Log in
Capital Highlights

Patrick issues gag order ahead of trial


Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick last week issued a sweeping gag order ahead of the impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Houston Chronicle reported, saying “out-of-court statements” by both sides threaten to jeopardize the trial.

The trial is set to begin Sept. 5.

The gag order prohibits members of the Senate and House, their staffs, witnesses and attorneys from making statements that could have a “substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing the trial.” Violators could be found in contempt of court and face up to six months in jail and up to $500 in fines.

Patrick is acting as the judge in the impeachment trial. The gag order was required under the impeachment rules established by the Senate in June.

Meanwhile, Paxton has asked that three Democratic state senators be disqualified, saying their public statements prove they cannot be impartial, The Dallas Morning News reported. Paxton is targeting Sen. Nathan Johnson, D-Dallas, and Sens. Roland Gutierrez and José Menéndez, D-San Antonio.

“Senators Menendez, Gutierrez, and Johnson’s own public statements convincingly establish bias and prejudice against the Attorney General,” the motion states. “That cannot be cured.”

In a related matter, conservative activist Dr. Steven Hotze has sued Patrick and the Senate to allow Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, the suspended attorney general’s wife, to participate in the trial’s deliberations and vote on her husband’s fate. The Senate rules for the trial disqualified her from participating.

A&M president resigns following botched hiring

Texas A&M University President M. Katherine Banks resigned last week after the faculty senate moved to investigate the botched hiring of journalist Kathleen McElroy to revive the university’s journalism program, The News reported.

“The recent challenges regarding Dr. McElroy have made it clear to me that I must retire immediately,” Banks wrote in her resignation letter submitted late Thursday. “The negative press is a distraction from the wonderful work being done here.”

McElroy, a 1981 A&M graduate, elected to remain a tenured professor of journalism at the University of Texas in Austin after the original offer for a tenure-track position at A&M was reduced to a one-year contract. The university received criticism from some people my concerning McElroy’s work on diversity and equity issues while working in multiple roles at The New York Times.

Mark A. Welsh III, dean of A&M’s  Bush School of Government and Public Service, is now acting president of the university.

Feds suing state over razor wire, buoys along the Rio Grande

The U.S. Justice Department has notified the state that it will file suit over the floating buoy barricade in the middle of the Rio Grande, which is meant to deter migrants from crossing illegally, as well as the razor wire now strung across the U.S. side, the Texas Standard reported.

“The State of Texas’ actions violate federal law, raise humanitarian concerns, present serious risks to public safety and the environment, and may interfere with the federal government’s ability to carry out its official duties,” the letter sent to Gov. Greg Abbott stated.

In response, Abbott said the state has the “sovereign authority to defend our border, under the U.S. Constitution and the Texas Constitution,” adding, “We will see you in court, Mr. President.”

Speed top contributing factor in Texas crashes

Speed-related crashes killed 1,469 people on Texas roadways, according to the Texas Department of Transportation — the top contributing factor in traffic fatalities.

“Getting to your destination two or three minutes faster just isn’t worth the risk of a crash and causing harm to yourself or others,” said TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams.

For the latter half of July, Texas law enforcement agencies are participating in Operation Slowdown, a statewide, high-visibility speed enforcement program. TxDOT is also running a number of commercials, billboards and social media posts urging drivers to slow down.

Report on state employee workforce issued

A report from the state comptroller’s office on the workforce of state agencies indicates Texas faces staff shortages and high turnover, with compensation being the primary factor.

Average salaries for state employees are 11.7% lower than the overall market, according to the State Auditor’s Office. Moreover, 35% of state employees live in the Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown and the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan statistical areas, which have cost-of-living expenses higher than the state average.

State workers in health and human services and the prison system in particular have high turnover, which the report  blames on low pay and high stress.

The turnover rate for all state employees in fiscal 2022 was 22.7% — the highest turnover rate in more than 10 years.

The five agencies with the most employees are:

  • Health and Human Services Commission — 32,345
  • Texas Department of Criminal Justice — 30,277
  • Texas Department of Transportation — 12,375
  • Department of Family and Protective Services — 11,984
  • Texas Department of Public Safety — 10,210

Nearly 64,000 Texans to have student loans forgiven

The Texas Tribune reported that nearly 64,000 Texans will have their federal student loans forgiven because they qualified for an existing forgiveness program that was poorly administered. A total of $3.1 billion will be forgiven for Texas borrowers, an average of $48,500 per borrower.

The move is unrelated to President Joe Biden’s now-defunct student debt forgiveness program that was blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court last month. The latest steps are being called a “correction” by the U.S. Department of Education and affect borrowers whose debts should have been canceled but weren’t due to “past administrative failures.”

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.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here