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Capital Highlights

by | Jun 29, 2017 | Opinion

By Ed Sterling

Director of Member Services for the Texas Press Association

First Gulf storm of season elbows Texas

AUSTIN — State emergency responders geared up for the first time this hurricane season in response to Tropical Storm Cindy, which came ashore just east of the Texas-Louisiana border on June 22.

Two deaths were attributed to the storm — one of them an elderly man found in a sand-mired pickup truck on Texas’ Bolivar Peninsula.

The storm dropped most of its rainfall east of its center — up to 18 inches in some places far to the east — and much less in Texas. But as a precaution two days before landfall, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered an increase in readiness from level four, normal conditions, to level three, increased readiness.

Four Texas Task Force 1 boat squads were activated, along with two Texas Military Department vehicle squads. Also, the Texas Department of State Health Services Emergency Medical Task Force, the Texas Military Forces Aircraft and shelter and feeding teams were placed on standby.

Abbott noted that weather conditions related to tropical storms can change rapidly without warning, causing catastrophic flooding. “That is why I am imploring all Texans in the Gulf region to stay updated and heed warnings from your local officials, avoid high water areas and refrain from attempting to drive through roadways or over bridges that have the potential to flood.”

 

Paxton leads coalition

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on June 19 urged the Federal Communications Commission to deny a petition by the broadband industry to prevent states from investigating and settling claims over false and misleading advertising about broadband Internet speed.

“As the U.S. Supreme Court ruled,” Paxton said, “a federal agency may pre-empt state law only when and if it’s acting within the scope of its congressionally delegated authority. Hundreds of millions of Americans rely on broadband Internet services every day, yet they don’t always get what they pay for. The states’ consumer protection powers must be left intact to protect customers from providers who make false claims about broadband speed.”

Paxton was joined in the letter by the attorneys general of Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

 

Texas adds jobs in May

The Lone Star State’s economy expanded in May with the addition of 14,800 seasonally adjusted non-farm jobs, the Texas Workforce Commission announced.

Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent, down from 5.0 percent in April.

“Texas employers created 266,600 jobs over the past year and the Texas economy continues to provide competitive advantages to large and small business owners across the state,” said Andres Alcantar, chair of the Texas Workforce Commission. “TWC remains committed to fostering innovative partnerships that equip Texas students and workers with in-demand skills,” he added.

The mining and logging category recorded the largest private-industry gain over the month, with 6,600 jobs added. Construction employment grew by 3,400 jobs in May and financial activities employment expanded by 3,200 jobs.

Furthermore, the Amarillo Metropolitan Statistical Area recorded the month’s lowest unemployment rate in the state, with a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 3.1 percent.

 

AG praises end to bag tax

Attorney General Paxton on June 21 praised the city of Kermit for repealing a local sales tax on single-use plastic bags.

“Cities and municipalities in Texas are obligated to follow the rule of law, and the Legislature passed a law that clearly prohibits a sales tax on bags,” Paxton wrote. That law, Paxton said, is Health and Safety Code Sec. 361.0961(a)(3), which states: “A local government or other political subdivision may not adopt an ordinance, rule or regulation to assess a fee or deposit on the sale or use of a container or package.”

In May, Paxton’s office gave the city of Kermit 60 days to repeal its bag tax.  With the city’s action, there are no more bag taxes remaining in Texas, Paxton said.

 

Tips for Zika-free holiday

The Texas Department of State Health Services posted precautions in advance of Independence Day festivities.

“Don’t let Zika stop your July 4 plans,” the agency said, and offered everyday ways to avoid mosquito bites, which are known to transmit the Zika and West Nile viruses.

Texans, especially pregnant women, should continue to protect themselves from Zika by:

— Applying EPA-approved insect repellent;

— Wearing pants and long-sleeve shirts;

— Using screens or closing windows and doors;

— Removing standing water in and around dwellings;

— Covering trash cans or containers where water can collect; and

— Avoiding travel to regions where Zika virus is active.

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