Texas Press Association
Capital Highlights — Speaker opposes drive to end tenure
House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, said Friday he opposes a push by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to end tenure for new professors at the state’s public universities and to revoke it for faculty who teach critical race theory, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Phelan, speaking at the Texas Tribune Festival, said the feedback he has gotten indicates ending tenure would make it more difficult for universities to recruit professors. That includes those with conservative viewpoints, who benefit from tenure’s protection against being fired for openly sharing their ideology.
Brian McCall, chancellor of the Texas State University system and a former Republican member of the Texas House, said eliminating tenure would “put the state at such a disadvantage,” the Statesman reported.
“Tenure exists for a reason, and that is to get thought out,” McCall said. “We’re not running Vacation Bible School. We’re teaching physics and various things that are science and not subject to certain opinions.”
Critical race theory is a college-level approach to studying racism in society. It is not taught in Texas public schools below the college level.
Cartels designated as terrorist organizations
Amidst a growing national fentanyl crisis, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order designating Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations.
“Fentanyl is a clandestine killer, and Texans are falling victim to the Mexican cartels that are producing it,” said Governor Abbott. “Cartels are terrorists, and it’s time we treated them that way.”
The Biden administration recently awarded nearly $1.5 billion to support efforts to address the opioid crisis and support individual recovery efforts. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is receiving nearly $53 million as a result.
Fentanyl is the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 45, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Deadline nears to register to vote
Eligible Texans have until Oct. 11 to register to vote in the Nov. 8 general election. The secretary of state’s office is running a “VoteReady” campaign to educate Texans about the ID requirements for voting in Texas, as well as ID requirements for those eligible to vote by mail.
“I want to ensure that all Texans are informed, prepared and ready to make their voices heard,” said Secretary John Scott.
The race for governor highlights the ballot, but voters have plenty of other choices to make down the ballot. For more information, go to votetexas.gov. Early voting runs from Oct. 24 to Nov. 4.
TCEQ expands lead testing in schools
A new online portal will help schools and child-care facilities test their drinking water for lead, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
The free statewide program “trains participants to collect samples, tests their drinking water for lead, and helps them take action to reduce lead in drinking water,” according to the agency’s news release.
TCEQ offers free sampling materials, training in collecting samples, laboratory testing and support for participants. Any Texas public school or state-regulated child-care facility is eligible. For more information, go here: https://tinyurl.com/mpsr3ddf.
Any level of lead in blood is considered unsafe and can be harmful to children’s health, according to the CDC.
Fire crews sent from Texas to Oregon
With no active wildfires reported in the state as of Sunday, thanks to recent rainfall, a Texas A&M Forest Service wildfire handcrew has been dispatched to the Cedar Creek Fire in Oregon. The 20-person crew is working in the Willamette National Forest on a fire that thus far has consumed more than 112,000 acres.
“Mobilizing the handcrew to out-of-state incidents provides an opportunity for qualified personnel and trainees to gain unique experiences,” said Crockett Pegoda of the TFS. “In Texas, we were fortunate to receive support from other states this year. It’s great that we can reciprocate that support.”
There are 94 large fires burning across the United States with more than 15,000 wildland firefighters and support personnel committed to these incidents, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Nearly three dozen TFS firefighters are responding to wildfires in California, Montana, Oregon and Washington.
Life expectancies dip during COVID-19
A new CDC report indicates Texas had one of the largest dips in life expectancy, the San Antonio Express-News reported. Unsurprisingly, with more than 1 million COVID-related deaths to date, every state in the U.S. saw a decline in life expectancy in 2020, when the pandemic began.
In Texas, life expectancy dropped from 78.6 years in 2019 to 76.5 years in 2020. The decline in Texas was larger among men at 2.4 years than women at 1.7 years. The state ranked eighth in decline in life expectancy.
The Express-News interviewed Dr. Fred Campbell, an associate professor of internal medicine at the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio. He said it was a complex issue but that “accessibility and affordability of the state’s healthcare system is primarily to blame.”
“They died from the pandemic, and they died from self-abuse, and they died from a lot of other medical conditions that were not taken care of properly,” he said. “…When you have to make that decision about affording to go to the doctor and affording to feed your family, that’s what happens,”
COVID-19 cases still waning
The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in Texas during the past week dropped to 25,081 with 151 deaths, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 1,910 lab-confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations as of Sunday, down slightly from the previous week.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.