Capital highlights: Absent lawmakers block special session and 4 other Texas issues Katy Times readers should know
By Gary Borders, Texas Press Association
Nearly 60 House Democrats from Texas left the state last Monday for Washington, DC in an effort to block passage of a Republican-led election bill. This effectively blocks any legislation since the House does not have a quorum present. As the Austin American Statesman and other media have reported, Gov. Greg Abbott threatened to arrest absent lawmakers upon their return. In Washington, lawmakers met with Vice President Kamala Harris and several Democratic senators to pass a federal elections bill that is currently deadlocked.
House Democrats have vowed to stay in Washington until the special session ends on August 7. They use private funds as well as campaign accounts to finance their trip to the nation’s capital and organize fundraising campaigns. San Antonio lawmaker Trey Martinez Fischer, one of the leaders of the quorum breaking, said Democrats were spending $ 10,000 a day on hotel rooms and meals.
Abbott called the Democrats’ absences a “taxpayer-funded junket.”
Abbott orders juvenile justice department investigation
Abbott last week called on the Texas Rangers to investigate “multiple allegations” of potentially illegal behavior among certain staff at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. The department operates five secure facilities and six halfway houses across the state for juvenile offenders. The move comes after numerous complaints that children in state custody are victims of widespread sexual assault and other violations.
At the end of 2020, Texas Appleseed and Disability Rights Texas filed a complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice, claiming “serious violations of the constitutional rights of children.” TJJD has been criticized for more than a decade for what critics call chronic understaffing, abuse and scandals, according to previously released reports.
Invasive silver carp found in Texas waters
Invasive silver carp have been found in Texas waters, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The invasive species was found last month in Choctaw Creek, a tributary of the Red River, about 15 miles downstream from Lake Texoma.
“These are the first reports of silver carp in Texas waters, although they have already been found in other areas of the Red River, notably just downstream of Lake Texoma in Oklahoma waters in 2019” said Dan Bennett, fisheries management biologist for TPWD. “Invasive carps pose a significant risk to the Lake Texoma ecosystem and boaters, and there is sufficient upstream flow and river area for them to establish and breed in the lake if introduced.”
Carp are not native to the United States but have become prolific primarily in the Mississippi River basin. They compete with other species, such as shad and buffalo, and may even pose a risk to humans. They can jump up to 10 feet out of the water when caught by boat engines, sometimes injuring boaters. Some can grow over 4 feet in length and weigh almost 90 pounds.
Anyone who catches silver or bighead carp in Texas waters is asked to report the sighting with location information and photos to [email protected] Silver carp and bighead carp are exotic species banned in Texas and should be killed upon possession by beheading, gutting, cutting gills or other means, or placed on ice. Neither species can be possessed alive.
Federal funding for behavioral health services
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is receiving more than $ 210 million in emergency federal funding for mental health and addiction prevention services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic has created a much higher demand for mental health and substance use disorder services across Texas,” said Sonja Gaines, HHS deputy executive commissioner for developmental and developmental services. and behavioral health. “Federal emergency funding will allow us to meet the challenges associated with the impact of COVID-19 and help Texans who need behavioral support on the road to recovery. “
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that drug overdose deaths set a record in 2020, mostly due to opioids. HHSC uses emergency funding to create and implement a number of initiatives, including expanded access to treatment and recovery programs and diversion services that prevent people with mental health or addiction issues enter prisons and emergency rooms.
New cases of COVID-19 increase sharply
Largely because of the delta variant of COVID-19 and a high percentage of unvaccinated Texans, the number of new COVID-19 cases in Texas rose sharply last week, with 22,773 new cases reported by the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University. That’s nearly double the number of cases the week before, and reported deaths also jumped to 192. The Centers for Disease Control reports that 99% of deaths attributed to the virus are from people who have not been vaccinated.
Hospitalizations of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patients also rose sharply, reaching 2,834 currently in hospitals in Texas on Sunday. This is almost 50% more than the previous week. The number of fully vaccinated Texans increased slightly to 12.353 million, or 42.3% of the state’s total population.
Gary Borders is an award-winning Texas veteran journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas over a period of 30 years, including Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches, and Cedar Park. Email: [email protected]