State opts out of federal refugee resettlement program
AUSTIN — Texas has acted on its threat to withdraw from the federal refugee resettlement program, Gov. Greg Abbott said on Sept. 30.
Texas had demanded enhanced FBI screening of individuals “from terrorist-based nations” and expressed resistance to the federal government’s request that the Lone Star State increase by 25 percent the number of refugees to be resettled. An estimated 7,000 refugees have taken up residence in Texas in the past year.
The federal government did not respond to a Sept. 21 letter from the state refugee coordinator with the Texas Department of Human Services. The letter gave notice that the state would no longer participate in the program if the state’s concerns were not addressed.
Despite state-level termination of participation in the program, private entities and local governmental bodies in Texas may continue to receive federal assistance to aid in the continued resettling of refugees.
New monument at Capitol
Work crews installed the main elements of the new Texas African American Historical Monument on the south grounds of the state Capitol on Sept. 27.
An official unveiling of the panoramic monument created by sculptor Ed Dwight will take place later this year. The monument was approved by the State Preservation Board, which has authority over the Capitol grounds.
State Rep. Helen Giddings, D-DeSoto, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, said, ”After many years of hard work bringing the Texas African American Historical Monument to the Capitol grounds, the stories of struggle and triumph of African-American Texans will be properly consecrated at our state's Capitol. We are thrilled that the monument which means so much to so many is one step closer to coming to fruition."
Whitmire proposes training
Legislation proposed by state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, would require Texas schools to educate students on how to interact with law enforcement when stopped for a traffic violation or detained.
Whitmire, who is dean of the Senate and serves as chair of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, said on Sept. 29 his bill would require the State Board of Education to set rules for a new curriculum section for ninth-grade students on law enforcement duties and interaction. The bill, he said, is part of an effort to combat escalated situations between officers and civilians.
“There is no home team or visiting team. We must all come together to develop the best strategies to improve relations and trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Increased training and education for both peace officers and our students will help foster positive relations and interactions,” Whitmire said.
Wolens named to post
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus on Sept. 26 appointed former state Rep. Steve Wolens of Dallas to the Texas Ethics Commission, with a four-year term to expire in November 2019.
It is the speaker’s responsibility to appoint two of the commission’s eight members, one nominated by Republican members of the House and one by Democratic members of the House. The lieutenant governor appoints two members and the governor appoints four members.
Wolens, a Dallas attorney who served as a Texas House member from 1981 to 2005, including a stint as chair of the powerful House State Affairs Committee, succeeds Paul Hobby, whose term expired. The speaker’s other appointee is Republican Chase Untermeyer of Houston, whose term will expire in 2017.
In announcing the appointment, Straus acknowledged Wolens’s authorship of landmark legislation on ethics, antitrust laws, electric deregulation, and partnerships and limited liability corporations.
Flu shot time arrives
The Texas Department of State Health Services on Sept. 29 urged that every Texan six months old and older get vaccinated against influenza.
“I’m asking people to get immunized now because it takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to become fully effective,” said DSHS Commissioner John Hellerstedt.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccination is particularly important for pregnant women, young children, older adults and people with chronic health conditions because people in those groups are at a greater risk of severe complications if they do get the flu.
Symptoms usually start abruptly and include fever, body aches, chills, a dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, headaches and extreme fatigue. The symptoms can last a week or longer.
Tips for protecting against the flu are at TexasFlu.org.
District profiles available
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath on Sept. 26 announced that “2015 Snapshot: School District Profiles” is available on the Texas Education Agency website.
“Snapshot” contains a profile of each public school district and charter school.
Tables on topics such as district size, wealth, tax rate and more can be accessed.