Capital Highlights: Abbott nominates Racing Commission chair as secretary of state

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AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott has appointed Rolando Pablos of El Paso to succeed Secretary of State Carlos Cascos, effective Jan. 5. 

Pablos has served as chair of the Texas Racing Commission, the state agency that regulates pari-mutuel racing, since December 2015. Because Abbott nominated Pablos during a legislative interim, the Texas Constitution requires the Senate to conduct a confirmation hearing and vote on the appointment during the first 10 days of the next session of the Legislature. The 85th Regular Session of the Legislature is scheduled to convene on Jan. 10. Confirmation would make Pablos Texas’ 111th secretary of state.

In accepting the appointment, Pablos said, “I am humbled and honored that Governor Abbott has placed confidence in me to faithfully execute those duties. I look forward to serving on behalf of all Texas communities and demonstrating my unwavering dedication to the responsibilities of the office.”

Secretary Cascos, whose resignation takes effect Jan. 4, was Abbott’s first appointee after being sworn in as governor in January 2015. Abbott thanked Cascos, saying, “I would also like to extend my sincere appreciation to Secretary Cascos for his service and dedication to the people of Texas, and for strengthening our partnerships across the globe.” 

The secretary of state serves as:

  • Chief election officer for Texas;
  • Keeper of the state seal;
  • Attestor to the governor’s signature on official documents;
  • Senior advisor and liaison to the governor for Texas Border and Mexican Affairs; and 
  • Chief International Protocol Officer for Texas.

The Office of the Secretary of State is the repository for certain official and business and commercial records, it publishes government rules and regulations and commissions notaries public. 

Pablos, co-founder and chief executive of Uriel Americas, formerly served as chief executive of the Borderplex Alliance, a bi-national economic development organization based on the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Craddick is new RRC chair

Christi Craddick, one of the three members of the Railroad Commission of Texas, on Dec. 6 was elected chair of the commission, the state agency that regulates the oil and gas industry.

Craddick, a member of the commission since 2012, succeeds fellow member David Porter as chair. Porter chose not to seek reelection and Wayne Christian, a former member of the Texas House of Representatives, won the race to replace Porter in the Nov. 8 general election. Christian will take office in January.

“Earlier this year,” Craddick said, “I was appointed to the National Petroleum Council, and I look forward to working with the new administration’s secretary of energy on ways to protect states’ regulatory authority of energy production for the benefit of local industry growth and state economies.”

Revenue down in November

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Dec. 2 announced that state sales tax revenue totaled $2.51 billion in November, 2.9 percent less than in November 2015. 

“Continued weakness in the manufacturing and wholesale trade sectors, combined with persistently lower levels of oil and gas drilling activity compared to the same period last year, is exerting ongoing downward pressures on sales tax revenues,” Hegar said. 

Total sales tax revenue for the three months ending in November was down by 2.2 percent compared with the same period a year ago. 

Canine teams graduate

The Texas Department of Public Safety on Dec. 9 announced the graduation of five troopers and five canines from an eight–week training program. 

The new canine teams will join 46 other DPS teams stationed throughout Texas, including seven explosive-detection teams stationed in Austin, according to the announcement.

So far in 2016, the DPS reported, canine teams assisted in the seizure of approximately 5,000 pounds of marijuana, 90 pounds of cocaine, 63 pounds of heroin, 191 pounds of methamphetamine, and $3.6 million in cash.

Turner files car seat bill

Legislation to require rear-facing car seats for children under two was filed by state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, on Dec. 7.

If passed into law, Turner’s House Bill 519 would apply to all children under two unless the child weighs more than 40 pounds or exceeds 40 inches in height.

A news release from Turner’s office points out that according to a 2007 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children under two are about 75 percent less likely to die or sustain serious injury in a rear-facing car seat than a forward-facing one.

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, on Dec. 8 filed SB 278, proposed legislation identical to Turner’s.

Ed Sterling is Director of Member Services for Texas Press Association. 

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