Texas House Democrats sue over defunding of legislative branch
House Democrats filed a petition with the Texas Supreme Court on Friday, seeking to overturn Gov. Greg Abbott’s veto of funding for the legislative branch.
As the Austin American-Statesman and other media outlets reported, House Democrats were joined by the AFL-CIO and caucuses representing Black and Latino lawmakers in asking the court to determine the governor’s actions were unconstitutional.
Abbott used his line-item veto power to abolish funding for the legislative branch in the next biennial budget, which takes effect Sept. 1. He was angered by the last-minute walkout of House Democrats to stop consideration of various voting law changes pushed by the governor and Republican legislators.
“Abbott’s veto is an abuse of power, an act of legislative coercion and a threat to democracy, the result of which is clear and immediate harm to the people of Texas,” said Chris Turner, D–Grand Prairie, chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus.
“The Legislature is a co-equal branch of government and the separation of powers is enshrined in our state constitution,” Turner said. “The governor doesn’t get to simply cancel another branch of government when he doesn’t get his way.”
Abbott’s veto struck $410.2 million allocated for the Legislature and numerous agencies that provide support to lawmakers.
Besides state lawmakers, who make $600 a month, Turner said the veto could affect up to 2,000 employees of the Texas Senate and House and those agencies.
Special session set for July 8
Abbott has called for a special session beginning July 8, his office announced last week. He said in a press release that the items to be addressed “will be announced prior to the convening of the special session.”
Abbott had said previously that he would ask legislators to work on two priority election bills that died when the Democrats walked out, as well as a bail bill that also failed.
On Friday, Abbott urged county judges across Texas to submit their two-year projected budget for expenses related to what he terms the “ongoing border crisis.” The projections, submitted online, will be used by the state to request additional border security funding during the upcoming special session.
On Friday, the governor also urged jailers statewide to assist border sheriffs with operating detention facilities and providing jail beds for people arrested on state charges related to crossing the border illegally.
PUC outlines disconnection procedures as moratorium ends
The Texas Public Utility Commission met Thursday with its newest member, Lori Cobos, being sworn in by Chairman Peter Lake.
As previously reported, the PUC has ended the moratorium on disconnections in effect since February. The first day for potential disconnections is June 29. Customers have specific rights under PUC rules when it comes to potential disconnections for nonpayment.
The PUC publishes a “Know Your Rights” page on its website, which can be accessed here: https://tinyurl.com/6byxdy97.
The PUC also said the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which it oversees, will have to release information about power outages more quickly.
Right now, the state’s main power grid operation has 60 days to release information about power plant outages, such as occurred recently during a June heat wave. That has been reduced to three days. However, as the Texas Tribune reported, ERCOT could include which power plants were down and for how long, but not much more detail about why the outage occurred.
Number of vaccinated Texans edges upward
The number of Texans fully vaccinated has reached 11.7 million or 40 percent of the state’s total population, according to Texas Health and Human Services.
Meanwhile, hospitalizations in the past week of lab-confirmed COVID-19 patients in Texas stayed roughly the same as the previous week at 1,481. New cases of COVID-19 in the state in the past week totaled 8,825 with 167 deaths recorded, little changed from the previous week.
TCEQ assists Aransas Pass with water contamination
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is working with the city of Aransas Pass after its water system was apparently chemically contaminated by a backflow from a local business. Antifreeze is the possible contaminant, according to published reports.
As of Sunday, the city’s tap water should not be used for drinking, cooking, bathing, brushing teeth, making beverages or ice or dishwashing. It can still be used for doing laundry, flushing commodes and watering outside.
TCEQ sent 40 pallets of bottled water to the city and is onsite taking samples from the municipal water system. It is unknown when the water will be considered safe for consumption again.
The city is holding a self-serve drive-thru behind its civic center where residents can pick up water.
Supreme Court: Academy can’t be sued over shootings
The Texas Supreme Court threw out four lawsuits filed against Academy Sports and Outdoors by survivors and family of the victims of the mass shooting at a Sutherland Springs church in 2017.
The Austin American-Statesman reported the court ruled Friday that the suits were prohibited by a federal law protecting retailers from legal action stemming from crimes committed by third parties.
The shooting, at a church in a small community about 30 miles east of San Antonio, left 26 people dead. The gunman was killed after leaving the scene.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.