Ed Sterling

AUSTIN - Gov. Perry on July 17 signed legislation eliminating a 90-day waiting period for needy parents to enroll their kids in the state's Children's Health Insurance Program.

The legislation, HB 109, makes room for 127,000 more children on the CHIP roll and makes it easier for parents to qualify based on income and other factors.

CHIP provides primary and preventative care including immunizations, wellness exams, eye exams and dental check-ups to children who do not have private health insurance or who do not qualify for Medicaid.

In May 2002, at its peak enrollment, CHIP served 529,211 children. By January 2007, the number of children had dropped to 321,815, although there were an estimated 700,000 eligible but unenrolled children.

Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, was HB 109's primary author. In his statement of intent about the bill, he pointed to reports that children without health insurance are 25 percent more likely to miss school because of illnesses, and school districts in Texas lost $4 million per day in funding because of absenteeism.

Noriega considers

Senate run

State Rep. Rick Noriega, D-Houston, is exploring a 2008 run for the U.S. Senate.

Noriega is an officer in the Texas Army National Guard. He has served in Afghanistan and has been deployed in the Hurricane Katrina relief mission. While he was serving abroad, his wife Melissa Noriega served in his place in the Texas House.

Also looking to run is Democrat Mikal Watts, a San Antonio lawyer.

Watts filed papers to form an exploratory committee in June.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn is up for re-election in 2008. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison was re-elected to a six-year term in 2006.

Williams chairs

RRC second time

Michael L. Williams is the new chair of the Railroad Commission of Texas, succeeding Elizabeth Ames Jones as chair. Williams previously served as chair, from September 1999 to September 2001.

The Railroad Commission regulates the state's oil and gas industry, gas utilities, pipeline safety, safety in the liquefied petroleum gas industry and the surface mining of coal and uranium.

Williams, a Republican and the highest-ranking African-American in Texas state government, also chairs the Governor's Clean Coal Technology Council, the Texas FutureGen advisory board, and serves on other state and federal energy-related boards and councils.

Williams to lead

GOP fundraising

Weatherford car dealer Roger Williams, who resigned July 1 as secretary of state, has been named chair of the Texas Republican Party's "Victory '08" fundraising program. Gov. Perry named his own deputy chief of staff Phil Wilson to replace Williams as secretary of state. Wilson, a Brownwood native, took the oath of office on July 18.

McLeroy to head

education board

In other appointments, Perry named Bryan dentist Don McLeroy as chair of the State Board of Education.

McLeroy first was elected to the SBOE in 1998. His term as chair will expire in February 2009.

McLeroy has worked to include creationism in new biology textbooks and has voted in support of health textbooks that promote abstinence while cutting back on information on methods of birth control and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

Fred Thompson

to visit Texas

Television actor and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tennessee, is scheduled for campaign stops in Houston and Dallas this week.

The visit was announced by Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.

Thompson supporters plan to rally volunteers and raise funds for a likely presidential bid in 2008.

Unusually rainy

season continues

Heavy rains hit south and central Texas July 20-21, the National Weather Service reported.

The San Marcos, Guadalupe Medina, San Antonio, Nueces and Frio rivers were reported at or above flood stage, and many strandings and rescues were reported.

A Dripping Springs woman reportedly was cited for endangering her children after she ignored a warning sign and crossed a flooded road in her vehicle.

ED STERLING writes a weekly column for the E-T.