Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Monday, October 25th (2:00 PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 3,492,166 (1,560 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 4,078 (10,386 available beds, 708 available ICU beds)
Fatalities – 69,089 (17 new deaths)
Vaccine Data – Monday, October 25th (12:30 PM data)
Total doses administered – 32,902,039
People vaccinated – 17,661,570
People fully vaccinated – 15,344,238
Doses Shipped by state – 25,327,990
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Monday, October 25th was 5.85%. One month ago, there were 9,500 new cases reported, one week ago there were 1,900 new cases reported, compared to the 1,560 reported yesterday. The 4,078 COVID patients in hospitals now is 872 less patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 6.5% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 29,071 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of Tuesday, October 26th 52.6% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
Abbott Signs Bills from Special Session
On Monday, Gov. Abbott signed all bills into law that were passed during the recently concluded third special session of the Legislature. The first set of bills signed were the new redistricting maps for state House, Senate, and Congressional districts. The new maps will have to withstand legal challenges, as a second federal lawsuit was filed on Monday by Voto Latino. This lawsuit alleges the same thing as the lawsuit filed by LULAC and others last week, that the maps dilute the voting strength of the state’s Latino and Black residents.
Other bills signed requires transgender athletes in public schools to participate on teams that align with their gender at birth; a bill to make the unlawful restraint of a dog a crime; the appropriation of federal COVID relief funds; and increased revenue for capital projects at colleges and universities in the state.
Republicans Want a Fourth Special Session
Even though the Texas Legislature has been in session this year more days than the US Congress, many in the Republican Party are pressuring Gov. Abbott to call legislators back for a fourth session. State Republican Party Chairman Matt Rinaldi sent a letter to the Governor formally asking him to once again convene the legislature to address the issue of private businesses requiring their employees to be vaccinated. Last week, Lt. Gov. Patrick publicly called on the Governor to call another session to address two voting related issues – increase of penalties for illegal voting and the authorization of a statewide audit of the 2020 election. Both issues passed the Senate during the third session, but were not considered in the House.
Abbott has said he has no plans to call another session at this point. In a statement via a spokesman, Abbott said “Because the Texas House and Senate’s efforts to get these priorities across the finish line, there is no need for another special session at this time.” Abbott has also issued an executive order that bans private employers from mandating vaccines. But, many Republican office holders say the businesses are not following the executive order and a new law is needed to prevent mandates.
Gov. Abbott continues his attacks on the Biden administration over the lack of federal action on enforcement of migrants attempting to enter the US. The state of Texas has 5 border patrol sectors – Rio Grande Valley, Laredo, Del Rio, Big Bend, and El Paso. In the recently concluded fiscal year, border patrol agents reported apprehending nearly 1.2 million migrants in the 12 month period. This represents nearly 70% of the 1.66 million migrants apprehended along the entire border with Mexico in fiscal 2021. In June, the state began operation Lone Star, which will assist the federal government in securing the border by deploying 2,500 National Guard soldiers and more than 1,000 DPS troopers to the border region. The Legislature also recently appropriated slightly more than $2 billion in funds to assist with the extra personnel and to expedite the construction of the border wall, particularly in the Del Rio region.
US Supreme Court Expedites Abortion Case
The US Supreme Court has agreed to expedite the cases involving the near total abortion ban that was passed during the regular session. Oral arguments are set for Monday, November 1st. The court will take up cases brought forward by the US Department of Justice and by abortion providers that were filed shortly after the law took effect in September. The court will first review the merits of the two cases, and the law will stay in effect while the court considers the arguments. What makes the Texas law unique is that the parameters of the law are not enforced by state officials, but by private citizens who are now empowered under the new law to seek out and sue any individual who helps someone receive an abortion after a heartbeat is detected. Therefore, this initial review by the Supreme Court is focused on the mechanism by which the law is enforced. The court is already scheduled to hear arguments in a Mississippi case regarding a proposed state law that bans all abortions after 15 weeks, which is where legal experts believe the Court will focus on whether or not to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade case.
Political Quick Hits
Former state Supreme Court justice Eva Guzman is getting a head start on her Republican rivals in the race to unseat incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton. She began airing television and radio ads on Monday. This is first known ads from any statewide candidate for the 2022 election. Guzman is trying to establish herself in a crowded field of Republican candidates in the primary challenging Paxton. She is joined by current Land Commissioner George P. Bush and state Representative Matt Krause in seeking the nomination for AG.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has endorsed Kevin Sparks in what is now an open state Senate seat based in the Panhandle. Sparks was set to challenge incumbent Kel Seliger in the Republican primary, but Seliger has announced he will not seek reelection. Sparks, from Midland, had unsuccessfully challenged Seliger in 2020, and is heading into the primary armed with an endorsement from former President Trump for the 2022 election. There are no other announced candidates at this time.
State Representative Alex Dominguez, Democrat from Brownsville, has set up a fundraising page and filed the relative paperwork to challenge longtime incumbent Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr, also a Democrat from Brownsville. After redistricting, Dominguez was placed in a substantially altered district that would have been difficult for him to win. Dominguez says he has not fully committed to the race at this time, but is giving serious consideration to challenging Lucio, a 30 year incumbent in the Senate.
What will be in the forefront of members’ minds will be lawsuits regarding the redistricting maps. Every map passed by the Texas Legislature since 1960 has been at least partially overturned by the federal judiciary. The maps are in place for now, and candidates are lining up to run in these districts, but we all wait to see if court intervention will change the districts.