COVID Cases Continue an Upward Trend, Hospitalizations Also Rise Slightly
New infections continue on an upward trend, with 5,437 new cases reported by the state today. The number of new infections have continued a slow but steady rise over the past several weeks, but seem to be fairly steady over the last few days. These cases are apparently mild in nature. While hospitalizations are on the rise, they continue to remain low relative to the peak numbers during the height of the pandemic. As of yesterday, there were 1,543 people hospitalized with COVID related illness, which is roughly 100 more than one week ago.
Uvalde School Shooting
House Speaker Dade Phelan has proposed several school safety priorities to be put in place prior to the start of the school year in August. The priorities carry a price tag of over $100 million, and focus on mental health and response to active shooter scenarios. The legislature is not in session and it is very unlikely that Gov. Abbott will call them in for special session prior to the next scheduled regular session in January. Therefore, Phelan is proposing that his priorities can be achieved by redirecting state funds without the need for new laws.
Phelan’s proposals were sent in a letter to Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. Also in the letter, Phelan endorsed Patrick’s original proposal for $50 million to equip school district police with bulletproof shields. In addition, Phelan proposes increased therapy teams to deal with juvenile violent offenders, care teams for youth diagnosed with psychosis, providing active shooter response training to all law enforcement officers and cadets, and additional funding for silent panic alert systems for schools. Phelan says in his letter that all of these proposals and funding mechanisms can be realized through actions by the Legislative Budget Board, which has the power to manage appropriations when the legislature is not in session.
Most have seen that the US Senate has reached a basic agreement for the parameters to be put into legislation regarding gun safety measures in response to the shooting. The agreement was put forth by 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats, and includes enhanced background checks for juveniles and gives financial incentives to states to pass red flag laws, which prevent domestic abusers from obtaining guns. The deal has not been finalized, and will face substantial opposition from 2nd amendment advocates.
The Texas House Special Investigative Committee on the Uvalde School Shooting will hold two meetings on Thursday and Friday of this week in Uvalde. The committee posting says they will hear invited testimony only from law enforcement, local authorities and other affected parties. Most of the testimony and interviews will be held in executive session, out of public view. A full list of those testifying has not been released at this time. It is unclear whether or not embattled school district police chief Pete Arredondo will testify.
Texas Breaks Power Demand Record
This brutal heat wave experienced by most of the state over the weekend caused an all-time high in electricity use on Sunday. Much of the state had temperatures of over 100 degrees with all but 8 of the state’s 254 counties under a heat advisory. As the grid held up without any problems on Sunday, several hundred homes and businesses in north Texas were without power on Monday. Oncor, the electric provider for most of the region, said that the unusually high temperatures put stress on their electrical equipment, causing outages to about 1,000 homes and businesses. Some areas in and around Plano experienced extended outages. High temperatures are predicted at least through the weekend and early part of next week, with little to no rain chances in the forecast.
Today is election day for the special election for Congressional District 34 in the Rio Grande Valley. Former Democratic Congressman Filemon Vela of Brownsville resigned earlier this year, triggering the need for the special election. The winner of today’s election will serve the remaining six months of the current term. Republican Mayra Flores, who is also the Republican nominee for the seat for the 2022 regular election that will determine who will be sworn in to serve the full term starting in January of 2023, is leading in locally done polls with 43%, but there are still a substantial number of undecideds. Former county commissioner Dan Sanchez is the leading Democrat, favored by 34% of the respondents. Current Congressman Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat from McAllen who is the Democratic nominee for the seat, chose not to run in the special election. Gonzalez did not seek reelection in his current Congressional District 15, choosing instead to run in this newly created Congressional District 34.
The nation’s largest state party convention starts later this week as the Texas Republican Party holds it convention in Houston. Governor Abbott is not on the list of convention speakers, as it was announced that Abbott did not reply to the invitation to speak from the party. Abbott’s only involvement in the festivities will be to host a welcome reception on Thursday night. Matt Rinaldi, a former state representative from the Dallas area, is expected to be reelected chair of the party. In addition, the attendees will debate issues to be included on the party platform that will serve as priorities for the November elections and for legislative priorities for the next legislative session. So far, the party has identified eight issues to focus on for next session: election integrity, religious freedom, a ban on child gender modification, complete abolition of abortion, constitutional carry, monument protection, school choice, and a ban on taxpayer funded lobbying.
With the primary election season over for now, numerous committee hearings are taking place, and many are scheduled in the coming weeks.
Upcoming meetings include the House Special Committee on the Robb Elementary School Shooting in Uvalde, the House State Affairs Committee to discuss the reliability of the electric grid, and the Senate Finance Committee to discuss Medicaid and long term health care funding.
The schedule and details of all interim hearings can be found here: https://capitol.texas.gov