COVID Cases and Hospitalizations Continue to Rise
New infections continue an upward trend, with 6,154 cases reported by the state on Monday. That is down slightly from the daily seven day rolling average of nearly 7,500 daily cases Hospitalizations are also on the rise. The state is reporting 2,223 people hospitalized with COVID illness, an increase in nearly 300 patients from one week ago.
Uvalde School Shooting
The head of the Texas Senate Committee investigating the Uvalde school shooting said in an interview with WFAA last week that the state failed Uvaled. Senator Robert Nichols, a Republican from Jacksonville in east Texas, made the statements after two days of hearings in the Capitol. Nichols said that it was clear that the systems the state has in place – from police training to school safety to mental health services – all failed. Nichols says the Senate is on a good path now to accomplish the goals necessary to try and avoid a repeat of this incident. He says that it is too early in the process to talk specifics, but the testimony from law enforcement has given him and his fellow Senate colleagues a better sense of who should be in charge on scene. The committee will make recommendations sometime this fall to be considered when the regular session begins in January.
Exactly one month after the horrific shooting at Robb Elementary, high school students in Uvalde gathered to receive their diplomas. The class of 288 students gathered in the football stadium, where the ceremony had originally been scheduled to take place on May 27th, three days after the shooting. In a somber ceremony, the class valedictorian read the names of the 19 slain children, who were made honorary members of the 2022 graduating class. Several students and families, not yet ready for a celebration or normalcy, chose to forgo the ceremony and receive their diplomas in the mail.
Migrants Found Dead in Abandoned Truck
At least 50 people were found dead in an abandoned trailer near San Antonio last night. In addition to the 50 that were found dead, an additional 16 were taken to area hospitals for treatment for heat stroke and dehydration. The victims are all believed to be migrants that are part of a human trafficking scheme that continues to be problematic as the situation at the Texas/Mexico border worsens. The discovery was made approximately 6PM last night when a passerby heard a cry for help from the trailer and went to investigate. The federal Department of Homeland Security will lead the investigation along with help from the San Antonio Police Department.
Roe v. Wade
With the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, Texas’ trigger law will go into effect in the next few weeks. The law – passed last session – bans all abortions once the action of the court is final. The law will take effect 30 days after the opinion is formally published, which usually takes about 30 days. The law only makes exceptions to save the life of the mother or if there is a threat of substantial impairment of bodily function. The new Texas law will not allow exceptions for cases of rape and incest.
Abortion clinics in Texas stopped all procedures after the ruling on Friday. Texas law regarding abortion, most of which was on the books prior to the original Roe v. Wade decision, criminalizes anyone performing an abortion, and creates a penalty of up to life in prison. On Monday, abortion providers in the state sued to stop Texas from enforcing its laws that criminalize the abortion process. They are seeking a temporary restraining order to block enforcement of the law. Even before the ruling on Friday, many clinics had stopped performing the procedure due to the ban created by the “heartbeat bill”, also passed last session that bans abortions when a heartbeat can be detected, usually at about six weeks.
Texas residents can still legally travel out of state to obtain an abortion. And, other contraceptive measures such as the morning after pill are still allowed. Both of these are still protected by other legal precedent.
June Heat Leading to Historic Drought
Most of the state has experienced unprecedented heat during the month of June. In Austin, we have seen temperatures over 100 degrees for 20 of the 28 days so far. The most troubling byproduct of the sweltering heat is the ongoing drought. June, which is typically a fairly wet month for Austin, had seen only 0.6 inches of recorded rain in our metro area before yesterday’s brief showers which brought less than an inch of rain to the area. Lake Travis, the reservoir west of town that serves as the city’s main drinking water source, stands at 58% full, which is 19 feet below the June average.
Statewide, according to the National Weather Service, 93% of the state is considered to be under some level of drought. 18% of the state is experiencing exceptional drought, defined by exceptional crop loss, high fire danger, and loss of wildlife. Hay is in short supply, which affects the cattle industry, and other crops such as corn, grain, and cotton are in severe decline. The spring delivered only a fraction of its normal rainfall statewide, and saw temperatures in May in the 90’s in many parts of the state. And, finally, there is no relief in sight. The National Weather Service concluded in its most recent seasonal forecast released on June 17th that “significant relief for the state is unlikely this summer, barring a tropical system”.
The Abbott campaign has invested nearly $12 million in TV and media buys in preparation for the November election. Last week, the campaign announced a $2.75 million buy in the Spanish speaking media, saying he wants to capitalize on gains made by Republicans in south Texas. And yesterday, the campaign announced an additional $9 million buy in other broadcast and cable media that will allow the campaign to select time in local programming and sporting events taking place closer to the election.
East Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, Republican from Lufkin, asked President Trump for a pardon for his role in trying to overturn the 2020 Presidential election. The information came to light last week during Congressional hearings regarding the January 6th Capitol insurrection, according to a deposition made available to the committee of an aide to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. According to reports from the hearing, Gohmert and six other Congressional colleagues asked for the pardon because of their role in “orchestrating a plan to overturn the election and organizing events at the Capitol that devolved into attacks on the Capitol”. Gohmert denies that he ever asked for a pardon. Gohmert, who is not seeking reelection to the US House, ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for Texas Attorney General earlier this year.
Frederick Frazier, the Republican nominee for state House District 61 in Collin County, has been indicted on charges of impersonating a public servant. During the primary campaign, Frazier’s opponent accused him of claiming to be a city code enforcement officer at a local Wal-Mart, and telling the store employees that the opponent’s signs had to be removed. Frazier, who works as a Dallas police officer, has been placed on administrative leave by the department pending the outcome of the probe. Frazier has turned himself in to Collin County authorities and said he looks forward to beating the indictment. House District 61 is in Collin County, and contains parts of McKinney and Frisco. It is rated as a lean Republican seat for the November election. Frazier is scheduled to take on Democrat Sheena King in the general election.
The Special House Committee investigating the Uvalde shooting will meet again in Uvalde this week. All testimony will be taken in private. Also next week, the House State Affairs Committee meets 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