Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Monday, November 8th (12:45 PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 3,529,841 (1,268 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 2,801 (11,264 available beds, 825 available ICU beds)
Fatalities – 70,766 (8 new deaths)
Vaccine Data – Monday, November 8th (12:30 PM data)
Total doses administered – 34,113,886
People vaccinated – 17,921,322
People fully vaccinated – 15,585,732
Doses Shipped by state – 26,418,320
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Sunday, November 7th was 4.92%. One month ago, there were 6,100 new cases reported, one week ago there were 3,900 new cases reported, compared to the 1,281 reported yesterday. The 2,801 COVID patients in hospitals now is 640 less patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 4.4% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 31,848 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of Monday, November 8th , 53.4% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
Biden Vaccine Mandate Halted by Appeals Court
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans has temporarily blocked the mandate by the Biden administration requiring companies with 100 employees or more to have their employees get the COVID vaccine or submit to weekly testing. The mandate, if it eventually is allowed to go into effect, will apply to approximately 84 million workers across the country. The decision was handed down in response to a challenge filed by several states, including Texas. In the short, two-page order, the appeals court cited the need to review some potentially “grave statutory and constitutional issues” with the mandate. The court gave the Biden administration until yesterday to respond to the request for a permanent injunction on the mandate. This undoubtedly will end up being ultimately decided by the US Supreme Court.
Feds Sue Texas Over Voting Bill
Late last week, the Biden administration sued the state of Texas over the recently passed Senate Bill 1, which related to voting laws and procedures in the state. The lawsuit, filed in federal court, claims that the new law will disenfranchise eligible voters in the state, including voters with disabilities, limited English language proficiency, the elderly, and members of the military. In particular, the lawsuit challenges new rules relative to what type of assistance that disabled voters can receive while at polling locations, and the changes made to mail-in voting procedures. No hearing date has been set, and SB 1 is set to go into effect on December 2nd.
State Fiscal Outlook Improves
When the pandemic started in March of 2020, state Comptroller Glenn Hegar warned lawmakers to expect a severe economic downturn and in turn a difficult budget cycle due to the budget process that depends so heavily on a healthy economy. However, Hegar now says that during the course of the pandemic, the state’s fiscal outlook has improved significantly. The state’s sales tax receipts have been over $3 billion per month for seven straight months, including in October of this year. Prior to this last seven months, the state had only taken in $3 billion in sales tax receipts three different months. Because of this, Hegar says the state will now bring in $23 billion more for the fiscal year than he initially estimated to lawmakers in December. Therefore, the state’s Rainy Day Fund ended the fiscal year with over $12 billion in surplus funds.
Abbott Directs Schools to Develop Textbook Standards
In the ongoing debate over what types of textbooks our kids are using in schools, Gov. Abbott has directed two state agencies to develop statewide standards for preventing “pornographic and other obscene content” in public schools. The directive was sent to the Texas Education Agency and the State Library and Archives Commission, and comes on the heels of a letter he sent to the Texas Association of School Boards last week asking them to determine to what extent inappropriate content exists in public schools.
Abbott is capitalizing on the debate over content and textbooks that are available to public school students that was front and center during several high profile national and congressional races last week, particularly in the race for Governor of Virginia. The victorious Republican candidate in the Virginia race credits his focus on ensuring appropriate material is being used for teaching in public schools as a key to his victory.
Political Quick Hits
Another legislative veteran has decided not to seek reelection. Republican Rep. John Frullo announced Friday that he will retire when his current term ends next year. Frullo, from Lubbock, has served 10 years in the House. Frullo is now the 19th House member to announce they are not returning, either through retirement or seeking another office.
Austin Rep. Eddie Rodriguez has formally announced he will not seek reelection to the House, and instead run for Congressional District 35, which is a newly created district running from Austin to parts of San Antonio, that favors electing a Democrat. San Antonio Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer had been rumored to be considering a run for CD 35, but announced this morning he will seek reelection to his San Antonio area state House seat. Controversial Austin City Council member Greg Casar recently resigned from the city council and will also seek the Democratic nomination for CD 35. Immediately upon the news of Rodriguez announcing his Congressional run, Austin attorney Lulu Flores announced she will run to succeed Rodriguez in the House. Flores is a longtime political activist in Austin, and has run unsuccessfully for the state House before.
Democratic state Rep. Ryan Guillen from Rio Grande City was placed in a majority Republican district during the redistricting process this year, and rumors have been flying that he will switch parties prior to filing for reelection. Regardless of party affiliation for Guillen, a Republican has already declared his candidacy. Mike Monreal, a retired Navy Captain from Floresville will run for the Republican nomination regardless of Guillen’s status. Monreal served in the Navy for 28 years and now works for a construction company.
The newly drawn Austin/Hill Country state House seat is drawing a lot of attention. Former Austin police officer Justin Berry – who ran unsuccessfully for the state House in 2020 – has declared his candidacy for the new District 19, which runs from the Lakeway area of western Travis County out into the hill country to include the areas of Marble Falls over to Fredericksburg. This is a safe Republican seat. Berry is joined in the fight for the Republican primary by Marble Falls Republican activist Nubia Devnie and former Austin city councilwoman Ellen Troxclair, who does not currently live in the district, but will use a family ranch in Burnet County for her official residence.
With the retirement of longtime Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr, the Rio Grande Valley based Senate seat is also drawing a great deal of attention, since these Senate seats do not open up very often. Lucio is a 30 year incumbent. Brownsville attorney Sara Stapleton Barrera, who forced Lucio into a runoff in the Democratic primary in 2020, has announced she will again seek the party nomination for the seat. State reps Alex Dominguez of Brownsville and Armando Martinez of Weslaco are also considering a run. Morgan LaMantia, a lawyer from McAllen, is also rumored to be considering a race for the seat. Her family is well established in the region, having owned the local beer distributorship for several generations.
And finally, Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert of Lufkin apparently is making a run for state Attorney General. He has set up a website for the race, saying he has set up the relevant exploratory documents, but no formal announcement has been made. Gohmert is considered one of the most conservative members of the Texas Congressional delegation. There are already three other challengers to incumbent Ken Paxton in the Republican primary for Attorney General – former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, state Rep. Matt Krause (R, Fort Worth), and current state Land Commissioner George P. Bush.
If the new redistricting maps withhold judicial scrutiny, the period to file for office for next year’s election begins on November 13th, and lasts until December 13th. Until then, we can expect many more candidate announcements, including retirements, challenges, and promotions to higher office.