COVID Cases Continue an Upward Trend, but Hospitalizations Remain Low
New infections continue on an upward trend, with 2,658 new cases reported by the state yesterday. The number of new infections have continued a slow but steady rise over the past two weeks. These cases are apparently mild in nature because, hospitalizations continue to remain low. As of yesterday, there were 901 people hospitalized with COVID related illness, which is 65 more than one week ago, but consistent with the running seven day average.
Uvalde School Shooting
We have all heard about the horrific shooting that took place in Uvalde yesterday. Uvalde is a town of about 15,000 people, 80 miles west of San Antonio. A gunman, identified as 18-year old Salvador Ramos, entered Robb Elementary School just after 11:30AM with a handgun and possibly a rifle, and killed at least 19 children and two teachers. The death toll has been confirmed by the Texas Department of Public Safety. The children were all in grades 2nd through 4th. The investigation will take days if not weeks, and more details regarding the incident will become available. Motive is unknown at this time, as authorities are pouring over Ramos’ social media accounts. There have also been reports that Ramos killed his grandmother prior to his actions at the school, but this has not been confirmed. Ramos is believed to have acted alone, and was killed by responding law enforcement officers.
Runoff Election Results
The biggest news of the night is embattled incumbent Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton won his runoff in convincing fashion, defeating Land Commissioner George P. Bush by over 30 points. He will face civil rights lawyer Rochelle Garza in November, who defeated former Galveston mayor Joe Jaworski in the Democratic runoff. In other statewide runoffs, state Senator Dawn Buckingham and incumbent Wayne Christian each easily won their runoffs on the Republican side for Land Commissioner and Railroad Commission respectively. Democrat Mike Collier will once again face Republican incumbent Dan Patrick in the Lt. Governor’s race in November.
On the Congressional level, state Rep. Jasmine Crockett won the Democratic nomination in Dallas in the race to succeed longtime Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and Henry Cuellar, Democrat from Laredo, has apparently held on to defeat progressive candidate Jessica Cisneros by less than 200 votes. A few votes are still out in the Cuellar race, but his lead appears safe.
Former state Senator Pete Flores of Pleasanton will get his old job back by easily winning his Republican primary and Morgan LaMantia has won the Democratic nomination for the south Texas Senate seat vacated by longtime incumbent Eddie Lucio, Jr. of Brownsville.
On the state House side, most incumbents forced into runoffs were successful tonight with the exception of Phil Stephenson of Wharton. Incumbents Stephanie Klick of Fort Worth, Kyle Kacal of College Station and Glenn Rogers of Brownwood all won their runoffs against far right opponents.
And for you old timers out there, Lake Jackson native Johnny Bryant was nominated tonight to an open seat in the state House in the Dallas area, 50 years after being first elected to office. Bryant was first elected to the state House in 1972, and served 10 years in the state House before being elected to Congress in 1982, where he served until 1998. After an unsuccessful race for US Senate in 1998, he founded a now defunct minor league baseball league, studied at a Theological Seminary, and practiced law for many years. He is now the Democratic nominee for state House district 114 in urban Dallas.
Title 42 to Remain in Effect
A federal judge in Louisiana has blocked the Biden administration from lifting a pandemic era order that allowed customs and border officials to turn away all migrants, including those seeking asylum, due to possible COVID health concerns. The Trump appointed judge ruled last week that the administration had not followed all proper administrative procedures regarding executive orders when the announcement was made to end the Title 42 policy. After the announcement by the administration in April to lift Title 42, 20 Republican led states filed suit to stop the order by the Biden administration, claiming that without Title 42 in place, undue pressure and burdens would be placed on border states due to the chaos that would follow the predicted surge of immigrants if the order was lifted. Immigration officials have used the Title 42 policy to expel or deny nearly 2 million migrants since the order went into effect in March of 2020. In March of this year, there were 221,000 border encounters along the Mexico border, roughly 7,300 per day. If Title 42 is lifted, immigration officials estimate that figure could rise to as many as 18,000 encounters per day.
State Legislators Target Businesses That Assist with Abortions
Yesterday, 14 Texas Republican House members made public a letter they sent to Lyft CEO Logan Green informing him that they will introduce legislation next session to bar any company from doing business in Texas that assists employees in getting abortions outside of the state. In the letter, the members outlined the goals of the proposed legislation which would prohibit firms and companies from offering insurance that includes abortion related services and make company executives eligible for criminal prosecution. Green has stated through social media that his company would assist employees in Texas and Oklahoma with obtaining abortion care in other states and would also cover all legal expenses of any Lyft driver that would be sued under the provisions of the new Texas law that allows private citizens to sue anyone that assists someone at any point of the abortion process.
This declaration is in direct conflict with state leadership that has aggressively tried to attract new businesses to relocate to Texas. For example, just a few months ago, Gov. Abbott celebrated the move by Tesla from California to the Austin area. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has also declared that he will pay for any employees’ travel cost when they leave the state to obtain an abortion. Abbott and other state leaders have given no comment on the letter sent to Lyft.
After six years of scandals and legal troubles for incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton, US Senator John Cornyn finally decided to weigh in. On a call with reporters on Friday, Cornyn said that he was embarrassed by the ongoing scandals and legal battles faced by Paxton. Paxton has been under federal indictment for six years for a securities fraud charge. He is also under FBI investigation for allegations of abuse of office and bribery. There are also rumors of infidelity and seeking job placement for his alleged love interest. Cornyn, saying he was reluctant to weigh in on primary races, did not make an endorsement in the race for state Attorney General.
A group of lawyers that have organized and formed a group to hold lawyers accountable that have tried to overturn the 2020 election have filed an ethics complaint against US Senator Ted Cruz. The group, known as 65 Project, has asked the State Bar of Texas to investigate Cruz for his role in attempting to overturn the 2020 Presidential election. The complaint cites the numerous claims made by Cruz regarding voter fraud and his attempt to stop four states from certifying the 2020 election results. Cruz represented Pennsylvania Republicans in an effort to get most or all of the absentee ballots thrown out. That effort was rejected by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Cruz has dismissed the complaint and called 65 Project a “far-left dark money machine run by Democrat hacks.”
The US Census Bureau said last week that it likely undercounted the Texas population by about 2%, which is about 500,000 people. That undercount was not factored into the data used by state lawmakers during the redistricting process, and the undercount will also not be factored into future population and growth estimates used by Congress for the funding of projects for transportation needs, housing assistance, and health care spending.
With yesterday’s election, all races for November will be set after all votes are finally counted and canvassed. Numerous committee hearings are taking place, and many are scheduled in the coming weeks.
Several committees have meetings scheduled including House Environmental Regulation that is meeting today to discuss the state’s emission reduction plan, and the Senate State Affairs Committee, also meeting today to discuss ways to combat human trafficking. Upcoming meetings include the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee to discuss illegal 8-liner gaming machines 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