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Capital Highlights

House kills school choice plan


The Texas House on Friday defeated a proposed voucher plan, also leaving in doubt a comprehensive public school funding plan that became tied to it, The Dallas Morning News reported. A coalition of rural Republicans and Democrats joined together to take education savings accounts out of the bill by an 84-63 margin.

t’s unclear whether proposed record funding increases for schools and teacher raises will survive this fourth special session. Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made vouchers a priority. Versions of their priority have passed the Senate but continue to be stymied in the House. This special session ends the first week of December.

Bill passes to allow undocumented migrants arrests

A sweeping border security bill that allows state and local police to arrest undocumented migrants is headed to Gov. Greg Abbot’s desk, The Dallas Morning News reported. The bill also allows state district judges to order those migrants be returned to Mexico.

In addition, a separate bill that provides billions in funding for expansion of a border wall is headed back to the Senate for final approval.

Abbott has indicated he will sign both bills. Legal experts and Democratic legislators say the bill allowing law enforcement to arrest undocumented migrants is unconstitutional.

“Texas Republicans proudly passed legislation that will allow Greg Abbott’s Department of Public Safety to imprison Black and Brown migrants for simply existing in our state,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. David Spiller, R-Jacksboro, defended the measure.

“We still know that the Biden administration has failed and refused to enforce federal immigration laws and secure the border,” Spiller said.

60th anniversary of JFK’s assassination noted

The 60th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is Nov. 22, with a number of events taking place in Dallas, where Kennedy was killed in 1963. The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas is marking the event with a “Two Days in Texas” exhibition that revisits Kennedy’s visit to Texas through eyewitness accounts of his time in Texas before the assassination.

The sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, now a museum, was the primary crime scene. An all-day remembrance is also taking place at the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff, which is where Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested after killing Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit.

LNG plant’s plans put on hold

A liquified natural gas terminal planned for Port Arthur has been halted, at least temporarily, after the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled consistent emission standards were not applied, the Texas Standard reported.

The complaint was brought by an environmental group which claimed the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was going to allow the plant to have higher emissions than similar plants in Texas.

Amy Dinn, with Lone Star Legal Aid, which brought the lawsuit, said in an interview that “We were very concerned that this additional pollution from this facility, if allowed to go forward at the permitted limits TCEQ had approved, would cause potential health impacts for the community that lives there because they’re already forced to have a lot of air pollution.”

Once the court releases its final decision, the plant’s permit application will go back to TCEQ.

TikTok ban challenged in court

An Austin federal judge will decide whether a ban of TikTok on state-owned and issued devices will stand. A lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Coalition of Independent Technology Research, kut.org reported. Arguments were heard in the case last week.

The coalition represents university faculty who wish to continue using the social media platform for research and teaching purposes at state institutions. Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the ban on TikTok, which is owned by a Chinese company, last December.

Jameel Jaffer of the Knight First Amendment Institute said plaintiffs are seeking an injunction to lift the ban.

“Their work is about the social media platforms,” Jaffer said. “They study the social media platforms, write about the social media platforms, propose regulatory reform relating to the social media platforms. And the ban is impeding them from doing that work.”

Todd Dickerson of the Texas attorney general’s office maintained the ban is a precautionary measure, that few researchers are affected, and that faculty can do their work with TikTok on their personal devices.

Cinnamon applesauce pouches recalled

Elevated levels of lead have been found in several cinnamon applesauce products, prompting a recall and a warning from the Texas Department of Health Services that children who consumed those products should be tested for lead exposure.

The recalled products include:

  • WanaBana Apple Cinnamon Fruit Puree pouches
  • Schnucks brand cinnamon-flavored applesauce pouches and variety pack
  • Weis brand cinnamon applesauce pouches

Some of the recalled products are sold in Texas through a number of retailers. Parents are urged to check their homes and discard these products.

Getting home safe for the holidays

The holiday season begins this week, and the Texas Department of Transportation is urging everyone to drive sober and urge their loved ones to do the same.

During last year’s 32-day holiday season, 108 people were killed and 229 seriously injured by drunk drivers in crashes across the state.

 “A safe and sober ride should be at the top of your list when making plans with family and friends,” Marc Williams, TxDOT executive director, said. “If not, you risk your job, your life, and the lives of others. It’s just not worth it.”

Law enforcement will be on heightened awareness from Dec. 16 through Jan. 1, looking for drunk drivers.

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@texaspress.com.


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