Waters not always placid when it comes to liquidity

AUSTIN ‘ Much of what’s going on in the Capital City these days has to do with liquidity in one form or the other. In terms of financial liquidity, the House Appropriations Committee’chaired by San Angelo Rep. Rob Junnell’has put a proposed pay raise for Texas’ 228,000 state employees on hold. That was something of a set back for state workers counting on a pay hike, since the week before the Senate Finance Committee had given the nod to a $563 million state worker pay raise proposal. The Senate measure, sponsored by Austin Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, would provide Texas’ state workers with either a 5 percent raise or a $100 a month salary increase, whichever was greater. But state workers still have a chance of getting a raise. As Junnell explained, he wants to wait until there are better numbers on how much health insurance for teachers will cost. Another variable is what the bottom line will be on the state’s Medicaid costs. The final pay raise decision will come some time in April or May. Open container law progresses All the talk about iffy pay raises, high tech layoffs and evaporating stock market values is enough to drive a person to drink. Just don’t drink and drive. If you do occasionally pop the top on a cool one, a measure making progress this session could dry up alcohol in motor vehicles. A strengthened open container law, which would make it illegal for anyone to have an open alcoholic beverage in a vehicle, has made it out of committee. Mothers Against Drunk Driving has advocated a tougher law for years. Current law only prohibits a driver from having an open container. Since it’s pretty easy for a driver who sees a police officer to hand his or her can or bottle to a passenger (assuming the officer has not seen the driver taking a swig), the current law is the legal equivalent of 3.2 beer. One point still at issue is a part of the bill which says it still would be okay to keep booze in the trunk. But in a pickup, or a sport utility vehicle the requirement is to keep the alcohol behind the last upright seat. In a pickup, obviously, that could still be within reaching distance. Some folks see that as a watering down of the law. Good ole H20 In the grand scheme of things, water is a lot more important than beer. El Paso historian and writer Leon Metz opined in a recent article that El Paso is a city in trouble. The biggest problem, he said, is water. Or lack of it. A decade from now, he said, the city could have serious water supply difficulties. Water is a major issue almost anywhere in Texas. Under consideration in the Legislature is Senate Bill 2, Sen. J.E. “Buster” Brown’s 61-page omnibus water bill. The measure would create a Texas Water Policy Council, provide the blueprint for a groundwater management area and establish fees, fines and taxing authorities to pay for the state’s 1997 Master Water Plan. Almost everyone agrees that it’s important to have a plan and start taking steps to make sure Texas has adequate water for the future. The difficulty comes when you start talking about who gets how much water and from where. It’ll be a fight.

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