Beyond City Limits
According to the Capitol newsletter Quorum Report, the Lite Guv campaigns of GOP David Dewhurst and Dem. John Sharp have done some internal polling -- and have achieved opposite results. Dewhurst's numbers show him leading Sharp by nine points (42%-33%) among registered voters with 23% undecided, while Sharp's pollsters report their man leading 38%-36% among "likely" voters with 26% still undecided. -- M.K.
San Marcos officials are considering an ordinance that would require developers to negotiate with neighbors before getting approvals from the city. Austin activist groups, including the Save our Springs Alliance and the Austin Neighborhoods Council, have pushed for years for such a requirement. -- M.C.M.
National and local leaders of a campaign to clean up a "literal mountain" of electronic waste have stepped up their pressure on Dell Computer Corp. to lead the charge. The Computer TakeBack Campaign encourages producers to accept old electronics equipment for recycling and proper disposal of hazardous materials. "Dell is not only the PC industry's clear market leader," says Texas Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Robin Schneider, "but the company is uniquely positioned to make producer take-back a national success story." Campaign representatives laid out their goals in a June meeting with members of Dell's management team, and addressed the company's shareholders at their annual meeting in July. Dell has thus far declined to commit to the program. This week, the campaign launched a new student Web site,www.toxicdude.com, in response to Dell's own "dude" who pitches PCs in the company's successful ad campaign. -- Amy Smith
On Sept. 4 the Texas Dept. of Public Safety named as Traffic Law Enforcement Division Chief Randall Elliston, who replaces retiring 39-year veteran Charles Graham. Elliston will oversee 3,293 employees, including 2,187 DPS officers. The division is made up of DPS's Highway Patrol, License and Weight, Vehicle Inspection, Safety Education, Communications, Breath Alcohol Testing Bureau, and Capitol services. -- Jordan Smith
PacifiCare of Texas, the largest HMO in the Houston area, announced Monday that it will no longer offer its Medicare HMO (Secure Horizons) in Harris, Fort Bend, and Montgomery Counties after Jan. 1, 2003. The decision to abandon the Houston area -- which PacifiCare says is due to rising costs -- means more than 25,000 elderly and disabled patients will either revert to Medicare or go without prescription-drug coverage and other benefits. In the last two years, seven HMOs have abandoned the Houston metropolitan region. -- M.K.
Judge Margaret Cooper has ruled against the San Antonio insurance giant USAA, which is seeking a refund of state taxes that could total $2 billion. According to USAA, Texas law in effect from 1907 until 2001 allowed insurers, who pay premium taxes to the state, to be exempt from all other taxes. State Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander, already presiding over state coffers that are at least $5 billion in the red, hired Austin legal legend Roy Minton to successfully plead the state's case. USAA says it will appeal. -- M.C.M.
Texas officials have decided not to order free potassium iodide pills from the federal government for residents around the state's two nuclear plants, Comanche Peak (near Glen Rose) and the South Texas Nuclear Project (near Bay City and partly owned by the city of Austin). The pills are thought to reduce thyroid cancer risk in the event of radiation exposure following a nuclear "incident," but Texas officials feel the pills would provide a false sense of security. -- M.C.M.
Texas Insurance Commissioner Jose Montemayor announced a new rule that would prohibit insurers from denying coverage to homeowners based on prior mold or water-damage claims. The rule cannot, however, prevent insurers from spiking premiums for such unlucky customers. -- M.C.M.
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft issued an "orange alert" on Tuesday, Sept. 10 -- which Naked City understood to mean, "Watch out for incoming obnoxious Longhorn fans," but apparently it has something to do with terrorism. In any case, no one is quite sure what to do about all this orangeness. Expect a maroon alert shortly before Nov. 29. -- L.N.