Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Tuesday, September 21st (3:30 PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 3,294,624 (20,534 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 11,658 (8,228 available beds, 357 available ICU beds)
Fatalities – 61,178 (346 new deaths)
Vaccine Data – Tuesday, September 21st (1:00 PM data)
Total doses administered – 30,453,083
People vaccinated – 17,078,454
People fully vaccinated – 14,562,087
Doses Shipped by state – 24,205,410
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Tuesday, September 21st was 15.38%. One month ago, there were 11,400 new cases reported, one week ago there were 21,900 new cases reported, compared to the 20,534 reported yesterday. The 11,658 COVID patients in hospitals now is 1,315 less patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 17.9% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 72,883 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of Wednesday, September 22nd 50% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
State Officials Visit Del Rio
Several state officials visited Del Rio yesterday to survey the situation regarding the surge of nearly 15,000 Haitian immigrants who have crossed the Rio Grande over the last few days and are awaiting processing near Del Rio. Gov. Abbott held a press conference and was joined by officials from DPS, as well as key members of the Texas House, and said he will provide whatever state resources are necessary to secure the border. More than 6,000 Haitians and other migrants have been removed from the Del Rio area since Monday, but there is an estimated 8,600 people that remain. During the regular session, the legislature authorized an additional $1.8 billion in state funding for border security over the next two years. With the appropriation of $16 billion in federal relief dollars already on this special session agenda, state leaders have said that more money will be going to the border, potentially another $2 billion to be appropriated this session.
Abbott Adds Two Issues to Special Session Today
Earlier today, Gov. Abbott expanded the call of the special session to include two more items. The first is to provide additional property tax relief to Texas homeowners. Abbott has received criticism from his opponents in the Republican primary that he has not done enough to reduce the property tax burden on homeowners in the state. The second item he added has to do with reforming our system of bail for those arrested in the state. Proposals to amend our bail system have failed in the regular and previous special sessions, mainly due to the fact that anything proposed has to amend the state constitution, thus requiring a super majority vote of both Houses of the Legislature.
Redistricting Main Topic in Special Session – For Now
Over the weekend, the Senate released a proposed map for the 31 Senate districts for the 2022 elections. The current partisan makeup of the Senate is 18 Republicans and 13 Democrats. The proposed map in all likelihood would increase the Republican majority to 20-11. To view the map, go to https://dvr.capitol.texas.gov/Senate/0/PLANS2101
The Senate Redistricting Committee will have meetings this Friday and Saturday to seek public input on the plan. Postings of the hearings can be found at https://senate.texas.gov Testimony can be provided or virtually for those not wanting to, or unable to come to Austin for the hearing.
The House has not released a proposed plan, but is expected to do so sometime next week.
Feds Investigating Mask Mandate
The US Department of Education has opened an investigation into the ban on mask mandates in schools issued by Gov. Abbott earlier this year. There are still several districts throughout the state that are defying the order. The investigation focuses on whether or not Texas is violating federal law by preventing students with disabilities from returning to in person learning, thus violating civil rights of those students. In a letter from the US Department of Education to the Texas Education Agency, the department said it will review whether or not schools are being prevented by the state from making individual decisions about mask use that would allow students to be free from discrimination based on their disability. The US Department of Education is currently investigating similar mask rules in five other states.
Political Quick Hits
It seems that former Congressman Beto O’Rourke is getting ready to challenge Gov. Abbott in 2022. Axios first reported earlier in the week that O’Rourke will make his announcement sometime this fall declaring his intention to challenge Abbott. O’Rourke is a former El Paso city councilman and former three term member of Congress. He unsuccessfully challenged US Senator Ted Cruz in 2018 and had a very brief run for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2020.
With the revelation of the proposed map of the state Senate districts for the 2022 elections, one former member has already declared his intention to run again. Pete Flores (R, Pleasanton), who was defeated in the 2020 election after serving only one term, will seek the newly configured Senate District 24. The new district runs from Bell County in central Texas, wraps around Austin to the west, and then is anchored in Atascosa County, south of San Antonio. Atascosa County is home to Flores. Flores has already picked up endorsements from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, former Governor Rick Perry, and US Senator John Cornyn.
Democratic Austin state Rep. Celia Israel has formed an exploratory committee for Mayor of Austin, and therefore will not seek reelection to her House seat. Her current seat currently encompasses areas of north Austin, and parts of the cities Pflugerville, Manor, and Elgin.
Two Republican members have also announced their intentions to retire from the legislature. State Rep. Scott Sanford of McKinney announced his intention not to seek reelection, citing a desire to spend more time with family. Rep. Chris Paddie of Marshall, also announced his intention to retire. Paddie served as Chair of the powerful House State Affairs Committee. Paddie’s district is in east Texas, stretching from just south of Texarkana, through Marshall and down to Hemphill. With the population shifting to the suburbs, this eases the task of redistricting in the rural parts of east Texas.
The Third Called Session began on Monday, September 20th. The House gaveled in – with a quorum – and immediately adjourned until Thursday. The Senate gaveled in, and has convened daily to consider resolutions. The Senate Redistricting committee will meet this Fridayand Saturday, and the Senate redistricting plan could be considered on the floor as early as next week.