Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Thursday, May 20th (12:25 PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 2,504,484 (1,237 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 2,103 (10,782 available beds, 914 available ICU beds)
Fatalities – 50,051 (52 new deaths)
Vaccine Data – Thursday, May 20th (2:15 PM data)
Doses Shipped by state – 21,129,000
People vaccinated – 12,101,315
People fully vaccinated – 9,621,201
Total doses administered – 20,952,077
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Wednesday, May 19th was 3.69%. One month ago, there were 3,400 new cases reported, one week ago there were 1,800 new cases reported, compared to the 1,237 reported yesterday. The 2,103 COVID patients in hospitals now is 250 fewer patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 3.2% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 146,426 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of Wednesday, May 19th , 33.2% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
House and Senate Clash Over Priorities
Tensions between the two chambers always seem to heighten during this time of the session, but the anomosity between the two is threatening to kill major priorities of each body. On Thursday, House members publicly expressed frustration over the fact that the Senate had not taken up a package of health care and criminal justice related legislation that is a priority of Speaker Dade Phelan. With both chambers approaching deadlines to approve legislation, the House abruptly adjourned Thursday afternoon until Sunday, even though bills had been set on the calendar for consideration on the floor for both Friday and Saturday. This unscheduled recess in the process places many Senate bills under consideration in the House in great peril.
Several Senate bills are awaiting House approval, including a ban on cities and counties from using tax dollars to employ lobbyists, a bill requiring the playing of the national anthem before sporting events, and restrictions on transgender students participation in high school sports. In the Senate, still under consideration are major House priorities such as revision of the death penalty statute to exclude anyone that did not actually commit the murder, a bill on the revision of bail practices, and a bill to allow mothers on medicaid to keep their coverage for one year after giving birth.
The Senate is scheduled to convene in session today, and the House members will be watching closely to determine whether or not there is enough movement on these priorities to warrant a return to moving through the calendars already set on the floor. Also, Sunday at 10PM is the deadline for the House to place any additional bills on the House floor for consideration. All Senate bills must be considered by the full House by midnight on Tuesday or they will be declared dead for the session.
Abbott Signs Fetal Heartbeat Bill
In a well publicized ceremony in the Governor’s public reception room, Abbott signed into law SB 8, which prohibits abortions as soon as a hearbeat is detected in the fetus. Most members of the House and Senate Republican caucuses attended the reception. The bill will undoubtedly lead to extensive court battles due to the fact that this is now considered one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. Similar laws have been passed in other states, but the Texas law is different in the fact that this bill allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps anyone get an abortion after the heartbeat has been detected.
Consensus Reached on State Budget
On Wednesday, the conference committee meeting to hash out the differences between the House and Senate on the biennal state budget announced they have come to an agreement and will be voting the bill out of the conference committee next week. The total budget for the state for the 2022-23 biennium will be roughly $250 billion. The House had put in their version an amendment directing the Legislature – not the Governor – to make the decisions on how to spend the incoming federal COVID relief funds. Texas is expected to receive $16 billion from the federal governement this summer to assist in state fiscal recovery and relief. However, the conference committee removed that provision. But, on Thursday, Gov. Abbott said he will make sure the Legislature will take the lead in the allocation of the funds. Lawmakers have already been told they will return in the fall for a special session, mainly to deal with redistricting. Abbott has said he will now add the allocation of the federal funds to the call of the special session.
Senate Passes Homeless Camp Ban
Over the past two years, since the city of Austin eliminated their ban on homeless encampments, the homeless issue has received a tremendous amount of attention. The problem has become completely unmanageable here in Austin, with tents and homeless encampments lining city streets, city parks, and obstructing roadways and business entrances throughout the city. The problem became so bad, that even the ultra-liberal residents of Austin voted overwhelmingly to reinstate the camping ban in the city. In an attempt to further resolve the issue, the Senate has passed a bill that would make camping in any unapproved area of any location in the state a crime. The House approved the bill earlier this month. The bill received bipartisan support, with very few dissenting votes in either House. The bill says cities can pass local ordinances that are more strict than state law, but they cannot opt out of the camping ban.
The House will convene at 1PM on Sunday and take up the bills that were not considered on the Friday and Saturday calendars. The Senate will convene at 10AM today and then recess until Sunday afternoon. The session ends on May 31st