COVID Cases and Hospitalizations
New infections are up slightly with 1,324 cases reported by the state yesterday. The number of infections has remained fairly steady for the last several months. The state is reporting 993 people hospitalized with COVID illness. This number has remained fairly steady as well for some time.
Because these numbers are remaining roughly the same, and with the session approaching that will bring substantial news on a regular basis, I will no longer cite the COVID related numbers. If and when COVID related items merit attention, I will certainly pass along that information to you.
But, for the first time since March of 2020, I see no need to continue to report the numbers on a regular basis.
Bill Filing Has Begun
On Monday, members and members-elect could begin filing legislation for consideration for the upcoming legislative session. On the first day, members filed a total of 921 bills. The flurry has since slowed, but there are currently over 1,000 bills that have been filed so far. Filing early does not equate in any way to legislative success. Often times, the bills filed early are simply a member’s pet project or the follow up on a promise made on the recently concluded campaign trail. Members can file bills up until the 60th day of the session, which is Friday, March 10th. When the dust settles, we will see roughly 7,000 bills filed between the two chambers. And in the end, about 1,500 of those will actually become law.
The major areas that members filed bills on so far are public education, voting and elections, abortion, LGBTQ issues, property taxes, and guns. Some highlights include a bill filed by Sen. Roland Gutierrez – who represents Uvalde – to raise the minimum age to purchase weapons. In the area of abortions, there were bills filed to create exceptions to the state’s abortion law to include rape and incest, as well as bills filed to try and overturn the state’s new law, and another to prohibit cities from helping their employees pay for out-of-state abortions.
LGBTQ rights will be the subject of many high profile and contentious debates this session. Several bills have already been filed to define gender affirming care as child abuse, as well as the requirement that students in public schools and colleges participate on sports team that correspond to their gender at birth.
Members from both parties filed a slew of bills related to the way the state conducts its elections. Proposals include severe restrictions on mail in voting, increased penalties for illegal voting, as well as bills filed to increase polling sites on university campuses and increasing the number of acceptable forms of identification when voting.
The process of the legislature even got some attention on the first day of filing. Two different proposals would call for the legislature to meet annually – instead of every other year as they do now – and another calls for them to go to work immediately upon swearing in, instead of having to wait the 60 days required by the constitution now to consider any legislation.
And, a bill that will certainly receive a great deal of attention, calls for the abolishment of the requirement that we change our clocks twice a year. The proposal will call for the state to stay on daylight savings time year-round. Bills on this subject have been filed in past sessions and failed, so it remains to be seen if there is enough momentum finally get this bill passed.
Even though the election is over, the border continues to get the lion’s share of the attention among state leadership. Governor Abbott issued an executive order on Tuesday that declared an invasion is occurring at the southern border. The declaration will allow him to boost security at the border, including more National Guard troops and giving them the ability to detain and return migrants to their point of entry on the border. Abbott has previously designated Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations, and this action will further enhance the state’s ability to send resources and manpower to the border.
Gov. Abbott this week also expanded the state’s busing of migrants program to now include the city of Philadelphia. For the last several months, the state of Texas has sent migrants to Washington, DC, Chicago, and New York City. The choice of Philadelphia is in response to their mayor’s recent declaration that his city is a proud sanctuary city. The first bus from Texas carrying 28 migrants – mostly from Colombia — arrived in Philadelphia Wednesday morning.
Through Monday of this week, the state of Texas has sent over 13,000 migrants to the four cities listed above at a cost of $26 million.
Harris County Elections to Get Review
On Tuesday, Gov. Abbott announced that he is calling for an investigation into the election related problems that plagued Harris County during the November election. Abbott is asking the Secretary of State and the Texas Rangers to investigate the problems that occurred related to the delay in results, insufficient paper ballots, and shortage of staff to properly conduct and subsequently oversee proper calculation of the results. Immediately following the Governor’s edict, the Harris County Republican Party announced it would be filing a lawsuit against Harris County Clerk Clifford Tatum, alleging that voters were turned away or not allowed to vote due to the shortage of paper ballots.
In addition to the investigation launched by the Secretary of State’s office, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, a Democrat, said she will also investigate the allegations and has also asked the Texas Rangers for assistance. Ogg said in a statement announcing the investigation that it is her statutorily required duty to investigate the results, and that her findings would eventually be turned over to a grand jury.
Reports began to surface from various media outlets on Election Day that at least 23 polling places throughout the county ran out of paper – which is used to verify the selections made at electronic machines. In addition, there were reports of improper scanning of the ballots and reporting of results prior to the polls closing.
Tatum acknowledged there were issues and challenges during last week’s election, and has committed to conduct a full evaluation into both the issues experienced as well as the staff hired to oversee the elections process. This is not the first time the state has targeted Harris County for review. The county was selected earlier this year by the Secretary of State for a full audit of their elections procedures, and has been consistently criticized for substantially delayed reporting of results over the last several cycles.
Harris County has nearly 2.6 million registered voters and 782 polling locations. This year, about 1.1 million votes were cast countywide.
Rep. Chris Turner of Arlington served six years as Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. Earlier this year, he announced he would not seek reelection to the chairmanship in 2023. Yesterday, three House members announced they would seek the post. Rep. Gina Hinojosa of Austin – whose father Gilbert Hinojosa is the state Democratic Party chairman; Rep. John Bucy of Round Rock north of Austin; and Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio. Martinez Fischer served as chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus from 2012 to 2016. All three are making their first run for the full Caucus chair.
A poll conducted by the Republican Party of Texas and CWS Research that surveyed 1,100 Texas Republicans showed that 43% of the likely Republican voters in our state prefer Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over former President Trump, who was favored by 32%. The rest of the choices given to respondents all polled in single digits, including former Vice-President Mike Pence (5%) and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (4%). Trump made his announcement Tuesday that he will seek the Republican nomination again in 2024. Even though DeSantis has made no formal announcement, it is widely expected that he will also seek the Republican nomination in 2024. The full poll can be found here: https://texasgop.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/22.11.14-Republican-Party-of-Texas-Statewide-2024-R-Primary-Likely-Voter-Poll.pdf
Laredo Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar survived a hard fought Democratic primary earlier this year when he was challenged from the left for not being in step with his party’s leadership and principles. He also survived another bitter general election fight last week when his Republican challenger accused him of being too liberal for the district he represents. Cuellar, considered a moderate by both parties, was recruited by Republican members in the US House to switch parties, baiting him with the possibility of coveted committee positions if he were to join their side of the aisle. However, Cuellar rejected the outreach, and will remain a Democrat. Cuellar sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and it remains to be seen how committee assignments will stand after the change in leadership with the Republican takeover.
Longtime chief of staff to US Senator John Cornyn is moving on. Beth Jafari, who has been his chief of staff for 15 years, will leave at the end of this week to pursue an opportunity in the private sector. Drew Brandewie, current director of communications in the office, will assume the chief of staff duties. Brandewie has worked for Cornyn since 2015.
Fundraising for members is in full swing now, as members try to replenish their campaign accounts prior to session. Members are forbidden from accepting contributions 30 prior to and during the session. So, they have about three more weeks to drag the sack for contributions.
The session begins on Tuesday, January 10th and lasts for 140 days.
With the Thanksgiving holiday next week, there will be no regular update. My updates will resume the week of November 28th. I would like to wish everyone a very happy, safe, and warm Thanksgiving. WE ALL HAVE A LOT TO BE THANKFUL FOR!!!
God Bless and stay safe!!