Log in
Capital Highlights

Drought conditions ease slightly while heat dome returns


Drought conditions across the state dropped a percentage point in May compared to the previous month, with 26% of the state in some stage of drought, primarily in West and South Texas and parts of the Panhandle.

Massive storms in late April and into May caused flooding and wind damage in East and North Texas but did pull those regions out of drought. Some parts of Central and East Texas received three times their average rainfall in May, according to Mark Wentzel, hydrologist with the Texas Water Development Board.

Meanwhile, Texans are staring down another miserably hot summer and wondering if it will be as bad as last year’s, which was the second hottest on record. A heat dome, which is a high-pressure system that traps heat and keeps it sticking around, is making its way across the state. It has already heated the waters of the Gulf of Mexico to about the same temperatures as last year, according to a report in the Texas Standard.

The heat dome is also driving up temperatures on land. San Antonio last week saw a record heat index of 117 degrees. Some South Texas cities are already seeing heat temperatures broken, and not just by a small amount.

“They usually might beat it by half a degree and maybe, at most, 1 degree,”  said Victor Murphy of the National Weather service. “So, to see 120-, 150-year records shatter by 2 to 3 degrees is pretty significant. It shows you the magnitude and the strength of this heat ridge.”

On the somewhat-bright side, Murphy said summer in Texas is not likely to be quite as bad as last year, which brought 45 days straight of triple-digit heat to much of the state.

Election officials acknowledge holes in ballot secrecy

During a Texas House Election Committee hearing last week, election officials acknowledged holes in election laws that have exposed some ballots cast by Texas voters to public scrutiny, The Dallas Morning News reported.

A group of activists suing the Texas secretary of state claim they have created an algorithm that can match any voter to an anonymous ballot, though their legal filing redacted details on how their hack of ballot security works.

The secretary of state’s office, which oversees the state’s elections, has sent guidance to county election officials on how to adopt procedures to ensure ballots available for public inspection are scrubbed of any identifying information, The News reported.

“Every Texan has the right to a secret ballot, and that right must remain sacred. It is unacceptable for any voter to have their ballot choices publicized,” Secretary of State Jane Nelson said. “I am issuing emergency guidance to protect the privacy of Texas voters.”

Most schools still don’t have armed guards, despite law

Despite a law that went into effect nine months ago requiring an armed officer at every public school in Texas, most schools have not done so, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Hearst Newspapers, owner of the Chronicle and other Texas newspapers, conducted an analysis of 100 randomly selected school districts around the state and found that at least half adopted an exception provided in the law to avoid having to hire an armed guard. Just one fourth of the surveyed districts had an armed security guard at each campus, while another 22 did not respond.

Some district leaders told the newspaper they were struggling to both pay for the added security or find people to take the jobs. Graford ISD Superintendent Brandon Perry said his single-campus district west of Fort Worth got about $18,500 in state dollars but needed $80,000 to hire an officer.

"They require us to hire armed security, hire a school resource officer, but they did not attach additional funding to pay for that expense,” Perry said.

State Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, was one of the bill’s backers. He acknowledged that legislators had “set a standard that is not attainable,” largely because there aren’t enough qualified officers willing to take the positions.

“There’s physically not enough law enforcement in the state of Texas trained to this level to fill all the positions,” he said, making the exemption clause necessary. Otherwise, campuses would be forced to shut down.

Far fewer migrants being bused out of state

While Gov. Greg Abbott insists he intends to keep busing migrants to cities led by Democratic mayors outside Texas, there has been a dramatic drop in the past six months, the Chronicle reported.

In the last half of 2023, the governor’s busing program sent about 77,000 migrants to six U.S. cities with Democratic mayors. That number over the past six months has dropped to about 17,000 amidst court cases and more aggressive efforts by Mexico to stop migrants from getting to Texas.

Abbott’s office declined to comment on the dropping busing numbers.

Since 2021, the state has spent $11 billion on Operation Lone Star in an attempt to stem the tide of migrant arrivals, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The GOP chair of the Senate Border Security Committee has questioned how long Texans will be asked to bear the cost for the operation.

“How long can we do this?” Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, who has chaired the Border Security Committee since its inception in 2023, asked officials in charge of oversight of the border initiative. “Because the day will come when the comptroller is going to tell us there’s a (budget) shortfall; that means some tough decisions here.”

Besides heat woes, it’s mating season for tarantulas

It is time for male tarantulas to start looking for love, sometimes in all the wrong places, the San Antonio Express-News reported. The state is home to 14 species of the creature, the most common of which is the Texas brown tarantula. Males are out looking for mates, according to

Texas A&M’s Field Guide to Common Insects.

Starting next month, female tarantulas will begin laying eggs, anywhere from 100 to 1,000 in a web. While the furry critters are venomous and can be downright scary looking, severe reactions to a bite are rare. And tarantulas will often warn before striking by raising their front legs in a “threat pose.”

That means it is time to back off, in case you were wondering.

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


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