AUSTIN — More than a dozen city council members had their day in federal

district court on Nov. 23 when their challenge to the constitutionality of

the Texas Open Meetings Act was heard with Judge Rob Junell presiding.

The plaintiffs, from cities across Texas, claimed the Act violates their

right to free speech because it requires them to meet and vote in public

or face jail time and fines if they are convicted of deliberating about

public business secretly, or in a manner that circumvents the Act.

City council members from Wichita Falls, Arlington, Alpine and Hurst

testified they routinely avoid communicating with other council members

outside of an official meeting because they could not be sure if doing so

would be a violation of the Act.

But the Texas Attorney General's office, defendants, refuted the

plaintiffs' arguments on constitutional and procedural grounds.

Judge Junell called for more input from both sides in January, before he

will render a decision in the case.

Jury finds DeLay guilty on 2 counts

In an Austin state district courtroom, a 12-member jury on Nov. 24 found

former U.S. House majority leader Tom DeLay, R- Sugar Land, guilty of

money laundering and conspiracy.

The case stems from an incident several years ago when DeLay moved

corporate campaign contributions to the Republican Party into political

races for certain Texas Republicans running for seats in the U.S. House.

DeLay, who faces a sentence of five to 99 years in prison and up to a

$10,000 fine on the money  laundering charge, and two to 20 years in

prison and up to a $10,000 fine on the conspiracy charge, said he will

appeal.

Panel investigates allegation

The House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics met at the Capitol

on Nov. 23 to check out an allegation by a state representative that he

may have been pressured to vote for the reelection of House Speaker Joe

Straus or lose his seat in the upcoming redrawing of districts.

The allegation, lodged by Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, sprang from a

telephone conversation he had with Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman. The

allegation turned out to be nothing action worthy.

The Ethics Committee chalked it up as a disagreement between two members.

But of course, there is quite a bit of uncertainty afoot on how

Congressional, state Senate and state House districts will look when the

Texas Legislature applies Census 2010 figures to the state map.

Investments will create Texas jobs

Gov. Rick Perry on Nov. 22 announced a $3.1 million investment in PETCO

Animal Supplies Inc., that he said would create 400 jobs in San Antonio

and generate an estimated $17 million in capital investment.

On Nov. 23, Perry announced a $2.5 million investment to create a U.S.

operations center for SunPower Corp. in Austin. Perry said the investment

would create 450 jobs and generate an estimated $10 million in capital

investment.

The state’s financial contribution to the two projects comes through the

Texas Enterprise Fund, a business incentive account that requires the

governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House to agree before

funds can be disbursed.

Plenty of shingles in our asphalt

In mid-November, the Texas Department of Transportation reported that in

the last 18 months, it pre-qualified two dozen used shingle-processing

operations to supply TxDOT road projects.

The use of road paving material that incorporates asphalt roofing shingle

scrap saves money, and, TxDOT said, “Placing a two-inch hot mix overlay

with 5 percent recycled shingles on one mile of a two-lane road uses 80

tons of shingles and saves 40 cubic yards of landfill space.

“That’s as many shingles as roofers would remove from 40 2,000-square foot

homes.”Chemical company wins honorTexas Workforce Commission on Nov. 19

announced Dow Chemical Co. as its 2010 Texas Workforce Employer of the

Year.

Dow, which employs 6,500 workers in Texas, was chosen from among five

finalists for its collaboration with the Texas workforce system and for

supporting the agency’s goal of ensuring that both employers and workers

have the resources and skills Texas needs to remain competitive in the

21st century.

Officials noted that Dow dedicates resources to a state employment project

that matches industry jobs to military job descriptions to help returning

veterans secure employment.

10 to vie for vacant House seat

Eight Republicans, two Democrats and one Libertarian are running in the

Dec. 14 special election for the House District 44 seat.

The winner will succeed the late Edmund Kuempel, R-Seguin, who had served

as the district’s state representative since 1983, Kuempel, 67, died of a

heart attack in Austin on Nov. 4.

Guadalupe, Gonzales and Wilson counties make up House District 44.