Opinion: Disaster declaration affects counties hit by heavy rains, flooding

by | Oct 25, 2018 | Opinion

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a state disaster declaration for 18 Texas counties recently impacted by deadly weather that claimed at least four lives and caused extensive flooding. 

On Oct. 16 Abbott authorized the use of all available resources of state government and of political subdivisions to aid in response efforts.

“Texas is taking immediate action to respond to the threat of recent severe weather and flooding across the state. We have made available all necessary resources to respond as quickly and effectively as possible to this disaster and to assist those in harm’s way,” the governor said. “I thank all our first responders and local officials on the ground in these communities for their efforts to assist fellow Texans during this dangerous event.”

Counties included in the disaster declaration are Bastrop, Burnet, Colorado, Fayette, Hood, Jim Wells, Kerr, Kimble, La Salle, Live Oak, Llano, Mason, McMullen, Nueces, Real, San Patricio, Travis and Williamson.

In related news, the Texas Secretary of State’s office on Oct. 18 announced that its employees contacted election officials in all 18 counties named in the disaster declaration in order to provide immediate guidance and assess election office closures, equipment damage, issues with polling locations, website availability and any other ongoing issues as a result of severe weather. 

Secretary of State Rolando Pablos, Texas’ chief elections officer, said his office is working “with both party and elected officials to gather additional information and ensure that any Texas voters affected by severe weather will be accommodated when preparing to cast their ballots.”

Early voting began Oct. 22 and runs through Nov. 2. Election Day is Nov. 6.

Survivors’ bill to be filed

Legislation to create a telemedicine program to deliver medical forensic care to sexual assault survivors throughout Texas will be filed soon.

Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, on Oct. 17 announced she would introduce legislation that addresses the fact that 84 percent of Texas counties currently are not served by a nurse with sexual assault certifications. 

Nelson said her bill would establish telemedicine hubs through which local medical providers may consult with a certified nurse during a sexual assault exam and “dramatically expand the number of locations where survivors can obtain care and ensure evidence is collected in a manner that will stand up in court.”

“Every survivor of sexual assault deserves compassionate care and justice, regardless of where they live,” Nelson said.

Nelson serves as chair of the state budget-writing Senate Finance Committee.

Jobless rate falls further

Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent in September, down from 3.9 percent in August, and setting a new record for the lowest unemployment rate recorded in four decades. 

The Texas Workforce Commission posted the numbers on Oct. 19, also saying the state’s economy added 15,600 seasonally adjusted non-farm jobs in September. The annual employment growth was 3.3 percent in September, marking 27 consecutive months of annual growth.

Texas Workforce Commission Chair Ruth Ruggero Hughs said, “Texas’ continued addition of jobs over a 27-month period demonstrates the competitive advantage and market opportunities available to our Texas employers and world-class workforce.”

The Midland Metropolitan Statistical Area recorded the month’s lowest unemployment rate among Texas MSAs with a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 2.2 percent, followed by the Amarillo MSA and the Odessa MSA, which had the second lowest with a rate of 2.7 percent. The Austin-Round Rock and College Station- Bryan MSAs recorded the third lowest rate of 2.9 percent for September.

Alamo plan is finalized

After the San Antonio City Council voted for final approval of an Alamo plaza lease agreement and closing the streets in front of the Alamo, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush on Oct. 18 released this statement: 

“Texas has a rich and unique history defined by the valor of our defenders who gave their lives for a single idea: liberty. The effort to preserve and restore the Alamo battlefield began three years ago and has undergone intense debate and discussion. Today’s vote is a historic milestone, showcasing the State of Texas and City of San Antonio’s commitment to restoring the Alamo for generations of Texans to come. The story of the Alamo is world-renowned and represents the core of Texas’ identity today. I look forward to seeing restoration begin, ensuring the Alamo is around for another 300 years.”

Ed Sterling is the member services director for the Texas Press Association.

His column is a weekly aggregation of news about the state’s government.

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