the hottest month in Texas ever, not just the hottest July.”

July turned out to be the hottest on record, going back to the 1850s.

Toll ‘recovery program’ coming

Delinquent toll payers may take advantage of a one-time toll violation “recovery program” approved July 30 at the Texas Transportation Commission’s monthly meeting.

The Commission directed the Texas Department of Transportation to develop a program to collect on delinquent toll accounts. The idea is to offer violators a chance to open a TxTag account and pay all tolls accrued in full in exchange for dropping late fees that are owed.

Once the program is finalized, TxDOT will contact those eligible for fee reduction through direct mailings to the home or business address associated with the vehicle’s license plate.

TxDOT said the offer will not apply to violations on non-TxDOT toll roads, such as those operated by the North Texas Tollway Authority, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority or the Harris County Toll Road Authority.

Andrade sets Nov. 3 ballot order

Secretary of State Esperanza “Hope” Andrade on July 28 randomly drew the ballot order for 11 proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution.

Election Day is Nov. 3 and Oct. 5 will be the last day to register to vote. The proposed amendments, in brief form, in ballot order:

Prop. 1: To allow the financing of buffer zones adjacent to military installations through local taxes.

Prop. 2: To authorize the Legislature to provide for ad valorem taxation of a residence homestead solely on the basis of the property’s value as a residence homestead.

Prop. 3: To create uniform standards and procedures for the appraisal of property for ad valorem tax purposes.

Prop. 4: To establish a national research university fund to enable emerging research universities in this state to achieve national prominence.

Prop. 5: To allow the Legislature to authorize a single board of equalization for two or more adjoining appraisal entities that elect to provide for consolidated equalizations.

Prop. 6: To authorize the Veterans’ Land Board to issue general obligation bonds in amounts equal to or less than amounts previously authorized.

Prop. 7: To allow an officer or enlisted member of the Texas State Guard or other state militia or military force to hold other civil offices.

Prop. 8: To authorize the state to contribute money, property and other resources for the establishment, maintenance and operation of veterans hospitals.

Prop. 9: To protect the right of the public to access and use public beaches bordering the seaward shore of the Gulf of Mexico.

Prop. 10: To provide that elected members of governing boards of emergency services districts may serve terms not to exceed four years.

Prop. 11: To allow the taking of private property via eminent domain for certain public purposes and to limit the Legislature’s authority to grant the power of eminent domain.

AG warns of ‘clunkers’ scammers

Attorney General Greg Abbott on July 29 said Texans alerted Texans about Web sites offering registration for the federal government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program.

Eligible vehicle owners do not need to register or provide personal information in order to participate in the program, he said.

Reliable information about the “Cash for Clunkers” program can be found online at cars.gov.

Congress recently approved the Car Allowance Rebate System program to provide credits of up to $4,500 to fuel-efficient car buyers who turn in older, gas-guzzling vehicles to be scrapped.