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Capital Highlights

Retiring senator named Secretary of State


Retiring state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, has been named the next secretary of state by Gov. Greg Abbott. She replaces John Scott, who announced his resignation effective at year’s end.

Scott was the third nominee for the post not confirmed by the Senate. He was appointed in October 2021, and the Legislature has not met since then. Nelson, who is completing 30 years in the Senate, should be a strong candidate for approval because of her lengthy tenure there. A new legislative session convenes in January.

The secretary of state’s office, among other duties, oversees the state’s election process.

“I look forward to this new chapter of public service and appreciate the confidence Governor Abbott has placed in me to serve as Secretary of State,” Nelson said in a statement. “Voters expect fair elections with accurate, timely results, and I am committed to making that happen. Texans with all political views should have faith in our election system.”


TikTok banned on all state-issued phones

Abbott last week ordered all Texas state agencies to ban use of the social media app TikTok on any government-issued device, saying it risks allowing China to gain access to “critical U.S. information.”

The popular video-sharing application is owned by a Chinese company and is used by an estimated 85 million people in the United States.

TikTok maintains the Chinese government has never tried to access the data of its users, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Abbott said he is prepared to work with state lawmakers to make the ban permanent during the next session, and to extend the ban to devices issued by local governments, such as cities and counties.

“We must work together to stop the Chinese government’s efforts to collect, store, and distribute Texans’ data and personal information,” Abbott wrote in a letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan.


TPWD biologists stress testing harvested deer

The recent discovery of chronic wasting disease in Kaufman County has spurred biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to stress the importance of testing deer taken this hunting season to curb the spread of the deadly disease.

The neurological disease is highly contagious and affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose. It has been found in 17 Texas counties and documented in both captive and free-ranging deer in 30 states and three Canadian provinces, according to TPWD.

Anyone hunting in an established CWD zone must bring their deer to a check station within 48 hours of harvest for testing. There are about 30 check stations and drop boxes across the state. For more information, visit the TPWD website at tpwd.texas.gov.


State’s largest teacher prep program under fire

The Texas Education Agency is recommending that Texas Teachers of Tomorrow have its accreditation revoked after failing to improve training of teacher candidates. The Dallas Morning News reported the company, which certifies thousands of teachers mainly through online courses, failed to meet demands by TEA that it ensure all candidates receive adequate actual classroom training.

The State Board of Educator Certification met Friday to consider the company’s fate. Texas Teachers of Tomorrow and TEA are expected to present arguments before an administrative judge, and the case could stretch on for months or even more than a year.

The company has been on probation for several months, and TEA found it did not meet the terms of their agreement to improve. The state already faces a teacher shortage that could be exacerbated if the company’s accreditation is revoked.


TABC working with retailers over holidays

‘Tis the season for tippling, and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is working with retailers to prevent illegal alcohol sales. TABC plans inspections across the state to ensure retailers are following the law and not selling to people younger than 21 as well as those who are visibly intoxicated.

“Now is the best time, before the holiday season kicks into high gear, for business owners and managers to educate their staff on ways to prevent illegal alcohol sales,” TABC executive director Thomas Graham said.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, drunk driving was a factor in nearly one-fourth of all traffic deaths last year. Businesses who violate state alcohol laws face fines or suspension of their alcohol licenses, while individuals could face misdemeanor charges resulting in a fine or jail time.


Holiday happenings at state parks

State parks across Texas are hosting a variety of holiday events in December, including themed guided walks, scavenger hunts, and more, according to TPWD. However, anyone planning to visit a state park should reserve their day pass in advance to avoid being turned away from parks that reach capacity. You can do so on the TPWD website (tpwd.texas.gov) or by calling 512-389-8900.

A full list of holiday events at state parks is on the TPWD website.


COVID-19 cases continue to rise

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the past week in Texas rose once again, this time to 30,096 with 91 deaths, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported a slight increase, with 1,977 lab-confirmed COVID-19 patients across the state.

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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