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Chief election officer encourages Texans to register before deadline

AUSTIN — Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs invited eligible Texans to celebrate and participate in National Voter Registration Day — the fourth Tuesday in September — by ensuring they are registered to vote before the Oct. 7 registration deadline.

Hughs, the state’s chief election officer, issued a final call to action to voters, community leaders and elected officials to encourage their fellow Texans to register and prepare to vote in the upcoming Nov. 5 election.

“An active and engaged citizenry plays an essential role in ensuring the continued well-being of our democracy,” Hughs said.

The number of registered voters in Texas stood at 15,823,406 in September. For more information on voting in Texas, visit www.votetexas.gov

E-cig cases are counted

The Texas Department of State Health Services on Sept. 24 announced the agency had identified 54 Texas cases of severe lung disease in people who report “vaping” before developing symptoms.

State health officials are gathering more information about 35 other possible cases to determine whether they are consistent with the symptoms and substance use seen in cases in Texas and 37 other states. About half of the Texas cases have been in teens, and more than half required hospitalization.

Respiratory symptoms include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and coughing. Some people have also experienced nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. DSHS said clinicians should ask patients with those symptoms about a history of vaping, gather as much information as possible about suspected cases, and report them to the agency.

Unemployment rate holds

The Texas Workforce Commission on Sept. 20 reported that the state’s economy added 18,200 seasonally adjusted total non-farm positions in the month of August.

Notably, the Lone Star State’s unemployment rate held steady at 3.4 percent, matching the all-time record low set in June. The rate of 3.4 percent is the lowest since the agency launched this method of tracking in 1976.

The state’s lowest unemployment rate among metropolitan statistical areas in August was the Midland MSA with a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 2.2 percent, followed by the Amarillo MSA at 2.7 percent.

TxDOT asks for input

The Texas Department of Transportation on Sept. 23 started asking citizens what they think will be the most pressing transportation needs for the next 30 years.

TxDOT is hosting a second round of public meetings that the agency says will be essential to developing the state’s long-range transportation plan, which helps inform the direction for the future of Texas’ multimodal transportation system.

The Texas Transportation Plan 2050, or TTP 2050, will guide TxDOT’s planning and programming for the next 30 years and set long-range goals for all forms of transportation.

Texans who can’t get to the meetings in person may participate online by visiting www.txdot.gov and searching for “TTP 2050”. TxDOT is providing an interactive survey to gather public input. The virtual open house also features a transportation usage survey.

Online surveys will close Nov. 15, 2019, and public comments will be accepted throughout the development of the TTP 2050 until early 2020, the agency said.

RRC tops cleanup goal

In fiscal year 2019, which ended Aug. 31, the Texas Railroad Commission cleaned up more than 400 abandoned oil field sites.

On Sept. 27, the state’s energy-regulating agency said the number of cleaned-up sites is more than double the goal set by the Texas Legislature.

While most operators clean up their own oilfield sites when the wells are no longer productive, the Railroad Commission uses industry fees to clean up abandoned sites through the State-Managed Cleanup Program. The fees include regulatory fees, permit fees, enforcement penalties and bond amounts assessed on oil and gas operators.

Since the State-Managed Cleanup Program was established in 1992, the RRC has assessed, investigated and — if cleanup was determined necessary — completed cleanup activities at 6,821 abandoned oilfield sites, restoring land used in energy production back to a safe condition.

Governor goes to Japan

Gov. Greg Abbott toured Japan in an economic development mission last week, visiting with top government and industry officials in various cities.

Among the topics Abbott discussed with his hosts were trade, manufacturing, transportation, energy, infrastructure and tourism.

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