AUSTIN — Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Dec. 20 delivered charges for the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services to tackle before the 2015 Texas Legislature convenes.

Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, ordered the panel of nine senators to study what is being done by the state to enhance the health of Texas women. He also called on the committee to assess the effectiveness of programs designed to improve mental health for all Texans.

The committee will monitor all state-provided women’s health programs, access to preventative services, efforts to reduce unplanned pregnancies and the maximizing of efficiencies, Dewhurst said.

Also, the lieutenant governor said, the committee will monitor programs designed to improve mental health and substance abuse services, assess their outcomes and address any gaps in the system.

Perry takes various actions

Gov. Rick Perry on Dec. 20 renewed for another month the current drought disaster proclamation for 114 of Texas’ 254 counties. Perry originally issued the proclamation on July 5, 2011.

Meanwhile, also on Dec. 20, the federal government approved Perry’s Dec. 13 request for disaster assistance to three central Texas counties — Travis, Hays and Caldwell — for damages attributed to severe flooding that occurred when hard rains hit the region at the end of October through mid-November.

In addition to the approval, the U.S. Small Business Administration granted Perry’s request for additional assistance that will allow homeowners, renters and businesses in 11 central Texas counties to apply for long-term, low-interest disaster loans, the governor’s office reported.

In other news, on Dec. 19, the governor posted notice of clemency he granted to 12 individuals “after each case was favorably recommended for clemency by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.”

And, on Dec. 24, Gov. and Mrs. Perry publicized their wishes for “a happy and blessed Christmas to everyone in Texas, and to Texans all around the world.”

More laws take effect

While most new laws are written to take effect either as soon as the governor signs them or on Sept. 1, some 47 pieces of legislation passed by the Texas Legislature were written to take effect as new laws on Jan. 1, 2014.

Here are five of them:

- House Bill 294 by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, and sponsored by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin: An exemption from ad valorem taxation of certain property owned by a charitable organization and used in providing housing and related services to certain homeless individuals.

- House Bill 1349 by Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, and sponsored by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels: Stipulating that the Department of Public Safety is not required to request, and an applicant would not be required to provide, the applicant’s social security number as part of an application for a concealed handgun license.

- House Bill 1772 by Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, and sponsored by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth: Requiring a utility customer to provide written notice of disconnection to each tenant or owner at a “nonsubmetered, master metered multifamily property” prior to disconnection of electric or gas service.

- House Bill 1847 by Rep. Stefani Carter, R-Dallas, and sponsored by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston: Requiring prosecuting attorneys to complete one hour of ethics training relating to a duty to disclose certain information in a criminal case within 180 days of assuming duties. Additional related training thereafter would be based upon rules promulgated by the court of criminal appeals.

- Senate Bill 945 by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, and sponsored by Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston: Requiring a health care provider in a hospital to wear a photo identification badge clearly stating the provider’s name, department, and title.  If applicable, the badge must also state the provider’s status as a student, intern, trainee or resident.

TxDOT chief moves to LCRA

Texas Department of Transportation announced its executive director, Phil Wilson, is leaving the agency to join the Lower Colorado River Authority, a public utility company founded in 1934 that serves all or part of 61 counties.

Wilson, who was appointed by the governor to head TxDOT in October 2011, is to start as general manager and chief executive officer of the LCRA on Feb. 1.

Before joining TxDOT, Wilson was a senior vice president of public affairs and a corporate officer of Luminant, a large power company based in Dallas. Before that, Wilson served as Texas secretary of state from July 2007 to July 2008.