COVID Cases and Hospitalizations Continue to Rise

New infections continue an upward trend, with 9,223 cases reported by the state on Friday (no data was collected over the holiday weekend).   That is an increase in the daily seven day rolling average of nearly 7,500 daily cases.  Hospitalizations are also on the rise.  The state is reporting 2,510 people hospitalized with COVID illness, an increase in over 400 patients from one week ago.

Uvalde School Shooting

State leaders announced last week they are appropriating $105 million to expand school safety measures and enhanced mental health services for students.  The funds are available through a budget surplus in the Foundation School Program.  $50 million is going towards the purchase of bullet proof shields for school district personnel and law enforcement,; $17 million will go to school districts for the purchasing of silent panic alarm systems; $10 million will go towards rapid response training for local law enforcement; $7 million will go towards campus safety assessments; $5 million to DPS for research; $11.5 million goes to the Health and Human Services Commission to expand telemedicine and other therapy  and care services, and $5 million to assess the mental health needs in Uvalde.

Texas’ largest grocery chain, HEB, has committed $10 million to demolish Robb Elementary School and build a new elementary school campus in Uvalde.  The new location of the campus has not been determined, but will modernize and enhance the learning tools and be able to adequately accommodate the 538 students currently in grades 2-4.  State of the art safety and security measures will also be included in the new campus.  No start or finish dates have been determined.

Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arrendondo has resigned from the Uvalde City Council.  In a letter to the Council, Arrendondo cited the need to reduce further distractions as the community attempts to recover from the tragedy.  Arredondo was elected to city council shortly before the shooting, and has been on administrative leave from his job with the school district police department during the shooting investigation.  He has come under heavy scrutiny and criticism for the delayed response by his department during the incident.  In a recent state Senate committee hearing, the head of the DPS called the response by the Uvalde School District Police Department an “abject failure”.

Roe v. Wade

Late Friday night, the Texas Supreme Court issued a ruling declaring that the state’s nearly century old abortion ban can be enforced in civil court, making all abortions in Texas illegal.  This was in response to an emergency motion filed by Texas AG Ken Paxton earlier in the day to stay the ruling of a trial level court on Thursday allowing abortions to continue pending the final issuance by the US Supreme Court overturning the 50 year old Roe v. Wade decision.  All of this legal wrangling was done since the state’s “trigger” law will not officially go into effect until the final filing of the opinion by the US Supreme Court.  A trial level court attempted to allow the procedures to continue in the interim, but AG Paxton cited the state’s 1925 abortion law – still on the books – that criminalizes doctors for performing abortions.  The Texas Supreme Court sided with Paxton, thus outlawing all abortion procedures effective immediately.

Border News

The US Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Biden administration can end the immigration policy that forces asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their cases are heard in US immigration courts.  The program was established in 2019, but was canceled in June of 2021.  The states of Texas and Missouri sued the Biden administration saying that ending the program will increase illegal immigration and force the states to spend more resources on migrants.  After the states filed suit, the program was reinstated in August of last year.  Throughout the life of the program, about 70,000 migrants have been sent to Mexico that were seeking asylum here.  Of that number, less than 2% have been granted asylum, according to the Records Access Clearinghouse operated by Syracuse University.  Officials with the Biden administration said a decision has not been made as to if or when the program would again be terminated, but they do have the right to end it immediately.

Texas will add new checkpoints for trucks entering the state from Mexico in response to the deaths of 53 migrants that were transported in a tractor-trailer last week.  The DPS said the new checkpoints will be strategically placed along smuggling corridors that connect the border to major cities in the state.  The DPS also said the department will move officers that are currently assisting with inspections at the border further out to the new checkpoints.


Sales Tax Revenue Up

On Friday, state Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced that sales tax collections rose over 16% in the month of June compared to June of 2021.  The strongest growth was seen in the sectors of mining, manufacturing, and construction.  The restaurant and personal services sectors also saw an increase.  The only sector in the business economy that saw a decrease was retail sales in the furniture and home furnishings industries.  Sales tax revenue is the largest source of revenue for the state, accounting for nearly 60% of all state tax collections.  With most areas of the economy performing better than expected coming out of the pandemic, the state will see a substantial surplus of funds when the legislature convenes in January to write its biennial state budget.  Some state leaders are estimating the state could have as much as $30 billion in additional state funds next year.

Political Notes

More polls are coming out regarding the Governor’s race.  Most recently, CBS-YouGov published a poll last week that shows Gov. Abbott continuing to maintain a healthy lead over Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke.  The poll showed Abbott favored by 49% of likely voters, comparted to 41% for O’Rourke.  One bit of bad news for Abbott is that his approval rating continues to be underwater.  Of the respondents, 46% approve of the job he’s doing compared with 54% who disapprove.  Abbott was also rated poorly regarding his handling of the Uvalde shooting, with only 45% approving of his response compared to 55% who think he has done a poor job leading the state’s response.  However, the good news for Abbott is that his approval rating is still above 50% among Republican voters.

The poll also had questions regarding the jobs being done by our two US Senators.  Senator John Cornyn received dismal reviews by voters overall, receiving an approval rating of just 35% among all voters.  His disapproval stands at 65%.  Ted Cruz is also underwater, but fares better than Cornyn, breaking at 42% approval compared to 58% disapproval.  Among Republicans, Cornyn still polls well with an approval rating of 53%, but that is more than 20 points behind his colleague Senator Cruz, who enjoys a 75% approval rating among Republicans in the state.

The poll was conducted from June 22nd-27th among 1,075 registered voters. The margin of error is +/- 4.7%.

Separately from the above mentioned poll, the Republican Party of Texas conducted a poll at their convention earlier this month among the 2,700 delegates at the convention. The poll was done by text, and gave the delegates 24 hours to respond, while attending the convention.  Gov. Abbott received a favorable rating by 51% of the delegates, compared to a 32% unfavorable rating.  One thing that stood out in the poll was the question regarding US Senator John Cornyn’s approval.  Cornyn, who at  the time of the convention, was helping to lead negotiations on the recently passed federal gun safety legislation, received an unfavorable rating from a whopping 76% of the delegates.  Only 16% of the delegates said they approved of the job Cornyn is doing.

The party also conducted an informal straw poll regarding the 2024 Presidential race.  54% of the delegates favored former President Trump, while 30% favored Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.  Texas Senator Ted Cruz was the choice of 4% of the delegates.  With Trump removed from the question, 71% favored DeSantis and Cruz was favored by 9%.  In both scenarios, Gov. Abbott received less than 1%.

We are also sad to report the passing of former state Senator Bill Haley.  Haley was a Democrat from Center, in deep East Texas.  He was first elected to the state House in 1978 and then elected to the state Senate in 1988, where he served until 1995.  Haley’s biggest accomplishment was the passing of HB 72 in 1984, the so-called “No Pass, No Play” bill, which at the time was the most comprehensive reform of public education.  After leaving the Senate, Haley went on to lobby for the trucking industry and then for public education matters.

What’s Next??

With the summer months here, and several legislative conferences being held nationally over the next few weeks, committee hearings have slowed down.  But, there are a few scheduled.  The Senate Finance committee meets next week to discuss the appropriation of federal COVID relief funds and to monitor the state spending programs regarding border enforcement.  Later in the month, the House Public Education Committee will meet to discuss issues related to public school finance and to evaluate state policy on curriculum and instructional materials.

The schedule and details of all interim hearings can be found here: