AUSTIN — A “Black Lives Matter” protest turned tragic when a sniper fired into a crowd estimated at 1,000 people in downtown Dallas at about 9 p.m. on July 7. 

Dozens of shots were fired, reportedly from an assault rifle, leaving five police officers dead and seven police officers and two civilians wounded. Police pursued a suspect identified as Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, a former U.S. Army reservist, and killed him in a parking garage using a robot-propelled explosive device early on July 8.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an open letter titled, “A Time To Come Together,” published in The Dallas Morning News on July 8. Among his comments, Abbott wrote: “Texas is an exceptional state with exceptional people. We’ve faced tough challenges in the past, but we have come together to overcome those challenges. In the coming days, there will be those who foment distrust and fan the flames of dissension. To come together — that would be the greatest rebuke to those who seek to tear us apart.”

Flags were ordered to half-staff in honor of the slain police officers.

Profs sue over ‘carry’ law

Three professors employed by the University of Texas at Austin on July 6 filed a lawsuit in federal court in Austin, seeking to stop the state’s 2015 “campus carry” law from taking effect on the UT campus.

In part, the plaintiffs asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction before the start of fall semester classes onAug. 24, prohibiting any state statute, rule, regulation or policy from taking effect that would compel them to allow the concealed carrying of handguns in their classrooms, or which would authorize imposition of sanctions if they bar the carrying of concealed handguns in their classrooms.

Policy moves states to act

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on July 6 filed a motion for a nationwide preliminary injunction against the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies and officials. 

Texas, Paxton’s office announced, is leading a 13-state coalition “against the Obama Administration’s directive requiring public schools and employers across the country to open up all intimate areas (restrooms, locker rooms, etc.) to both sexes.”

Paxton said schools face potential loss of funding for implementing policies to protect students. “Every employer is now being threatened for not bowing to anyone that identifies as the opposite sex,” he added.

Joining Texas in signing the motion are the states of Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Call for cuts is issued

Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus on July 1 directed all state agencies to cut their funding requests by 4 percent for the 2018-2019 biennial budget. 

Straus, R-San Antonio, said, “Due to the slowdown in parts of our economy, some difficult decisions will be required to balance the next state budget and the process of making those decisions begins now.”

The House Appropriations Committee is appointed by Straus and its counterpart, the Senate Finance Committee, is appointed by Patrick. In late August, the committees will review appropriations requests submitted by state agencies and use that information in crafting their respective versions of the next state budget. 

Tax allocations are set

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on July 7 announced his office would send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $624 million in local sales tax allocations for July.

The allocations, based on sales made in May by businesses that report tax monthly, amount to 2.3 percent more than the comptroller’s office distributed in July 2015. 

“The cities of Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and Fort Worth saw noticeable increases in sales tax allocations,” Hegar said. “Energy-centric cities such as Houston and Midland continue to see decreases in sales tax allocations.”

On July 5, Hegar said state sales tax revenue in June totaled $2.2 billion, down 0.8 percent compared to June 2015. “Sales tax revenue growth continues to be hobbled by reduced spending in oil- and gas-related sectors. Despite the recent increase in oil prices, spending is below even the reduced levels seen a year ago,” he added.