COVID Cases Rise, but Hospitalizations Remain Low
New infections continue on an upward trend, with 1,340 new cases reported by the state yesterday. There was a small spike of cases last week, with the seven day average increasing by 76 cases. These cases are apparently mild in nature because, hospitalizations continue to decline. As of Monday, May 2nd, there were 783 people hospitalized with COVID related illness, which is down by 17 compared to one week ago.
Voters Overwhelmingly Approve Constitutional Amendments
Saturday was the first time since 2007, and only the fifth time in the state’s history that statewide voters were asked to consider amendments to the state constitution in an even numbered year. Prior to Saturday, all but 11 of the state’s 690 proposed amendments to the constitution had been sent to the voters in the November following the regular session, which occurs every odd numbered year. Proposition 1 – revising homestead valuation for the elderly and disabled – passed with 87% of the vote and Proposition 2 – increasing the homestead exemption – passed with 85% of the vote. 7.6% of registered voters in the state turned out for the election. The state constitution has now been amended 509 times.
Austin Voters Approve Marijuana and No Knock Warrants
Voters in the Capitol City approved two controversial measures in Saturday’s elections. The first prevents police from enforcing laws against possessing small amounts of marijuana and the other prevents police from entering properties unannounced using “no-knock” warrants. Both measures passed with over 85% of the vote. With the passage of the marijuana measure, police will no longer be able to make an arrest for the possession of a small amount of the drug, they can now only seize the substance. The second measure still allows police to enter a residence with a signed warrant, but only after announcing their presence.
Abbott Asks Feds to Pay for Undocumented Students
A 1982 US Supreme Court decision struck down a Texas law on the books that denied state funding for undocumented students in public schools. The case started in the Tyler ISD, when the district began to expel students that could not produce a valid birth certificate proving citizenship. The 1982 decision required states to pay for the education of all students enrolled in public schools, regardless of citizenship status. Last week, on a podcast, Gov. Abbott said he would like to revisit this decision, and require the federal government to cover the costs of educating undocumented students in the state’s public schools. Currently, the state does not track the citizenship of the students in public schools, so there is no way to estimate how many undocumented students are currently enrolled in our public schools. Abbott said that with the lifting of Title 42 next month, he fears “ that there will be an increasing number of new students that will overburden many already overcrowded school districts.” Addressing illegal immigration has been the cornerstone of Abbott’s reelection campaign, and he went on to say that “the expected increase in migrants entering the state leads to obligations that are simply unsustainable”.
Abbott Endorses School Vouchers
Along with critical race theory, participation in sports by transgender athletes, and the limits of virtual learning, school voucher proposals have been a very hot topic that have been considered by the legislature for the past several sessions, but none of the proposals have gotten much traction due to the vehement opposition by rural Republicans and Democrats. Voucher measures would allow students to use state funding to attend private or charter schools instead of their assigned public school. Last night at a campaign rally in San Antonio, Gov. Abbott said he supports school voucher measures that allow the student and parents to choose which school to attend. On the other side of this argument, as mentioned above, are most Democrats along with rural Republican members of the Texas House, which represent the most reliable and strongest Republican strongholds in the state. Opponents to vouchers say such a program will deplete the already scarce state resources sent to urban and rural schools, and further harm the traditional public school system. Proponents of the programs say this gives parents more choice over their children’s education, and allows for flexibility when some schools impose restrictions and mandates with which the parents disagree, exemplified during the COVID pandemic when some schools imposed mask mandates and virtual learning against the wishes of the parents. Expect school officials and parents from rural areas of the state to storm the Capitol in opposition to this proposal during the interim period as lawmakers prepare for the regular session.
State Bar Suing AG Paxton
The State Bar of Texas – the regulatory arm of the legal profession – has been investigating Attorney General Ken Paxton over complaints of misconduct surrounding the filing of a lawsuit challenging the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election in four states. On Friday, Paxton said he expects the Bar to bring a lawsuit alleging ethical misconduct and recommending disciplinary action against the state Attorney General. Paxton went on to say that their claims are baseless, and the Bar is nothing but a liberal activist organization. Bar investigations are confidential, however the initial complaint in this case was brought by a group called Lawyers Defending American Democracy and 16 active lawyers in the state. Four of the 16 are former presidents of the state Bar. Paxton remains under federal indictment for a 2015 securities fraud charge and is also under investigation by the FBI for abuse of office claims.
Dallas Mayor Wants a Second NFL Team
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson advocated, through a series of tweets this week, that the NFL should consider Dallas for a second NFL franchise. Johnson cites the fact that Dallas is on pace to pass Chicago as the 3rd largest metro area in the country, and thus the DFW metro area should have two NFL teams. The two larger metro areas – New York and Los Angeles – are both home to two NFL franchises. When contacted, the Mayor’s office admitted no conversations with the league, or the existing Dallas Cowboys, have taken place. But, his staff reiterated that when and if expansion or relocation talks take place, Dallas should be part of those conversations. Johnson also believes that the area of southern Dallas would be ideal for a new team, since the Cowboys do not play in Dallas. The Cowboys play their home games in Arlington, and have their practice facility in Frisco.
In a special election to fill the unexpired term of Rep. Garnet Coleman, the long serving Houston Democrat who resigned in March, Jolanda Jones defeated Danielle Bess Keys by a margin of 202 votes and will now fill the unexpired term, which lasts through the end of this year. Jones will be sworn in as soon as the votes are canvassed. However, these two will face off again on May 24th, which is the date for all state level runoffs for races not decided on the March 1st primary election date. The winner of the runoff will be the nominee for the November election, which will decide who will serve a full two-year term beginning in 2023.
A University of Texas/Texas Politics Project poll released last week shows incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott with a comfortable 11 point lead over Democrat Beto O’Rourke. The poll shows Abbott as the preference of 48% of the respondents, compared to 37% for O’Rourke. In the same poll, Republicans lead the generic ballot test for Congress by a margin of 48% to 39%.
The last Democrat that served in the US Senate representing the state of Texas died last week. Bob Krueger passed away of congestive heart failure at his home in New Braunfels at the age of 86. Krueger was appointed to the US Senate in 1993 by then Gov. Ann Richards to replace Lloyd Bentsen, who resigned to serve as Treasury Secretary under President Bill Clinton. Krueger served only five months, eventually losing in November of 1993 to Kay Bailey Hutchison, who served from 1994 until 2012. Krueger also had previously served two terms in the US House of Representatives. After his defeat in 1993, he was appointed as Ambassador to Burundi by President Clinton.
With the runoff date of May 24th approaching, several candidates are making their way to Austin for fundraisers. In addition, numerous committee hearings are taking place, and many are scheduled in the coming weeks.
Several committees such as House Elections, Insurance, and Public Education Committees, as well as the Senate Finance and Business and Commerce committees have all posted hearings.
The schedule and details of all interim hearings can be found here: https://capitol.texas.gov