AUSTIN - The Texas Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration on Nov. 13 released a 1,072-page draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor/Interstate 69 project. The draft statement examines a 650-mile long area stretching from far south Texas to extreme northeast Texas that someday could include a matrix of new roads, rail and utilities. Existing highways will be considered first when it comes to choosing where the project might be routed, TxDOT suggested.

The draft statement combines nearly three years of work with local officials and input from citizens, TxDOT said. But there is more left to do. Opportunities for the public to be involved will be unprecedented over the next several months, TxDOT said.

State offers Clean Bus rebates

The state's environmental agency is accepting applications from school districts to reimburse costs for installing emission-reducing equipment on school buses.

In promoting the Texas Clean School Bus rebate program, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said:

More than 36,000 buses carrying an estimated 1.3 million students drive Texas roads every school day.

More than one-third of these buses are more than 10 years old. Most older buses emit more pollution than most newer models.

Exposure to diesel exhaust from school buses can aggravate respiratory problems, asthma and allergies.

In some cases, an $800 retrofit can reduce emissions by 70 to 80 percent, said TCEQ Commissioner Larry R. Soward. All public school districts and charter schools in Texas that operate one or more diesel-powered school buses or a transportation system provided by a countywide district are eligible to be reimbursed for costs of approved retrofits.

Snake permits to be required

People who sell, transport or possess venomous snakes not indigenous to Texas would have to purchase a $60 permit under proposals the Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission may adopt Jan. 24.

Four species of python and one of anaconda likewise would be regulated and anyone who possesses one of the controlled exotic snakes but does not sell it would be required to buy a $20 recreational controlled exotic snake permit.

People who buy one from a pet store could use their sales receipt as a temporary permit good for 21 days, giving them time to buy an official state permit.

HB 12, enacted by the 80th Texas Legislature, requires Parks & Wildlife to establish the permits.

Unemployment rate matches low

The Lone Star State's October statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased to 4.1 percent, down from 4.3 percent in September and 4.8 percent in October 2006.

For the third month in 2007, the jobless rate reached the lowest point since the current series began in 1976. Non-agricultural employment grew by 24,200 jobs in October. Employers have added 206,400 jobs over the past 12 months for an annual growth rate of 2 percent, the Texas Workforce Commission reported Nov. 15. The national unemployment rate is at 4.7 percent.

Turkey, troopers signs of season

Most people who drive personal cars and trucks over the Thanksgiving holiday will be paying $3 or more for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline.

While they are on the road, they most likely will see more state troopers than usual on duty, ticketing speeders and pulling over other motorists that catch their eye. When many of the holiday travelers reach their destination, the cost

of that home-cooked Thanksgiving meal they'll be eating, with turkey, the standard side dishes and dessert, is expected to run about $4 per person.

State will have more to spend

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said Nov. 15 that the state will have $83 billion for general revenue expenditures in fiscal 2008-2009. That's about $2 billion more than expected. Combs attributed part of the surplus to an 11 percent increase in state sales tax collections.

State settles pharmaceutical case

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Glaxo-Smith Kline, its parent company, SmithKline Beecham Corp., and a subsidiary, on Nov. 16 agreed to repay the state of Texas almost $1.4 million for charging the state inflated prices for the prescription drugs Kytril, Zofran and Amoxil from 1994 to 2002.