Abbott, Texas delegation ask Congress for hurricane relief funds
By Ed Sterling
Oct. 9, 2017 at 8:01 a.m.
AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott and members of Lone Star State's congressional delegation last week signed a letter seeking $18.7 billion in Texas-specific Hurricane Harvey relief and recovery funding in the next federal supplemental appropriations bill.
Meanwhile, the Texas Department of Emergency Management Commission is working with county judges and mayors to secure funding and resources requested by those local officials.
John Sharp, who heads the commission, testified along with other state officials before the Texas House Appropriations Committee at a meeting in Houston last week examining recovery costs. In his testimony, Sharp urged officials in Harris County and other hurricane-stricken counties to submit the FEMA-required Request for Public Assistance forms by Oct. 31.
Sharp speculated that the $140 billion early estimate of Hurricane Harvey recovery costs would be turn out to be low.
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Oct. 5 announced state sales tax revenue totaled $2.36 billion in September, an amount 10.4 percent more than collected in September 2016.
"The double-digit growth in sales tax revenue was due to increased spending in the oil and natural gas related sectors," Hegar said. "But moderate growth was evident in sectors fueled primarily by consumer spending, including retail trade and telecommunications services."
Total sales tax revenue for the three months ending in September 2017 is up 5.5 percent compared to the same period a year ago, Hegar added.
AG opines on
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Oct. 4 released his official opinion that under the Texas Health and Safety Code, law enforcement agencies in Texas are authorized to receive prescriptions of naloxone, a drug to treat opioid overdoses.
The opinion, written in response to an inquiry by the Texas Medical Board, says that a state law passed in 2015 permits the prescription and dispensing of an opioid antagonist to persons at risk of experiencing an overdose, along with any person in a position to assist in an overdose emergency.
Paxton said the Legislature "made clear its intent that the law authorizes both individuals and law enforcement agencies to obtain opioid antagonists by prescription."
The Texas Department of Transportation on Oct. 5 rolled out its "Plan While You Can" sober-ride campaign with football season in full swing.
"Football is big in Texas and while fans make plans to attend games, watch parties and tailgating events, we also strongly urge them to plan for a sober ride," said TxDOT Executive Director James Bass. "Before you drink, make a game plan to get home safely. It's a decision that could save lives."
During the 2016 football season there were 10,494 alcohol-related traffic crashes in Texas and those crashes resulted in 424 fatalities and 996 serious injuries, according to TxDOT.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Oct. 6 appointed four members to the new Texas Commission on Public School Finance.
Patrick's appointees included Senate Education Chair Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood; Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston; Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, and Dr. Doug Killian, superintendent of Pflugerville ISD.
In addition to Patrick's appointees, the governor and the speaker of the House each will appoint four members and the chair of the State Board of Education will appoint one member.
The commission is the result of House Bill 21, legislation passed by state lawmakers in the special session of the Legislature last summer.
The commission is tasked with developing and making recommendations for improvements to the current public school finance system or for new methods of financing public schools.
"For the first time in nearly four decades, legislators will be convened to exclusively examine the state's school finance system and recommend the best path forward for our state," Patrick said in a news release.
DPS urges vigilance
The Texas Department of Public Safety on Oct. 5 called on Texans to be extra vigilant after the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas in which a lone gunman killed 59 people and injured more than 500 others.
DPS Director Steven McCraw urged Texans to keep a sharp eye out for potential crime and terrorist activity in their communities and to report suspicious behaviors to local authorities or the department's iWATCH website at www.iwatchtx.org.
McCraw said the public plays a "potentially crucial role" in helping law enforcement combat groups and lone-wolf actors intent on harming others.