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Texas Press Association State Capital Highlights
Texas Deals with Border as Congress Departs
Wednesday, August 6, 2014 • Posted August 8, 2014

AUSTIN — Congress left Washington, D.C., Aug. 1 for a month-long recess, without having passed an immigration bill addressing the porous U.S.-Mexico border and humanitarian crisis.

Figures compiled by the federal Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection division show 57,500 “unaccompanied alien children” have been apprehended and processed since October 2013, the majority in the Rio Grande Valley. While President Obama’s request to Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funding remains pending, the governor’s office said the state of Texas will tap available funds to pay the cost of deploying 1,000 national guard troops along the border to assist in law enforcement operations. The cost to do that is estimated at $12 million a month.

Volunteer organizations are delivering support to help care for mothers with small children and unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who have crossed the border to escape gang violence and poverty. Aid comes in the form of food, clothing, medical supplies, school supplies and legal assistance.

On July 25, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-McAllen, sent letters to House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate requesting financial assistance and reimbursement for communities affected by the current border humanitarian crisis. Included in Cuellar’s correspondence to both officials were letters from the City of McAllen, City of Laredo and Webb County Sheriff’s Office detailing costs incurred by each entity.

“Since the border humanitarian crisis began, local governments, non-profit organizations, law enforcement and community partners have been shouldering a large and unexpected cost,” Cuellar said, adding, “These communities have expended hard-earned taxpayer dollars in support of law enforcement and community efforts to address the surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the border. These communities along the border, which I represent, have taken it upon themselves to provide support where they can. They understand these children are coming to the U.S. border and need care. Our local governments and non-profits understand our federal law enforcement are stretched thin during this surge and they have stepped up to provide resources and assist where they can.”

Joint lottery panel is named

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus on July 24 made appointments to the Legislative Committee to Review the Texas Lottery and Texas Lottery Commission, a joint House-Senate panel created by the Legislature in 2013 to study charitable bingo and the distribution of the revenue that such bingo generates. The panel also will study the potential impact of eliminating the state lottery.

Straus named Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin, as co-chair, and committee members, Reps. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake; Garnet Coleman, D-Houston; Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land; and Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Texas Senate, on Aug. 1 named Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, as co-chair, and as committee members, Sens. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills; Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville; Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood; and John Whitmire, D-Houston.

Health agency investigates

Reports of an intestinal illness that may be attributable to the parasite cyclospora have prompted the Texas Department of State Health Services to investigate, in collaboration with local health departments, to gather information and identify the cause.

On July 23 the agency reported it has received reports of 77 cyclosporiasis cases from around Texas this year, including 69 in the last month. The major symptom is watery diarrhea lasting a few days to a few months.

Thorough washing of fresh produce is recommended, but that may not entirely eliminate the risk because cyclospora can be difficult to wash off. Cooking will kill the parasite.

Drought emergency continues

Gov. Rick Perry on Aug. 1 renewed the emergency disaster proclamation he originally made on July 5, 2011, certifying that exceptional drought conditions posed a threat of imminent disaster in specified counties in Texas. The renewed proclamation applies to 108 of Texas’ 254 counties and specifies “rules and regulations that may inhibit or prevent prompt response to this threat are suspended for the duration of the state of disaster.”

UT names McRaven chancellor

The University of Texas System board of regents on July 29 named U.S. Navy Adm. William McRaven as chancellor, to succeed Francisco Cigarroa at the post in January. McRaven, 58, will retire from the Navy this month. The San Antonio native is a 1977 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.

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