Here’s a quick recap of what happened this week:

Record Heat Will Continue

The extreme heat is not only making us uncomfortable, it is also costing the state money.  According to an economic analysis by The Perryman Group, the summer heatwave has cost Texas nearly $10 billion in productivity.  The heat is causing worker shortages and allowing for fewer hours of productivity, resulting in reduced growth and output in areas such as agriculture, construction, and landscaping.  Furthermore, the heatwave leads to increased household costs for air conditioning and watering of lawns, which in turn leads to many Texans having to cut discretionary spending.  In other words, as unexpected costs go up in one area, then spending goes down in other areas.

With all the demand, the grid still continues to keep up with demand.  The state’s electric grid operator – the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) – gives credit to renewable energy for allowing the grid to keep the power flowing.  In a speech to the Texas Public Power Association on Wednesday, the head of ERCOT said the state is now more dependent on renewables such as solar and wind power to meet the increasing demand for power.  Traditional utility companies are investing to meet the growing need for power by adding solar and wind power to their traditional sources of coal and natural gas.  There have been five power use records set so far this summer, with more expected before the heatwave ends.  The beginning August is expected to bring as hot or even hotter temperatures, and demand will continue to climb.

If you are interested in monitoring grid conditions, go to the ERCOT website:

Border News

The US Department of Justice announced Monday they are suing the state of Texas after the state

declined to remove the barrier buoys placed in the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass earlier this month.  Earlier that day, Gov. Abbott sent a letter to President Biden declaring that the state had no intention of removing the buoys, and then went on to blame the administration’s inaction on illegal immigration as the reason the state took the action it did.  The DOJ has given the state one week to commit to removing the buoys.  The lawsuit claims the state has violated the federal Rivers and Harbors Act, which requires approval from the US Army Corps of Engineers for any barriers to be placed in waters under US control.

Eagle Pass mayor Rolando Salinas has signed an affidavit declaring Shelby Park as private property.  The park sits on the Rio Grande and is a major landing point for migrants that have successfully navigated the river to land on US soil.  By declaring the land as private property, the DPS and other law enforcement will now have the authority to enforce the criminal trespass provisions of the Texas Penal Code, thus having the ability to arrest any migrants for trespassing in addition to any relevant immigration infractions.

A federal judge in Oakland, Ca has blocked the Biden administration’s rules for asylum seekers at the border.  The rules took effect in May, and make it more difficult for migrants to seek asylum if they enter the country illegally.  The rules require asylum seekers to apply for safe haven in another country before entering the US.  The judge ruled that new rules imposed conditions on asylum seekers that were not considered by or intended by Congress.  The judge has given the administration 14 days to appeal the ruling before the rule is eliminated.

Latest on Paxton Impeachment

Houston conservative activist Steve Hotze has sued Lt. Governor Patrick challenging the gag order Patrick issued last week, saying the order violates free speech protections.  Hotze, who filed the petition in Travis County district court, also challenges the rule that the full Senate passed blocking Paxton’s wife – state Senator Angela Paxton – from participating in or voting in the trial.

Lawyers for Paxton have made a request for three Democratic members of the Senate to be disqualified from the trial as jurors, thus prohibiting them from participating in the trial or voting on the articles of impeachment.  Paxton’s legal team claims the three Senators – Nathan Johnson of Dallas, Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio, and Jose Menendez of San Antonio – cannot be impartial jurors due to past statements they have made regarding Paxton.  The lawyers say the statements – which they detail in their motion – prove the three members have already made up their mind about Paxton’s guilt and cannot be trusted to listen objectively to the evidence presented at the trial.  The House managers and their legal team immediately filed a motion opposing this request.

The Paxton legal team has also filed a motion to have all 20 articles of impeachment quashed.  They are also asking for dates of the allegations and references to the statutes relevant to the accusations faced by Paxton.  The motion calls for full dismissal of all articles of impeachment unless full details of all allegations are presented.  There will be several more motions filed by both sides in the coming days since August 5th is the deadline that has been imposed on both sides for the filing of pretrial motions.

The Dallas Morning News on Wednesday published an extensive report on conversations between state Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano and Michelle Smith, one of Paxton’s senior advisors.  In the exchange, Leach indicated he was very unhappy about Paxton asking the legislature to fund the $3.3 million settlement in a whistleblower lawsuit involving former Attorney General agency employees.  Leach, a Republican from Collin County – where Paxton is from – informs Smith that many in the House are “pissed” that no lawmakers were given a head’s up that Paxton was agreeing to a settlement and would be asking for taxpayer dollars to pay the settlement.  This exchange foreshadowed what was to come.  The request for the money for the settlement is the reason the House began its full investigation into Paxton, leading to his subsequent impeachment.

And finally, and several years of delay, the securities fraud case against Paxton is moving forward.  Paxton faces felony charges on a two-count federal indictment on securities fraud and failure to register with state securities regulators.  Paxton is accused of misleading investors in a failed tech start up in 2015.  After years of motions and delay tactics by his defense team, the trial has finally been set to begin on August 3rd in Houston.

Political Notes

In what may come as a surprise, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis outraised all other Republican Presidential contenders in the state of Texas over the last three months.  DeSantis raised slightly more than $2 million since May of this year, compared to $1.7 million raised by former President Trump.  DeSantis held a series of fundraisers in June in Texas, focusing on the oil and gas and real estate industries for the lion’s share of his haul.  However, even though DeSantis outraised Trump in the last three months, Trump still remains the overwhelming favorite among the state’s Republican primary voters.  A poll released last week by Quinnipiac University showed Trump with a 54% to 27% advantage over DeSantis among likely primary voters.

The University of Houston released a poll this week of likely voters in the upcoming Houston mayoral race.  According to the poll, state Senator John Whitmire is the leading choice, coming in at 34%.  Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is a close second at 32%, with 22% of voters still undecided.  More importantly, the poll showed that if the race went to a runoff between Whitmire and Jackson Lee, Whitmire has an 18-point head-to-head advantage.  None of the other 12 candidates in the race drew more than 3% support.

In campaign news, with the announcement of Rep. Four Price not seeking reelection, the first candidate has emerged.  Carter Estes, who serves in the intergovernmental affairs office for the city of Amarillo, is running for the seat.  He will run as a Republican in the solidly red seat.

Also, first term incumbent Ben Bumgarner (R, Flower Mound) has drawn an opponent.  Democrat Denise Wooten will seek a rematch in 2024. In 2022, Bumgarner bested Wooten by a 56% to 44% margin in the Denton County based House seat.

And the retirement announcements continue as well.  Yesterday, Rep. Lina Ortega of El Paso announced she will not seek reelection.  The Democrat was first elected in 2016, serving district 77 which encompasses parts of central and southwestern El Paso County.

And finally, Don McLaughlin has resigned his position as mayor of Uvalde to run for state House District 80, the seat currently held by Rep. Tracy King.  King announced last week that he will not seek reelection in 2024.  McLaughlin – who will run as a Republican – announced yesterday he has already raised $100,000 for his campaign.  He is also the only candidate in the race so far.

And speaking of Uvalde, Kimberly Mata-Rubio announced yesterday she will run for mayor of Uvalde, in honor of her 10-year-old daughter who was killed in the Robb Elementary School shooting.  Mata-Rubio has been a vocal and visible proponent of reducing gun violence in the aftermath of the tragedy.  She will run as a Democrat.  The only other candidate in the race as of now is Republican Cody Smith, who has previously served as mayor of Uvalde.  Candidates have until September to file for the November 7th election.

What’s Next??

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, which begins September 5th.  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.