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Capital Highlights

Early voting ends Friday

Election is Tuesday, Nov. 8


Early voting for the general election ends on Friday, Nov. 4, with the closely watched governor’s race pitting incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott against challenger Beto O’ Rourke headlining the ballot. A number of other statewide races are on the ballot, including lieutenant governor, attorney general, land commissioner, agriculture commissioner and comptroller. 

Voters can find polling places in their county by visiting VoteTexas.gov. Those voting early can visit any location in the county in which they’re registered. However, those who choose to vote on Election Day must go to the specific precinct in which they live. 


DPS director says he won’t resign

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw is fending off calls for his resignation in light of his department’s handling of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde last May, in which 19 students and two teachers died. However, McCraw said “every responding officer needs to be accountable for their actions,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. The Texas Rangers, an arm of the DPS, reportedly are investigating several troopers among the 90 who were on the scene. DPS Sgt. Juan Maldonado was fired recently for his role in the shooting response.

As the Statesman reported, officers from multiple law enforcement agencies delayed confronting the gunman for 77 minutes even as those trapped inside called for help.

McCraw said the Rangers’ investigation will be complete by year’s end.


Report card: Texas students lag in math

Like students across the country, students in Texas are struggling to recover from learning losses stemming from the pandemic, particularly in math, the Nation’s Report Card indicates. Officially called the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the test is administered in reading and math for a sample of students in 4th and 8th grade roughly every two years, according to the Texas Education Agency.

The bright side appears to be that students in Texas showed more progress than most in their academic recovery, TEA reported. Reading scores for Texas students are not statistically different than in 2019, the last time the test was administered — and before the pandemic struck. However, math scores are significantly lower than they were in 2019.

“Results from the 2022 Nation’s Report Card highlight the hard work of Texas teachers and students. While we are largely recovering from the effects of the pandemic in reading, much work remains in math,” said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath.


Statewide veterans’ hiring event

Texas veterans, service members, and their spouses are invited to participate in this year’s Hiring Red, White & You! statewide hiring event, which began Nov. 1 and runs through Nov. 18 with in-person and virtual events across the state. 

Hosted by the Texas Workforce Commission, along with workforce development boards and other agencies, the hiring fair connects veterans, transitioning service members, and spouses with Texas employers seeking their skills and experience. The state is home to more than 1.7 million veterans and current military members.

Employers who hire veterans could be eligible for a tax credit of up to $9,600. The event in the past 10 years has worked with more than 20,000 employers, connected more than 144,000 job seekers to job opportunities, and helped facilitate 3,198 same-day hires.

The events are free. Job seekers can find more details at twc.texas.gov/hiring-red-white-you.


Agriculture still significant economic driver

While the state’s large cities are experiencing considerable population growth, agriculture continues to be a big part of the Texas economy. Farming and ranching operations can be found in every part of the state — citrus crops in the Rio Grande Valley, cotton in the High Plains, rice paddies in the Coastal Plains, cattle ranches in West Texas, and timber in East Texas. 

The state comptroller’s office reported nearly $25 billion in cash receipts in 2021 from the Texas agricultural industry, the fourth-highest among all states — trailing only California, Iowa, and Nebraska. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports the state has 247,000 farms (ranches are considered a type of farm), more than double the next two states, Missouri and Iowa. 

Cattle represent the state’s top ag commodity, with 40.4% of the cash receipts generated. The top three commodities are cattle, dairy, and poultry, according to USDA.


Dry weather tempers deer season expectations

Dry weather throughout much of the state as deer season approaches is tempering expectations for the general white-tailed deer season, which begins Saturday, Nov. 5. 

“A number of hunters and landowners report seeing lots of deer, especially younger deer,” said Alan Cain of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. “Part of that is a result of good fawn crops the last couple of years, so there’s more bucks in those younger age classes relative to bucks in that four- to six-year-old range. As we move into November and closer to the rut, those older bucks should increase movement activities in search of does, hopefully presenting an opportunity for a lucky hunter.”

Drought impacts on deer habitats have adversely affected antler quality, Cain added.


COVID-19 cases stay steady

The number of new COVID-19 cases reported by the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University in Texas during the past week stayed steady at 11,667, with 81 new deaths reported. The number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations in Texas, as reported by the Texas Department of State Health Services, was essentially unchanged at 1,042.

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 and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@texaspress.com.


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