EARLY DELIVERY, Week of Dec. 31, 2018, to Jan. 6, 2019

Workforce commission reports continuation of employment trend
AUSTIN — Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.7 percent in November, remaining at the same 42-year low rate as in October, the Texas Workforce Commission reported Dec. 21.
The Texas economy added 14,000 seasonally adjusted non-farm jobs in November and annual employment growth was 3.0 percent for the month, marking 103 consecutive months of annual growth, according to the commission.
“The addition of 365,400 jobs over the year and 14,000 jobs in November demonstrates the consistency with which employers in our state create job opportunities for the highly skilled Texas workforce,” said TWC Chair Ruth R. Hughs. “The Texas economy offers employers access to a competitive workforce and provides job seekers with career options in a variety of growing Texas industries. The numbers are a testament to the resilience of our Texas employers and the diversity of our Texas economy,” she added.
The manufacturing sector recorded the largest private-industry employment gain over the month with 9,100 jobs added and led all industries in growth.
The Midland Metropolitan Statistical Area recorded the month’s lowest unemployment rate among Texas MSAs with a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 2.1 percent, followed by the Amarillo MSA, second lowest with a rate of 2.5 percent, and the Odessa MSA, third lowest with a rate of 2.6 percent.
Special elections are set
Gov. Greg Abbott set Tuesday, Jan. 29, as the special election date to fill two recently vacated seats in the Texas House of Representatives.
Those seats are House District 145, vacated by former state Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, a House member since 2008, and House District 79, soon to be vacated by Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, a House member since 1995.
Alvarado in early December won a special election runoff for the Texas Senate seat vacated by Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, who resigned from office after she was elected to the U.S. House in November. Alvarado was administered the oath of office on Dec. 21. On Dec. 15, Pickett resigned from office effective Jan. 4, citing health issues.
Candidates who wish to have their names placed on the special election ballot must file their applications with the Secretary of State no later than 5 p.m. on Jan. 3. Early voting by personal appearance will begin Jan. 14.
Regent chair is elected
Kevin Eltife, appointed in 2017 by Gov. Abbott to a six-year term on The University of Texas System Board of Regents, was unanimously elected chairman of the board on Dec. 20.
A native of Tyler, Eltife has a resume that includes service on the Tyler City Council as a councilmember, as mayor of Tyler, and as state senator for District 1. 
While mayor of Tyler, Eltife received national recognition for the creation of a “pay as you go” business plan that strategically eliminated general obligation bond debt and lowered property tax rates. 
As a state senator, Eltife was noted for his bipartisan cooperation and his leadership in finance, economic development, open government, health and human services, and government organization.
The UT board of regents oversees 14 higher education institutions, an enrollment of more than 235,000 students and an operating budget of $19.5 billion. 
Coalition includes Paxton
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Dec. 20 announced that he and 38 state attorneys general had sent a letter to congressional leaders, asking them “to fully consider criminal justice reforms” like those contained in the federal FIRST STEP Act (House Resolution 5682).
The letter explains that many states already have enacted criminal justice reforms similar to those in the FIRST STEP Act to great success, such as incentivizing federal inmates to participate in recidivism-reducing programs such as vocational training and academic courses. 
H.R. 5682 also would put more tools in the hands of prosecutors, allowing them to seek the most appropriate sentence for an individual’s crimes, Paxton said.
“This legislation provides additional tools and flexibility to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, better equipping our correctional system to ensure that people coming back into our communities are prepared to do so as responsible citizens who do not pose a risk to our communities,” coalition members wrote in the letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.