Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs on Dec. 11 hosted a roundtable discussion of state agencies to coordinate efforts to accurately count all Texans in the upcoming 2020 Census.
Hughs was joined by Dr. Steven Dillingham, U.S. Census Bureau director; Dr. Lloyd Potter, Texas State demographer, and representatives from state agencies and the Texas Legislature.
“The census plays a major role in determining the distribution of federal funds to the Lone Star State in areas such as healthcare, education, agriculture and infrastructure and housing, as well as determining the size of our congressional delegation,” Hughs said.
“That’s why it’s imperative that we work collaboratively towards finding ways that our state’s agencies can help to ensure that we count all Texans in the upcoming census,” she added.
Abbott declares disaster
Gov. Greg Abbott on Dec. 12 certified that exceptional drought conditions pose a threat of imminent disaster in the counties of Bandera, Blanco, Burnet, Concho, Karnes, Kendall, Kinney, Llano, Maverick, Medina, Real, Uvalde, Val Verde, Zapata and Zavala.
The declaration states that significantly low rainfall and prolonged dry conditions continue to increase the threat of wildfire across the affected counties. The governor added that drought conditions pose an imminent threat to public health, property and the economy.
Abbott’s declaration authorizes the use of all available resources of state government and of political subdivisions that are reasonably necessary to cope with the disaster.
Hegar distributes revenue
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Dec. 11 announced his office would send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts some $820.5 million in local sales tax allocations for December.
The amount is 7.8 percent more than the amount distributed for the month of December 2018. Allocations are based on sales made in October by businesses that report tax monthly.
Bonnen names committee
House Speaker Dennis Bonnen on Dec. 10 named named seven people to the House Interim Study Committee on Aggregate Production Operations.
The panel will review the impact of aggregate production operations at rock-crushing facilities, concrete batch plants and hot-mix asphalt plants across the state and the implementation of HB 907, a new state law relating to the regulation of such activities.
Named to the committee were: State Reps. Terry Wilson, R-Georgetown, chair; “Mando” Martinez, D-Weslaco, vice chair; Alma Allen, D-Houston; Jared Patterson, R-Frisco; J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville; Andrew Murr, R-Junction; Erin Zwiener, D-Driftwood; and public members, Capitol Aggregates President Greg Hale and Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association Director David Perkins.
Paxton joins FIGHT
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Dec. 11 joined in a nationwide effort by attorneys general in calling on Congress to pass the bipartisan Federal Initiative to Guarantee Health by Targeting (FIGHT) Fentanyl Act.
If passed, the legislation would permanently classify fentanyl-related substances as Schedule I drugs and ensure that law enforcement agencies and courts are able to bring justice to those illegally trafficking in the drug.
The Drug Enforcement Administration issued a temporary scheduling order for fentanyl in February 2018, allowing federal law enforcement authorities to arrest and prosecute individuals who manufacture, distribute or handle fentanyl-related substances. Paxton said the temporary scheduling order will expire in two months.
AGs support pipeline
Attorney General Paxton on Dec. 10 announced that his office joined a coalition of 18 states urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower-court ruling that blocked construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The coalition’s friend-of-the-court brief argues that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit incorrectly ruled the U.S. Forest Service lacked authority to grant the Atlantic Coast Pipeline rights-of-way through forestland beneath federal trails.
The pipeline project, if completed, would transport natural gas through five West Virginia counties en route to Virginia and North Carolina. The halting of the pipeline construction has already cost jobs and lost revenue, Paxton said.
Plan While You Can
The Texas Department of Transportation on Dec. 12 announced the launch of its “Plan While You Can” campaign, urging drivers to find a sober ride during the holiday season.
In 2018, there were 2,370 DUI-alcohol related crashes in Texas during the holiday season. Those crashes killed 75 people and seriously injured another 199, TxDOT said.
“The bad decision to drink and drive can turn the joy and revelry of the season into tragedy, causing unimaginable heartache for years to come,” TxDOT Executive Director James Bass said. “There’s no excuse: plan ahead and be responsible.”
Instead of getting behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol, TxDOT suggests:
– Designating a sober driver or calling someone for a ride home;
– Calling a cab or ride-share service;
– Using mass transit; or
– Spending the night.
The effort is a component of #EndTheStreakTX, a social media and word-of-mouth effort that encourages drivers to make safer choices while behind the wheel, such as wearing a seat belt, driving the speed limit and never driving after drinking or taking drugs.
By Ed Sterling • Member Services Director, Texas Press Association