Here’s a quick recap of what happened this week:
Record Heat, Heat, Heat
Austin has set a record for days with triple-digit heat. As of today, Austin will reach 100 degrees for the 28th straight day. Austin has seen the thermometer reach at least 100 every day since July 8th, and the forecast calls for no relief for the foreseeable future. Austin is expected to see temperatures of at least 105 through the weekend and through the middle of next week, at least. But we are not alone by any stretch. Dallas has excessive heat warnings in effect through the weekend, with forecast highs of 105 or above for the next 7 days. Houston has also seen temperatures reach over 100 lately also with little to no relief in sight. The heat index in parts of Houston reached 108 on Wednesday. And speaking of the coast, August is typically a very active month for the development of tropical storms. The heatwave has caused unusually high water temperatures in the gulf, which is conducive for the development of tropical systems.
Peak demand was at about 4:30PM yesterday when demand was at 83,300 megawatts. That is the equivalent of about 16.5 million homes/businesses running their air conditioners at one time. ERCOT had a capacity of just over 91,000 megawatts at that time. The agency is forecasting even more demand, with a predicted demand of nearly 84,000 megawatts by August 9th. ERCOT predicts they will continue to meet the demand and pledges to have nearly 98,000 megawatts available at that time.
If you are interested in monitoring grid conditions, go to the ERCOT website: https://www.ercot.com
Illegal border crossings increased by over 30% in July according to data from US Customs and Border Protection. More than 130,000 arrests were made by CBP agents along the border, compared to 99,545 arrests in June. After Title 42 was lifted – the pandemic era policy that allowed expulsion of migrants – crossings initially decreased. But those gains were not only erased, but saw an increase from previous months. The greatest number of apprehensions have begun to occur in the southwestern desert of Arizona, where smugglers have figured out there are fewer detention spaces there and migrants are therefore more likely to be released. In previous years, illegal migration had decreased during the summer months due to the heat. Temperatures in the border areas in Texas and Arizona routinely have reached 105-110 degrees this summer. But the increase in crossings this summer further proves that the cartels are more attuned to enforcement patterns and operations. Along with the new arrest numbers, the CBP also announced that an estimated 100,000 migrants are currently in northern Mexico ready to attempt entry into the US.
The Eagle Pass City Council has rescinded an affidavit that declared a local park to be private property. In a unanimous vote, the city council reversed a decision last week by the mayor to declare Shelby Park as private property, thus allowing law enforcement to pursue trespass charges against anyone on the property. The park is a common landing area for migrants that have crossed the Rio Grande. The park is also a staging ground for the buoys that are being deployed in the river as a deterrent to migration. The city council met for several hours Tuesday night, and made the decision to rescind the affidavit after hearing numerous citizen complaints. The 47-acre park not only sits on the banks of the river, but also houses a public boat ramp, walking trails, and sports fields available for public use.
As the federal government continues to pursue legal action against the state of Texas for the placement of the barrier buoys in the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass, two bodies were found on Wednesday. One was found stuck between the buoys. The state DPS claims their initial investigation showed the two individuals drowned upstream, and their bodies floated into or near the buoys. This further inflates tensions between state and federal authorities, with both sides claiming the other is being negligent and careless regarding immigration enforcement. Gov. Abbott says the state has no plans to back down from their continued escalation of enforcement, including the placement of more buoys and razor wire along the riverbank.
Latest on Paxton Impeachment
Paxton’s legal team filed a series of motions earlier this week to request that 19 of the 20 articles of impeachment be dismissed and not considered during the Senate trial. They argue that 19 of the 20 accusations against Paxton occurred before the 2022 election – where Paxton was reelected to a third term – and are subject to a “prior term doctrine” that excludes – in the opinion of the Paxton legal team — conduct that took place prior to the most recent election and shall be excluded from consideration. The one charge that the legal team acknowledges is the claim that Paxton misused his official powers by concealing his behavior when complaints were made by agency employees regarding bribery allegations. The employees were ultimately terminated by Paxton, who in turn filed a wrongful termination lawsuit. A proposed settlement of $3.3 million was offered to settle the lawsuit, which Paxton went to the legislature for payment.
After eight years of delays, Paxton finally appeared in court in Houston yesterday for the hearing related to his federal securities fraud case. This initial hearing was largely procedural, with both sides agreeing to return on October 6th for pre-trial motions that would be dependent on the outcome on the Senate impeachment trial. If the trial then moves forward, the judge set the date of February 2024 as the actual start date of the trial. Paxton’s own legal team agreed with prosecutors that if the Senate fails to impeach Paxton, then the securities fraud trial will move forward. If he is impeached, thus ending his political career, then conversations of a different resolution of the charges will be considered. Paxton was indicted on three felony securities fraud charges back in 2015, accusing the suspended AG of misleading investors in a tech related company and failing to register as an investment advisor. Paxton’s legal team had successfully delayed the trial for the past eight years through a series of motions and other legal maneuvers until a federal appellate court ruled earlier this year that the trial must move forward.
US Senator Ted Cruz – facing reelection in 2024 — will be facing a 2nd PAC designated solely for trying to defeat the junior Senator. The Mothers PAC is a retread of the Mothers Against Greg Abbott PAC that worked unsuccessfully to defeat Gov. Abbott in the 2022 election. The PAC raised only $1.6 million for the 2022 cycle and has raised only $171,000 since the November elections. They have also spent nearly all of what they have brought in since January of this year. Lose Cruz PAC has also been formed and is also working solely for the defeat of Cruz in 2024.
In the “no good deed..” category, Amarillo Congressman Ronny Jackson was briefly detained by local law enforcement on Saturday night when attempting to help a teenage girl in medical distress. Jackson – a physician and 2nd term Republican – was attending a rodeo in White Deer when he witnessed the girl seizing and tried to step in to assist. Chaos ensued and law enforcement wrestled the Congressman away from the girl and detained him for a few moments. Once it was realized by law enforcement that Jackson was a doctor and member of Congress, he was released. EMS then took the girl away for treatment.
The first Democrat has declared for the open Texas House District 80. The seat will be open for the 2024 election due to the retirement of longtime incumbent Tracy King. Cecilia Castellano of Atascosa County made her candidacy official yesterday. The only other declared candidate is Republican Don McLaughlin, the former mayor of Uvalde. The seat is currently held by a Democrat, but the Republicans have made flipping the seat a top priority for 2024.
Former state Rep. Matt Krause—who ran unsuccessfully for Tarrant County DA in 2022 – will run for a spot on the Tarrant County commissioners court. Incumbent Gary Fickes will not seek reelection to his Precinct 3 position in 2024, and has endorsed Krause as his successor. Krause served in the Texas House from 2013-2022, and was one of the founding members of the House Freedom Caucus, a far-right caucus formed to champion ultra-conservative issues in the House. Krause also chaired the House General Investigating Committee in the 2021 session. Before the campaign for Tarrant County DA, Krause briefly flirted with a challenge to incumbent AG Ken Paxton in 2022.
With the House and Senate adjourned Sine Die, lawmakers are finally on a break that should last until the beginning of the Paxton impeachment trial in the Senate. Upon completion of the trial, Gov. Abbott has promised to bring lawmakers back to Austin to consider legislation on school vouchers and other public education issues.