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Capital Highlights

Early voting underway across state


Early voting in this year’s midterm elections began Monday and continues through Friday, Nov. 4. Election Day is Nov. 8. Voters will pick the state’s next governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, land commissioner, agriculture commissioner and comptroller in statewide races. 

District races are also being held for U.S. representatives, state senators, state representatives and members of the State Board of Education. There are also ballot propositions to be decided, as well as county, school board and city races, depending on where you live. 

The deadline to register to vote was Oct. 11. Interested voters can find out more at votetexas.gov.


Business leaders predict DACA end will cause crisis

Dozens of business leaders, including several in Texas, are urging Congress to protect young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, warning that the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would exacerbate workforce shortages. 

In a report published in The Dallas Morning News (originally in CQ-Roll Call), the leaders released a letter sent to congressional leaders and published as a full-page ad in The Morning News and other newspapers. They warn of serious workforce issues if a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit gutting DACA protection holds.

The ad included the logos of about a dozen Texas-based businesses or business organizations, including private equity firm TPG, the North Texas Commission, the Texas Restaurant Association, the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association, the Texas Retailers Association and the Texas Association of Business.

If the work permits of DACA recipients expire, the business leaders said, the U.S. could lose more than half a million workers. 

“The worker shortage will get worse for the United States if hundreds of thousands of critical workers are stripped of their legal ability to support themselves and their families,” the business leaders wrote. “That is the situation we currently face if this ruling becomes final, and it is the reason for our request today.”

The U.S. House has passed a bill that would put DACA recipients and other young undocumented immigrants on a path to permanent residency, but the Senate has not taken up the measure.


PUC: No water disconnects during extreme cold

The Public Utility Commission of Texas last week adopted rules that prohibit non-municipal water and sewer utilities from cutting off service to customers during extreme cold weather emergencies. 

“The new rules put the health and safety of Texans first during extreme cold weather emergencies,” said PUCT Chairman Peter Lake. “This means Texans can focus on their family’s safety during extreme cold and work with their water or sewer utility to make sure they pay their bills in a timely fashion.”

Extreme weather in Texas is defined as “periods beginning when the previous day’s highest temperature in an area did not exceed 28 degrees Fahrenheit and the temperature is predicted to remain at or below that level for the next 24 hours according to the nearest National Weather Service reports for that area.”

The new rules came after passage of Senate Bill 3 in the last regular legislative session, in reaction to the disruption caused by Winter Storm Uri in February 2021.


Drought presents challenges for waterfowl hunters

As waterfowl hunters prepare for the new season, drought conditions across the state are posing challenges, according to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. Biologists with TPWD note habitat conditions for ducks are not ideal in many parts of the state. A May survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed most duck species had substantial decreases since the last survey in 2019. 

“The drought that occurred in 2020 and 2021 had a large impact on duck hunting success in Texas,” said Kevin Kraai, with TPWD. “Last year, Texas observed a significant decrease in total duck harvest compared to the previous hunting season. The total estimated duck harvest was down 41 percent in 2021 compared to 2020.”

Except for South Texas and parts of the Panhandle, most of the state is well below seasonal rain averages, drought conditions that are the worst since 2010.


More than 79,000 dead on Texas roads since 2000

It is a grim statistic. Not a single day in Texas since Nov. 7, 2000, has passed without a traffic fatality. Since that date, more than 79,000 people have died in traffic crashes, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. That is roughly equivalent to the entire population of Cedar Park. For the past several years, about 10 people die daily in crashes across the state.

Texas Transportation Commissioner Laura Ryan and others are championing TxDOT’s #EndTheStreakTX campaign, saying every Texan must do their part to drive safely and care about others.

“With the knowledge that, since the pandemic, people don’t seem to view others around them as part of a community, and, that they care less about those around them, we are starting to identify the problem,” said Ryan. “If we know there is a problem and we can identify that a big part of the problem is a lack of caring or apathy, then we also know the solution -- we must care more about those around us.”


COVID-19 cases drop slightly

The number of new COVID-19 cases reported by the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University in the past week in Texas dropped to 11,604 with 90 deaths reported. The number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations recorded by the Texas Department of State Health Services dropped to 1,026.

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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