Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Wednesday, June 9th (4:10 PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 2,531,691 (1,277 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 1,607 (11,025 available beds, 926 available ICU beds)
Fatalities – 50,733 (43 new deaths)
Vaccine Data – Wednesday, June 9th (6:40 PM data)
Doses Shipped by state – 21,550,060
People vaccinated – 13,103,910
People fully vaccinated – 10,718,282
Total doses administered – 22,940,213
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Tuesday, June 8th was 2.96%. One month ago, there were 2,900 new cases reported, one week ago there were 1,300 new cases reported, compared to the 1,277 reported yesterday. The 1,607 COVID patients in hospitals now is 124 fewer patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 2.4% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 82,925 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of Monday, June 7th , 36.8% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
Abbott Signs Bills Addressing Electric Grid
Yesterday, Gov. Abbott signed Senate Bills 2 and 3, in a formal ceremony at the Capitol. The bills were in response to the massive winter storm in February that caused massive blackouts, exposing the weaknesses of the state’s energy delivery system. ERCOT, the operator of the state’s electric grid, shouldered much of the blame for the failures. SB 2 resulted in significant changes to the ERCOT board. Prior to and during the storm, most of ERCOT’s board members, including the chair, resided out of state, and were appointed by the electric companies that it regulates. SB 2 calls for all members to be residents of Texas, and revises the appointments process to be determined by the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker of the House. All out of state appointees and the board’s executive director have resigned in the aftermath of the storm.
SB 3 attempts to make changes to the operational side of the state’s power supply chain by putting in place a more certain system of detemining when and if rolling blackouts are necessary during extreme weather events and requiring all energy companies to upgrade their facilities to ensure they are able to withstand extreme temperatures and continue normal operations. These upgrades are estimated to have costs that run into the billions of dollars, and there is no funding mechanism in the legislation. Therefore, the costs of the weatherization process will eventually fall on the backs of the ultmate consumer.
Businesses Cannot Require Proof of Vaccine
Abbott also recently signed SB 968, which prohibits businesses from requiring a proof of vaccine for their customers. There is no real enforcement mechanism in the bill, so it is mostly ceremonial. The only types of businesses that this directly applies to are those that have contracts with the state. The bill says the state can deny or cancel state contracts with any business that requires proof of vaccine from any customer. This is an extension of an executive order issued by Abbott in April that banned state agencies and political subdivisions that receive state funds from requiring proof of vaccine to receive state assistance. Businesses can still require vaccine protocols such as temperature checks and other screening measures.
Republican Party Chair Resigns
Allen West, the former Republican Congressman from Florida, was first elected chair of the Republican Party of Texas in July of 2020. This week, he announed he is resigning from that post effective July 11th, which is the scheduled date of the next meeting of the State Republican Executive Committee. West’s resignation is fueling speculation that he will challenge Gov. Abbott in next year’s Republican primary. West is a frequent, vocal critic of Abbott for his handling of the pandemic, citing Abbott’s directive to require masks and to shutter most businesses throughout the state. West has said he will seek statewide office next year, but has said that specifics on which office he will be seeking are forthcoming. Abbott has already drawn one opponent for the primary race. Former state Senator Don Huffines, now a real estate developer in Dallas, announced earlier this year he will challenge Abbott. Current Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, also a former state Representative from Stephenville, is also considering a primary challenge to Abbott.
Other Election Notes
Land Commissioner George P Bush announced last week that he would challenge incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton in next year’s Republican primary. Earlier this week, state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman announced her resignation from the court, and she is rumored to now be preparing to also enter the Republican primary race for AG. Guzman was first appointed to the court in 2009 by then Gov. Rick Perry, and then won election to the court in 2010 and 2016.
Paxton’s entire tenure has been marked with legal and political troubles. He is still under a federal felony indictment tied to unlicensed promotion of an investment firm, as well as accusations of bribery and infidelity tied to a generous campaign donor. And just yesterday, to add to his troubles, the Texas State Bar announced that they are opening an investigation into Paxton regarding his attempt to overturn the 2020 Presidential election. The Associated Press reported yesterday that due to numerous complaints received by the Bar association, they will now look into whether or not Paxton’s efforts and activities related the attempt to overturn the election amounted to professional misconduct.
State Senator Dawn Buckingham, a Republican from Lakeway, is attempting to take advantage of the vacancy at the Land Office. She has announced she will not seek reelection to the Senate, but will now seek the Republican nomination for Land Commissioner. Buckingham was first elected to the Senate in 2016, and faces an uphill battle due to little statewide recognition and few accomplishments while in the Senate. Former Austin city councilwoman Ellen Troxclair has already announced her intention to seek the Republican nomination for the Senate seat next year. However, the geographical makeup of the seat is undetermined at this time, as the district will likely change substantially due to the redistricting process that will take place later this year.
State Senators have not fared well recently when trying to seek other offices. Senator Royce West (D,Dallas) was defeated last year in the Democratic primary race for US Senate. MJ Hegar won the primary and then eventually lost to incumbent John Cornyn. Former Senator Leticial Van de Putte ran unsuccessfully in 2014 for Lt. Governor and for mayor of San Antonio in 2015.
Signing Period/Special Session
Governor Abbott has until Sunday, June 20th to sign or veto all the bills sent to him by the Legislature. As of yesterday, he had nearly 1,000 bills still to consider. After that, he said he will make an annoucement on the timing of the first special session, which is expected to begin in either July or August.