More than 600 new laws in effect as of Sept. 1

Brownwood Bulletin
Gary Borders

More than 600 new laws signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott went into effect Sept. 1.

The new state laws — including one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, the right to carry handguns both concealed and openly without a license, changes to election law and a bill allowing restaurants to sell alcohol to go — were passed during the 87th Legislative Session.

The second special session ends on Sept. 7.

“The 87th Legislative Session was a monumental success, and many of the laws going into effect today will ensure a safer, freer, healthier, and more prosperous Texas,” Abbott said. “I look forward to my continued work with the legislature to build upon these successes and create an even brighter future for the Lone Star State.”

Some of the more controversial laws, such as the abortion bill and the election law, face judicial challenges from opponents, although the U.S. Supreme Court last week refused to hear an appeal to the abortion bill, which bans the procedure if a woman is more than six weeks pregnant.

State deploys additional resources to Ida victims

Abbott announced that additional resources and personnel have been deployed to assist in the response and recovery efforts in Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Ida. Those resources include 116 guardsmen from a battalion tactical command and several platoons with high-water vehicles and other heavy equipment.

“Texas remembers the generous support offered by Louisianans during Hurricane Harvey four years ago, and we have recognized their need for additional help as they recover from the destruction of Hurricane Ida earlier this week,” Abbott said. “We will continue to help our neighbors in need, just as they did for us.”

Grants available for prescribed burning in Central, East Texas

The Texas A&M Forest Service has nearly a half-million dollars available in grants to offset the costs of prescribed burning on private lands in Central and East Texas. 

“Texas has seen above-normal rainfall this year, resulting in greater herbaceous fuel loading in our fire environments,” said Andy McCrady, Texas A&M Forest Service Program Coordinator.

“With more fuels, it is important for land managers to look ahead at what areas have the heaviest undergrowth and consider planning prescribed fire operations in those locations at a time when weather conditions are moderate.” 

Prescribed fire is a land management practice that helps with habitat restoration, soil nutrient restoration and reducing wildfire risk by eliminating brush, weeds, dried vegetation and downed trees, according to a forest service press release.

The application deadline is Thursday, Sept. 30. Interested landowners can search eligibility and fill out an online application by visiting http://texasforestservice.tamu.edu/cppgrant/.

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations rise again

After a decrease last week in COVID-19 cases in Texas, the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University reported a rise to 126,379 new cases in Texas as of Friday, up about 20,000 from the previous week. Total number of deaths was 1,649, up 22% from the previous week. A total of 13,790 lab-confirmed patients were in Texas hospitals, up slightly from the previous week, according to the Texas Department of Health Services. 

Nearly 4,200 Texans died of COVID-19 in the last month, largely due to the delta variant and overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated; the overall death toll since the pandemic began is over 56,000.

The number of Texans as of Friday who are fully vaccinated continues to trickle up, now totaling 13.8 million, or 47.4% of the state’s total population.

Zebra mussels now invaded 34 Texas lakes

With the designation of Lake Worth in Tarrant County on the Trinity River as “infested” with invasive zebra mussels, 28 Texas reservoirs are considered fully infested, with another half dozen lakes containing the pest.

Zebra mussels negatively affect reservoir ecosystems by filtering out algae that native species need for food and attaching to and thus incapacitating native mussels. They are also notorious for clogging water intakes in power plants, which spend millions of dollars removing them.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says boaters play a critical role in preventing zebra mussels from spreading to new lakes. 

“Each boater taking steps to clean and drain their boat before leaving the lake and allowing compartments and gear to dry completely when they get home can make a big difference in protecting our Texas lakes,” Brian Van Zee, TPWSD inland fisheries director, said.

Transporting zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species, knowingly or not, can result in legal woes for boaters. It is illegal in Texas and punishable with a fine of up to $500 per violation. Boaters are also required to drain all water from their boats and onboard receptacles, including bait buckets, before leaving or approaching a body of fresh water.

To learn more about zebra mussels and other invasive species in Texas, visit tpwd.texas.gov/StopInvasives.

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.