Gov. Greg Abbott on Oct. 15 announced $61.2 million in Homeland Security Grant Program funding to support state and local efforts to prevent terrorism and prepare for threats that pose the greatest risk to the security of Texans.
The awards, released primarily to cities and counties across Texas, include 264 projects under the State Homeland Security Program and 136 projects through the Urban Area Security Initiative.
“As governor, my top priority is keeping our communities safe,” Abbott said in a news release. “These grants will ensure our communities have the resources they need to counter terrorism statewide and enhance security for all Texans. Our ongoing efforts to keep Texas safe would not be possible without our partnership with the federal government, and I thank them for their continued assistance.”
Larger expenditures of grant monies would be applied as follows:
—$24.3 million to provide equipment, training and exercise support for local, regional and state-level response teams such as SWAT, bomb, HAZMAT and search and rescue, and for other law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services personnel that serve communities across the state;
—$13.4 million to support statewide planning and preparedness efforts that provide the foundation for effective homeland security capability development and implementation;
—$8.3 million to sustain and enhance operational communications capabilities facilitating information sharing and coordination essential for the successful response to all types of threats and hazards; and
—$3.2 million to support state and regional fusion centers promoting ongoing intelligence and information sharing capabilities and analysis, production and exchange of critical threat data between federal, state and local partners.
Research first, then vote
Ballots in the Nov. 5 election will include proposed constitutional amendments, special elections and local political subdivision elections, including those for mayor, city council, school board, municipal utility districts and other local entities.
Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs on Oct. 16 encouraged eligible voters to take advantage of the early voting period ahead of the election, which began on Oct. 21 and will end on Nov. 1.
Hughs, the state’s chief election officer, also urged voters to research the candidates, amendments and measures that will appear on their ballots as they prepare to make their voices heard.
Voters with questions about how to cast a ballot in upcoming elections may call 1-800-252-VOTE.
AG announces settlement
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Oct. 18 announced a $117 million multistate settlement with Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Ethicon Inc. for deceptively marketing transvaginal surgical mesh devices.
Texas was joined in the lawsuit by 40 other states and the District of Columbia. The Lone Star State’s share of the settlement is nearly $9 million.
Transvaginal surgical mesh is a synthetic material that is surgically implanted through the vagina to support the pelvic organs of women who suffer from stress urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse.
The settlement was reached after a multistate investigation, launched in 2012, found that the companies failed to adequately disclose the products’ possible side effects.
Jobless rate stays low
The Texas Workforce Commission on Oct. 18 announced that the Texas economy added 7,600 seasonally adjusted total nonfarm positions in September and the unemployment rate held steady at 3.4 percent for the fourth month in a row.
The September unemployment rate matches the all-time record low first set in June, the lowest recorded unemployment rate since series tracking began in 1976.
Leading job growth in September was the professional and business services sector, which added 9,600 jobs. The construction sector followed, adding 7,200 jobs. Education and health services added another 1,800 jobs.
The Midland Metropolitan Statistical Area recorded August’s lowest unemployment rate among Texas MSAs with a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 2.0 percent, followed by the Amarillo MSA at 2.5. The Austin-Round Rock, College Station-Bryan and Odessa MSAs each recorded the third-lowest rate at 2.6 percent.
Effort promotes safety
Nov. 7, 2000 was the last deathless day on Texas roadways, and since that day, fatalities resulting from vehicle crashes on Texas roadways have numbered more than 65,000, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
In its “Be Safe. Drive Smart” campaign, TxDOT is taking safety messages to community events in the oil-and-gas producing Permian Basin and Eagle Ford Shale regions, where driving-related fatalities are high. The campaign is part of #EndTheStreakTX, a social media and word-of-mouth effort that encourages drivers to make safer choices while on the road.
By Ed Sterling • Member Services Director, Texas Press Association