Texas Press Association
Capital Highlights — State shows largest numerical population gain
Texas stands to gain two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives after results of the 2020 census released last week show the state had the largest numerical gain of any state since the 2010 census
The population increased by nearly 4 million in the past decade, to 29.14 million. That’s a population increase of 15.9% in 10 years — third highest by percentage in the nation, behind Utah and Idaho. The state’s clout in the House will increase to 38 congressional districts, with redistricting likely coming this fall.
The increase has been driven for the most part by increases in the state’s Hispanic population, which accounted for half of the growth in the past decade, according to the census. As the Texas Tribune pointed out, annual increases in Hispanic residents in Texas have been greater every year since 2010 than the combined growth among white, Black and Asian residents.
Abbott gets bill allowing to-go alcohol sales from restaurants
Restaurants can continue to sell alcohol to go after both chambers passed a measure making Gov. Greg Abbott’s pandemic declaration permanent. Abbott is expected to sign the measure.
When restaurants were forced to close their dining areas last March, the measure allowed beer, wine and mixed drinks to be sold along with takeout and delivery food orders. While pandemic restrictions on in-dining seating have been lifted, many restaurants continue to rely on takeout and delivery options.
The Texas Restaurant Association reports 700,000 restaurant workers in Texas lost their jobs in the early weeks of the pandemic, with thousands of restaurants permanently shuttered.
ERCOT announces interim CEO
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has picked Brad Jones to be interim CEO for the Texas grid operator. Jones has more than 30 years of industry experience, including two stints with ERCOT.
The previous CEO was fired after the widespread power blackouts during the February winter storm, and nearly half the board resigned. Under ERCOT’s bylaws, Jones can serve as interim CEO for up to a year.
ERCOT falls under the umbrella of the Public Utility Commission. Its newest member and chairman, Peter Lake, was recently confirmed by the Texas Senate.
State releases $11.2 billion in federal funding for schools
The state’s top leadership announced last week the release of $11.2 billion in fresh federal funding to help public schools “address student learning loss and costs incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Two-thirds of the nearly $18 billion allocated by the feds is now available under grants administered by the Texas Education Agency. The remaining one-third in funding will be distributed contingent upon approval by the U.S. Department of Education.
Texas already had received roughly $2.2 billion in federal funding to help school districts respond to COVID-19. School districts and others have been calling for the state to release the money so they could begin budgeting for the next school year. The federal government requires the state to maintain both public school funding and money for public colleges and universities at the same levels as in the three years before the pandemic to tap into the K-12 stimulus dollars.
Vaccination pace slowing; new COVID-19 cases, deaths steady
The Texas Department of State Health Services reported the number of Texans who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine reached 11.1 million Sunday. As in the rest of the country, the pace has slowed — up just a bit over 4% from the previous week. A total of 7.92 million state residents are now fully vaccinated —more than one-fourth of all residents, according to DSHS.
Meanwhile, a total of 23,054 cases of COVID-19 were reported last week, a drop of about 600 people; 353 deaths were reported, down just slightly from the previous week, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University. Lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 patients hospitalized dropped slightly to 2,648, according to DSHS.
Texas gets $79 million to protect coastal areas
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality announced last week the state will receive an additional $79 million as part of the RESTORE Act, which is the law passed in response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout and the resulting massive oil spill. The money will be used for land acquisition for coastal conservation; shoreline protections; restoring water quality and freshwater inflows on the Texas coast; and restoration of high-quality coastal habitats in the Texas portion of the Chenier Plain complex, which extends from Galveston Bay to Vermillion Bay, Louisiana.
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.