State Capital

State Capital


House Democrats call for education special session Texas House Democrats are urging Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session to increase public school funding, while Abbott is criticizing them for opposing legislation last year that tied increased funding to his pet project — school vouchers. The Austin American- Statesman reported the Democrats sent a letter, written by Rep. Jon Rosenthal, D-Houston, calling for a 30-day special session focused on both increasing per-student funding and investing more in school safety.

“Our public schools are the bedrock of our communities, and it’s imperative we provide them with the resources they need to thrive,” Rosenthal said.

A number of Texas school districts are facing funding shortages for the 2024-25 school year budgets after no additional school funding was approved during the last legislative session, when lawmakers blocked passage of a voucher bill tied to increased funding.

A Statesman analysis in January indicated that when adjusted for inflation, per-student funding from state and local sources is down by 12.9% since 2020.

Rains sweep Texas as hurricane season approaches While Texans in the Houston area and throughout East Texas continue to battle the effects of torrential rains — including storms last week that killed at least seven in the Houston area and left hundreds of thousands without power — the official start of hurricane season is just around the corner, on June 1.

As Dan Reilly, a Texas-based meteorologist, told the Texas Department of Insurance, “In most of the recent years, we’ve had many storms before June. So, in reality, I would say hurricane season probably starts in May.”

Families are urged to protect their family and property by preparing now. Here are a few tips from TDI:

• Make or update your home inventory: Take pictures or videos of each room in your home. For major items, write down the serial number, what you paid, and date you bought it. Don’t forget to get a video of items inside closets and drawers. Having a home inventory is one of the best things you can do to make sure you get the value of your claim.

• Have an emergency kit packed and ready to go: Set aside 3 gallons of water per person, enough to last three days. Also pack non-perishable food, a can opener and utensils, a battery-powered radio, a flashlight and extra batteries. See a full kit list at Put some water and food supplies in your car too, just in case.

• Check your roof. Damaged shingles or leaks around chimneys or skylights will get worse in a storm. Have a professional secure loose shingles and check the metal flashing around openings or on roof valleys for leaks.

• Get your yard ready. Remove dead tree limbs and branches that hang over your house. Check for loose items that can become wind borne such as yard furniture or trampolines. Tie them down.

DEI dismantling cuts hundreds of jobs Leaders of the state’s public universities told state senators last week that dismantling diversity, equity and inclusion programs at Texas universities led to the firing of several hundred staff members and resulted in millions of dollars in program cuts, The Dallas Morning News reported.

A ban on DEI programs was passed in 2023 by the Legislature, meaning programs that provide resources for specific races, ethnicities or gender identities are no longer allowed. Examining the extent of that compliance was the aim of last week’s hearing.

The hearing also focused on pro-Palestine protests that have resulted in more than 140 arrests on state campuses.

State leaders examining the exploding hemp market

An explosion of legal hemp dispensaries across Texas is prompting increased scrutiny from Texas lawmakers, The Texas Tribune reported. Since hemp products were legalized in 2019, there has been a rapid proliferation of shops selling baked goods, gummies and smokable buds laced with cannabis derivatives that purportedly are under the legal limit for containing THC, the psychoactive ingredient.

The number of hemp retailer registrations has jumped from 1,948 in 2020 — the first year the Texas Department of State Health Services began registration — to 8,343 last year, with 7,700 active registrations received in the first four months of 2024.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick last month ordered the Senate to look into possibly banning hemp products that contain THC and toughen regulations for retailers.

New ‘Click It or Ticket’ campaign launched in Texas The Texas Department of Transportation has launched a new “Click It or Ticket” campaign in hopes of improving traffic safety, the Statesman reported. Motorists are encouraged to wear their seatbelts or face fines up to $200.

The campaign runs through June 2. Buckling up can reduce the risk of dying in a vehicle crash by up to 60%, according to TxDOT.

Nearly 1,200 people died in crashes on Texas roads last year because they were not wearing their seatbelts, Tx-DOT said.

Water treaty dispute could mean aid withheld from Mexico A bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers is demanding aid funding to Mexico be withheld unless that country lives up to an 80-year-old treaty requiring it send 1.75 million acre-feet of water to the U.S. every five years, The Tribune reported.

Inconsistent water delivery from Mexico has exacerbated water shortages that affect South Texas farmers.

“Farmers and ranchers across South Texas remain under continued financial strain and could suffer a similar fate as the sugar industry, should Mexico continue withholding water,” the lawmakers wrote in a Friday letter to House and Senate appropriators.

Mexico blames drought conditions on its side of the border for not being able to deliver water as required by the treaty. It also claims the use of floating buoys in the river by the Abbott administration to deter migrants violates the treaty.

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches, Lufkin and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@texaspress. com.