AUSTIN - The Monday morning deadline for this column forces coverage 

of the Nov. 4 general election into the next week.

But here is something that is reportable: Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade on Oct. 28 announced the final tally of registered voters in Texas for the Nov. 4 general election was 13.5 million, up from 12.7 million registered voters in this year’s March primaries.

Andrade, the state’s chief elections officer, said more than 2 million registered voters cast a ballot during the first eight days of the early voting period, which began Oct. 20 and ended Oct. 31.

State Rep predicts House change

State Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, on Oct. 29 predicted the end of Speaker Tom Craddick’s tenure as leader of the Texas House of Representatives. Craddick, R-Midland, was first elected speaker on Jan. 11, 2003, after serving 34 years as a member of the House. His colleagues reelected him to the powerful post in 2005 and again in 2007.

In a news release posted six days before election day, Keffer said, “Within 24 hours of the polls closing after Tuesday’s historic election, I predict there will be a new consensus choice for Texas House Speaker.”

Keffer said he plans to consolidate bipartisan support of his candidacy for the speakership on election night. Keffer, 55, has served as state representative for Eastland, Hood, Brown, Shackelford, Stephens and Palo Pinto counties since 1996.

House members will decide who is to be speaker soon after the 81st Texas Legislature convenes on Jan. 13, 2009.

RRC catching up with demand

On Oct. 30, Texas Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo said record energy sector activity has resulted in drilling permit application numbers that haven’t been seen since the last energy boom in the 1980s.

In early October, processing times for expedited drilling permits had reached 13 days, and up to 40 days for non-expedited drilling permits, the RRC reported.

Now, four weeks after a new effort to reduce a backlog of drilling permit applications, the RRC says it has reduced the processing time for expedited drilling permits to three days, and for non-expedited permits, to seven days.

RRC Chairman Michael L. Williams said that to reduce the backlog, some employees are working overtime on Saturdays, some employees have been moved to the drilling permit section and some outside contractors have been hired.

Law lets agency read licenses

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Oct. 31 released an opinion that state law allows the Texas Lottery Commission to use electronically readable information encoded on the magnetic stripe of a driver’s license to verify the age of persons using self-service terminals and vending machines to purchase lottery tickets.

Abbott’s opinion, GA-0675, says the Lottery Commission’s reading of the cards serves a legitimate law enforcement or governmental purpose.

Texas Lottery director dies

Texas Lottery Commission Executive Director Anthony J. Sadberry, 59, died Oct. 28. First appointed as a lottery commissioner by Gov. Ann Richards in late 1993.

He served as commission chair from October 1994 to August 1995, was named acting executive director in January 2006, and was named executive director in June 2006.

Hurricane shelter aid continues

FEMA extended its program for Texans and Louisianans displaced by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike to Jan. 15, 2009.

The program makes available lodging to evacuees who remain unable to live in their homes because of damage or power outages directly resulting from Gustav or Ike.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency pays costs of room and taxes directly to the hotel. Meals, telephone calls and other incidental charges are not covered.

Security threat detailed in hearing Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Office of Homeland Security, on Oct. 28 told a state Senate interim committee that Mexican drug cartels continue to threaten public safety and pose a homeland security problem.

McCraw said Ciudad Juarez, across the Rio Grande River from El Paso, has had 1,140 murders this year, so the state has intensified border security and increased teamwork with local and federal agencies to inhibit cross-border gang activity.