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Abbott: Battle continues over vouchers


As time runs out next week on the fourth special session, Gov. Greg Abbott said he will continue to fight for school choice, despite the Texas House once again decisively rejecting it when 21 Republicans largely from rural districts joined Democrats in stripping it from a $7.6 billion education bill. The Austin American-Statesman reported it is unclear what Abbott’s next move will be.

“I will continue advancing school choice in the Texas Legislature and at the ballot box and will maintain the fight for parent empowerment until all parents can choose the best education path for their child,” Abbott said. “I am in it to win it.”

However, Abbott has not said whether he will call a fifth special session. He has previously said that he would back primary opponents to those who rejected the voucher plan.

“I don’t know whether the Governor will call us back for a 5th special session or not,” state Rep. Cody Harris, R-Palestine, said in a Facebook post Sunday. “Either way, I look forward to the next time I have the opportunity to provide much needed teacher pay raises, increased funding for our local schools, and parents with the opportunity to choose the system of education they believe is best for their child.”

The filing period for the March primary is underway and ends Dec. 11.

Widespread power outages possible this winter

The agency in charge of the state’s power grid is warning that Texas could face widespread power outages this winter if temperatures plunge below freezing for several days in a row, as occurred last year. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas raised the alarm after canceling a plan to ask power plant operators to reactivate some closed natural gas and coal plants. It received few offers to do so, The Dallas Morning News reported.

ERCOT is predicting a 14.4% chance of rolling blackouts if the state experiences a severe cold snap such as occurred just before last Christmas. Those chances grow to 16.8% in January, according to the report.

“The resource mix that’s changing on the grid isn’t really helping to pick up the growing peaks in the winter,” ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas said in a recent interview. “That’s why there’s this growing risk profile that we need to deal with.”

Population and business growth are the main drivers of energy shortages on the ERCOT grid, The News reported.

After the February 2021 winter storm, the Legislature put in place weatherization standards for power plants and is conducting widespread inspections of power plants to make sure they are complying.

Texas State to host first presidential debate

The first presidential debate for the 2024 general election will be held at Texas State University in San Marcos, the Statesman reported. The Sept. 16 debate will be the first of four to take place next year.

Kelly Damphousse, president of Texas State since July 2022, said he believes the university, with nearly 39,000 students, was chosen because of its legacy with former President Lyndon Johnson, who graduated from there, and its facilities.

“Texas State looks a lot like the state of Texas demographically. We are almost all Texas students here, more than 95%,” he told the Statesman. “And so I think in many ways we look like a great opportunity for them. Not just our facilities, not just our campus, but just the entire story must have looked attractive to them.”

The debate will be held in the school’s event center, the Strand Arena. Hundreds of media outlets and attendees are expected, and Texas State has set aside $5 million to prepare for and run the debate.

More than 800,000 Texas children lose health care

Of the 1.4 million Texans who have lost health coverage through either Medicaid of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, 58% — or 812,000 — are children, The News reported. This follows the end of pandemic-era continuous Medicaid renewals.

“We knew we were going to have problems, to be candid. I’m sorry we’re seeing the kind of numbers that we’re seeing,” said Steve Love, president and CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council. “This is going to really exacerbate the problems we already have with the uninsured in Texas.”

Nearly 70% of people who lost Medicaid coverage in Texas were booted off for procedural reasons, such as failing to return renewal packet requests. The state has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country.

Texas leads nation in annual job growth again

The state again reached a record high nationally with 14.536 million Texans at work, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. The state’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate held steady at 4.1%.

“The Texas economy continues to grow, and there are nearly 480,000 job listings for individuals with the right skills, which TWC can help provide,” TWC chairman Bryan Daniel said.

The latest report marks the 10th consecutive monthly increase in jobs, with the addition of 21,000 more Texans on payroll, TWC reported.

We’re number one! In feral hogs.

It likely comes as no surprise to rural residents, but even city dwellers are having their yards and gardens ravaged by feral hogs, which have been reported in 99.6% of Texas counties. The only exception thus far is El Paso County, according to new data from the University of Georgia.

Rounding out the top five in sightings of the invasive species are Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Oklahoma. Feral hogs have a high fertility rate and can eat nearly anything.

Texas A&M researchers have found a warfarin-based toxicant that is effective in reducing the feral pig population, but it is not yet being widely used. Hunting and trapping remain the most highly used methods of eradication, but so far the hogs are winning the battle.

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches, Lufkin and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@tex


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