AUSTIN — Texas now boasts its own Domestic Terrorism Task Force, established by order of the governor in the wake of the deadly Aug. 3 shooting in El Paso.
Twenty-two people were killed and 24 injured by a suspect firing a military-style assault rifle in a popular shopping venue.
Gov. Greg Abbott on Aug. 14 said the task force’s job will be to analyze and provide advice on strategies to maximize law enforcement’s ability to protect against acts of domestic terrorism. The first meeting is set for Aug. 30.
“Our top priority is to keep Texans safe in their communities, he said, adding that "Texas is stronger when we come together in pursuit of a shared goal, and today’s actions are vital steps in our ongoing fight against extremism and violence. We stand united against those who wish to bring harm to our state, and together we will build a safer future for every Texan.”
Meanwhile, Abbott directed the Texas Department of Public Safety to:
• Conduct a state intelligence assessment on the domestic terrorism threat;
• Establish a Domestic Terrorism Section within the Texas Fusion Center to proactively seek, assess and monitor domestic terrorism and other mass casualty threats;
• Coordinate with the designated regional fusion centers in Texas to increase the detection and monitoring of domestic terrorism and other mass casualty threats;
• Establish Domestic Terrorism Teams comprised of DPS Special Agents to provide immediate direct support to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces and increase the number of special agents to conduct domestic counterterrorism investigations;
• Increasing the number of DPS special agents and analysts in the Texas Anti-Gang Centers conducting investigations of criminal gangs affiliated with Neo Nazi and White Nationalist groups and networks espousing terrorist attacks.
Task force members named
The Governor’s office posted the following list of those who will serve on the new Domestic Terrorism Task Force:
Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Attorney General Ken Paxton. Also, DPS Chief Steve McCraw, Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd; Major General Tracy Norris, Texas Military Department; Executive Director Amanda Crawford, Texas Department of Information Resources; and Executive Director Carter Smith, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
Also included are members of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, members of the U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Attorney John Bash, Western District of Texas; Jeff Murray, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Lubbock County District Attorney K. Sunshine Stanek; El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen, Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra, Hidalgo; and Capt. Anthony Carter, Collin County Sheriff's Office, North Texas Fusion Center.
Fusion centers combine the capabilities of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in combating criminal activity.
TEA releases ratings
The Texas Education Agency on Aug. 9 released preliminary financial accountability ratings for more than 1,100 school districts and charters across the state.
According to the agency, 87 percent earned the highest preliminary rating possible for 2018-2019. A school district or open-enrollment charter is assigned one of four possible letter grades — A, B, C or F — and a financial management rating of Superior, Above Standard Achievement, Meets Standard or Substandard Achievement.
Ratings for 2018-2019 are based on annual financial reports provided to TEA by districts and charters for the 2018 fiscal year.
Texas’ notes rated high
State Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Aug. 15 announced Texas repeated its high credit ratings for this year's Texas Tax and Revenue Anticipation Notes, short-term debt obligations to help the state manage its cash-flow needs for fiscal 2020.
"Texas has once again received the highest short-term credit ratings on these one-year notes," Hegar said. “These high ratings, coupled with the maintenance of our AAA long-term ratings, help keep Texas' borrowing costs low and save taxpayer dollars as we manage our cash flow. Our creditworthiness reflects our conservative approach to financial management, an increasingly diverse economy and our broad and rising employment base.”
Hegar added, however, that issues such as emerging trade tensions, the need to continue to address long-term obligations on the state's balance sheet and increased spending pressures continue to pose potential risks to the Lone Star State’s future credit.
Economy adds jobs in July
The Texas Workforce Commission on Aug. 16 announced that in the month of July the state’s economy added 35,200 seasonally adjusted total non-farm positions.
Also, the unemployment rate held steady in July at 3.4 percent, matching the all-time record low set in June. The rate of 3.4 percent is the lowest recorded unemployment rate since tracking began in 1976.