Texas Press Association
Capital Highlights — Disaster declaration follows Nicholas
Seventeen Southeast Texas counties have been declared disaster areas after Hurricane Nicholas came ashore, dumping more than a foot of rain and cutting off power to a half-million customers in Texas, according to poweroutage.us. That number had been reduced to about 4,200 as of Sunday.
Counties included in Gov. Greg Abbott’s declaration are Aransas, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Galveston, Harris, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Matagorda, Montgomery, Newton, Nueces, Orange, Refugio, San Patricio, and Victoria.
The Texas Department of Insurance has a number of tips for those affected by the storm:
- Call your insurance company to report damage.
- Take pictures and video of the damage. Don’t throw anything away until your insurance adjuster tells you.
- Make temporary repairs to prevent more damage. Remove standing water. Cover broken windows and holes to keep rain out.
- Keep a list of the repairs and save receipts. Don’t make permanent repairs before the insurance adjuster sees the damage.
For more information from TDI, go to the website, www.tdi.texas.gov/consumer/storms/home-damaged-faq.html.
Haitians flood into Del Rio, prompting bridge closure
Thousands of Haitian refugees fleeing political unrest and a severe earthquake have flooded into Del Rio on the Texas-Mexico border, prompting the city’s mayor to declare an emergency and close the bridge with more than 15,000 migrants crowded beneath it.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz blamed the situation on President Joe Biden, reported the San Antonio Express-News.
Border agents are working to process those who crossed, while the Biden administration on Saturday accelerated flights to deport migrants back to Haiti. Abbott called it a “border crisis” and ordered Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and the Texas National Guard to maintain a presence around ports of entry in an attempt to deter additional entries.
Despite the influx of migrants at Del Rio, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said there were 2% fewer overall encounters of migrants along the border in August than July.
Abbott backtracked on an order to shut down entry points along the border, which the state does not have the legal power to do, unless granted permission by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, according to the Houston Chronicle. The federal government, not states, has ultimate authority over the country’s borders.
COVID cases drop, but deaths increase
The number of new COVID-19 cases in the state decreased about 7% from the previous week, with 111,565 reported by the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University. However, new deaths were up slightly, with 1,800 reported as of Sunday.
The number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations in Texas dropped slightly, with the Texas Department of State Health Services reporting 12,246 inpatients, down 7.8% from the previous week. However, with 3,618 of those hospitalized in intensive-care unit beds, the total number of available staffed adult ICU beds declined to just 277 statewide, with only 86 pediatric ICU beds available in the entire state.
The number of Texans who are fully vaccinated continues to creep upward, with 14.46 million reported in the state, according to DSHS. That is 49.6% of the state’s total population.
Third special session focuses on redistricting
The Texas Legislature convened Monday for its third special session with the focus on redrawing political boundaries for House and Senate districts, as well as for the state’s congressional seats and for the State Board of Education.
Before the session began, proposed state senate districts by Republican leaders drew fire from the other side of the aisle, according to the Texas Tribune.
State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston proposed a map that redraws two districts — hers and that of Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, to include comfortable majorities of voters who backed Donald Trump in 2020. Both districts saw voters narrowly favor Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
State Sen. Beverly Powell, D-Burleson, said the reconfigured map gives Republicans in her district an unfair advantage. “The proposed State Senate map is a direct assault on the voting rights of minority citizens in Senate District 10 and, if adopted, it would be an act of intentional discrimination,” she said in a statement.
Redistricting promises to be a fiercely fought battle, as it is every 10 years.
Up to $5 million for rural hospitals
Rural hospitals in Texas are set to receive up to $5 million in federal funding to help underserved Texans, the Health and Human Services Commission announced last week.
“As we work to address health disparities throughout the state, this funding will help break down barriers to accessing care while connecting rural Texans with health care providers in creative ways and improving overall health outcomes within their communities,” said Trey Wood of the HHSC.
The funding is coming from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Texas is one of four recipients of the grants, designed to “address health disparities, improve health outcomes, and meet the unique needs of Texans living in rural areas using telemedicine,” according to HHSC.
Texas horned lizard making comeback with coalition’s help
A coalition of zoos and wildlife scientists has released into the wild 204 captive-raised hatchlings of the once ubiquitous Texas horned lizard, more commonly known as the horny toad. New evidence indicates that previously released lizards are successfully reproducing, according to a Texas Parks & Wildlife Department news release.
The horned lizard is one of 1,300 Texas species of concern, which are rare or declining and need special efforts to prevent being listed as endangered under state or federal regulations.
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 and Cedar Park. Email: email@example.com.