Governor declares disaster in Imelda-affected counties
AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on Sept. 19 declared a state of disaster in counties impacted by Tropical Storm Imelda, which first hit the upper Texas Gulf Coast on Sept. 15.
Counties listed in the declaration include Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston, Hardin, Harris, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Newton, Orange and San Jacinto.
The declaration ensures that local officials have access to any state resources they may require to respond.
The state worked with local officials and emergency personnel in the named counties on problems caused by Imelda’s heavy rains, high winds and catastrophic flooding.
Safety select panel meets
The House Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety met in the Capitol Sept. 17.
The panel is assigned to study mass violence, recommend ways to prevent future occurrences, reinforce public safety in Texas and address any shortcomings. Over the next few months, the panel will meet in Amarillo, Dallas, El Paso, Houston and Odessa.
"In the wake of recent shootings in El Paso and then in Midland-Odessa, it goes without saying that Texans are hurting,” the panel’s chair, Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, said. “We've lost friends, family members and co-workers from these acts of mass violence. And I say we because these tragedies and this loss of precious life are felt by everyone in our state, whether or not you knew the victims personally. Texans deserve better and they expect and demand our earnest work to deliver sensible solutions."
Col. Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, testified that there have been 12 mass casualty attacks in 53 years in Texas and that six of those attacks occurred in the past three years, resulting in the deaths of 82 people.
Discussion included topics such as social media postings, internet use, hotlines, tips and purchases of weapons and ammunition. Panelists also discussed how law enforcement entities can share databases that contain information on criminal activities and suspicious behavior.
AGs keep after opioid makers
Purdue Pharma and affiliated U.S. companies filed for bankruptcy last week under Chapter 11 in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.
After the filing, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said his office for more than a year has worked "to hold Purdue Pharma accountable for its deceptive marketing of prescription painkillers like Oxycontin, which has fueled our opioid epidemic."
Paxton said in a news release that the bankruptcy filing was not unexpected “and is consistent with the framework structure agreed upon by a bipartisan group of 29 attorneys general and Purdue Pharma to obtain those resources to help the communities impacted by opioid misuse and addiction.”
Pipeline inspections increase
The Texas Railroad Commission, the state’s energy-regulating agency, on Sept. 17 announced that in fiscal year 2019, which ended Aug. 31, its inspectors completed more than 4,800 pipeline safety inspections and issued more than 2,500 citations for violations.
In contrast, Railroad Commission inspectors completed 3,294 pipeline inspections, resulting in 2,444 cited violations in fiscal year 2018.
“Protection of public safety and our environment is our highest priority,” said Stephanie Weidman, director of the commission's pipeline safety section. “Thanks to support from the 86th Texas Legislature, we boosted our inspector numbers from 63 in Fiscal Year 2018 to 70 positions in FY 19. This will help us keep pace with the state’s new pipeline infrastructure being constructed to transport Texas’ booming oil and gas production.”
Property claims at new high
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Sept. 18 announced his office approved and paid a record $308.4 million in unclaimed property claims during the past fiscal year.
This is the first time the comptroller’s office has returned more than $300 million in unclaimed property in a fiscal year, breaking the previous record of $281 million returned in fiscal 2017, Hegar said.
There is no statute of limitations for unclaimed property the state holds, which means there’s no time limit for owners to file a claim, Hegar added.
Write-in filing deadline to hit
The Secretary of State's 2019 election law calendar identifies Sept. 26 as the 40th day before Election Day — Tuesday, November 5.
Texans who wish to file declarations of write-in candidacy for most local offices have until 5 p.m. on Sept. 26 to do so. More information is available at sos.texas.gov.