AUSTIN – Last week was the next-to-last week of the 30-day special session of the Texas Legislature, which ends June 29. There were no whip-cracking weekend sessions of the House or Senate to speed things along.
On June 20, Gov. Rick Perry again added to the list of items he expects lawmakers to solve. In this case, he called for legislation relating to the prosecution and punishment for the offense of official oppression on those seeking access to public buildings and transportation. Many Texans have come to recognize that as the “anti-groping” or “intrusive touching” bill first filed during the regular session, which ended May 30, by Longview Republican state Rep. David Simpson. If passed, Simpson’s HB 41 would put the brakes on pre-boarding pat-down searches of passengers conducted by airport Transportation Safety Agency workers.
So, with an eye on the clock, House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, performed a maneuver to set aside and possibly snuff Simpson’s controversial bill, which if debated, could push many of the issues off the dwindling calendar. Here is how Straus did it: after less than 10 minutes in session on Friday, June 24, he simply adjourned the House and announced the body would reconvene on Monday, June 27.
What is still unfinished with so little time left in the special session? Contentious major budget bills, health care cost containment, sanctuary cities and Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) reform.
State senators and representatives of course are aware that the governor could call a second special session to handle TWIA reform before the hurricane season, which began June 1, gets much farther along. This week Texans will see how anxious lawmakers and the governor are to wrap up and call it a day.
Drought plan time is now
Drought conditions in Texas continue, with wildfires popping, 100-degree temperatures common and rainfall sketchy at best.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality sent a letter dated June 23 to public water suppliers encouraging them to implement their drought contingency plans, if they haven’t already done so without prompting.
Water suppliers are required by commission rules to develop plans to manage water usage, reduce peak demand and extend supplies. The rules apply to all retail public water suppliers and wholesale water suppliers, the commission said, adding that plans typically include targets for water use reductions, conservation measures, ways to manage supply and demand, and public education.
Drought plans can be triggered by usage or low water supplies. Customers will be notified by their water supplier when a plan is activated, the TCEQ said, adding that most often, voluntary measures will be taken before mandatory restrictions are imposed.
DPS warns of phone scam
On June 21, the Texas Department of Public Safety reported scammers have been calling Texas residents demanding that they pay for overdue red-light tickets. The DPS does not collect traffic fines or oversee red-light cameras.
Scammers say that an arrest warrant will be issued if the person receiving the call does not provide a credit card number, as well as Social Security numbers and other information, the DPS said.
“You should never give out personal information over the phone when someone else initiated the call,” said DPS Director Steve McCraw. “If you receive a call like this, you should write down any contact information from the Caller ID, if available, and then contact your local law enforcement agency.”
TxDOT deploys telenovelas
With the Fourth of July holiday soon here, the Texas Department of Transportation is expanding its effort to education the public about the dangers of drinking and driving by using the Spanish-language soap opera format.
Three, two-minute episodes will aired on Spanish-language television stations now through the Independence Day holiday and also will be available online at the TxDOT’s internet YouTube channel.
“We created these educational telenovelas on drinking and driving to reach Hispanic women and men who may be unfamiliar with Texas drunk driving laws,” said TxDOT Traffic Operations Director Carol T. Rawson.
Unemployment rate at 8.0
On June 17, the Texas Workforce Commission reported the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 8.0 percent for May, down from 8.1 percent a year ago.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the national unemployment rate for May was 9.1 percent.