Ed Sterling

AUSTIN - Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 8.2 percent in September, meaning 44,700 nonagricultural jobs were lost for the month. The state’s unemployment rate was 8.0 percent at the end of August.

Tom Pauken, chairman of the state Workforce Commission said, “While unemployment in Texas remains well below the national rate of 9.8 percent, this serious national recession continues to affect us adversely in Texas.”

The leisure and hospitality industry took the biggest hit in September, losing 16,900 jobs, followed by professional and business services, down 16,500 jobs. Trade, transportation and utilities lost 13,000 positions.  

The unemployment news was somewhat tempered by widely broadcast reports that the economies of Austin-Round Rock, Brownsville-Harlingen, Dallas-Plano-Irving, El Paso, Lubbock, McAllen-Edinburg-Pharr and San Antonio areas are among the first in the nation to move from recession into recovery, indicating that their economies have grown over the past six months.

Interest reemerges over Willingham

It’s been more than five years since the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham in 2004, but interest in the Corsicana man’s 1992 arson/murder conviction and 2004 execution has increased over the past few weeks.

An article published in The New Yorker magazine in August quoting arson experts raised questions about evidence prosecutors used to demonstrate that Willingham intentionally started a fire in his home that caused the deaths of his three daughters.

Willingham told officials he was innocent but some of his family members and associates say he confessed.

The story took on another dimension when Gov. Rick Perry appointed replacements to fill two seats on the state’s nine-member Forensic Science Commission shortly before the commission was to review the Willingham arson investigation.

Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, one of the two appointees, is the new chair of the commission. He told The Dallas Morning News he would take time as necessary to get acquainted with the commission and its procedures before proceeding with a review.

Storied jurist W.W. Justice dies

Senior U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice, 89, died Oct. 13 in Austin.

The Athens native, widely regarded as a civil rights champion of minorities and the poor, was appointed to the federal bench by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968.

In presiding over many landmark cases, Justice rendered rulings bringing about the desegregation of public schools and housing, and improving prison conditions.

Energy agency

promotes propane

The Railroad Commission is promoting propane as a desirable alternative fuel in its 2009 “Breathe Easy Tour.” The tour, which visited some state agencies and central Texas school districts last week, features a variety of currently available vehicles, and carries the message that “propane is a cleaner, cheaper, Texas-produced fuel for school buses and other fleet vehicles.”

Railroad Commission staff described a new grant proposal that the Commission will submit this month. The proposal seeks to fund additional propane vehicles and upgrade more propane fueling stations.

Based on miles traveled, fuel economy and fuel-price numbers from a current propane school bus fleet, school districts can save approximately $3,000 per bus each year by using propane, the agency said.

Broadband applicants get help

There’s movement in efforts to bring broadband technology  - the Internet and other digital developments - to more areas of Texas.

The state Department of Agriculture and Public Utility Commission joined together in an Oct. 15 announcement that the two agencies are helping 63 applicants in seeking $793 million in funds from BTOP, the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program.

Projects were screened for the ability to extend broadband service to unserved and underserved populations.

Troopers take to

school buses

The Texas Department of Public Safety assigned highway patrol troopers to ride school buses during National School Bus Safety Week, Oct. 19-23, and watch for motorists illegally passing the buses. 

Motorists who are cited for driving past a stopped school bus whose red alternating flashing lights are activated can expect to pay up to a $1,000 fine.

Voters may cast

 ballots now

Early voting in the Nov. 3 election began Oct. 20 and continues through Oct. 30.

Voters statewide will decide the fate of 11 proposed constitutional amendments and many local governmental bodies will have candidates and/or bond issues on the ballot.