Capital highlights: State budget is headed to governor's desk


The Texas Legislature sent a $248 billion two-year state budget to Gov. Greg Abbott after the House approved the measure last Thursday.

Gary Borders

The 140-day legislative session ended at midnight Monday (May 31). Senate Bill 1 is $13.5 billion less than the previous biennial budget, with the difference to be made up from COVID-19 relief funds from the federal government.

As previously reported, Abbott plans to call a special session in the fall to allow legislators to decide how to allocate those funds.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has called for a special session for this summer to address some of his priority bills, such as limiting the participation of transgender athletes in school sports, banning the use of public funds to pay lobbyists and putting limits on social media’s power to restrict users. Abbott called Patrick’s special-session proposal “pretty goofy,” according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Only the governor can call a special session and dictate the topics to be addressed.

More than a third of Texans vaccinated

Over a third of all Texans  — more than 10 million — are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with shots opened up to anyone 12 and older, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. That is 34.5 percent of the state’s population. 

The Texas Department of Emergency Management and Abbott announced last week the expansion of the State Mobile Vaccine Program to include groups of five or more eligible Texans who voluntarily choose to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Anyone interested can call 844-90-TEXAS and select Option 13 to schedule a mobile vaccine clinic for groups of friends, families, employees, and others. In addition, homebound residents can request a unit come to their home. Previously, a minimum of 10 people were required before requesting a mobile vaccination unit.

The call center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday – Saturday.

Cases up slightly, hospitalizations down

The number of COVID-19 cases in the past week rose slightly, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University. As of last Friday, 269 deaths were reported — identical to last week. The number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 patients continues to drop, with 1,899 hospitalized as of Friday, according to DSHS.

Number of missing children reported

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has issued its annual report on children and youth missing from that agency’s conservatorship or who are considered victims of human trafficking.

During fiscal year 2020, which ended Aug. 31 of last year, a total of 2,229 children and youth were missing at some point. On Aug. 31, 255 were still missing. During that year, a total of 47,913 were in DFPS conservatorship, meaning 4.6%, went missing at some point.

Of the 1,972 children recovered during that time frame, 136  of them — 7% — reported being victimized while missing. Sixty-eight children — 3.4% — reported being a victim of sex trafficking.

Texas Film Commission celebrates 50 years

The Texas Film Commission, created in 1971 to expand the film industry in Texas, turned a half-century old this year. 

The commission has attracted $1.66 billion in local spending and created more than 157,000 production jobs in Texas from 2007 to 2020. More than 150 Texas communities are now officially Texas Film Friendly.

"Texas has developed into such a vibrant destination for production across all media that the promise and potential recognized 50 years ago has been more than realized,” Abbott said.

Hurricane season begins June 1

The 2021 hurricane season kicks off June 1, and it is expected to be another busy one.

Last year’s Atlantic hurricane season included a record-breaking 30 storms, including a dozen that made landfall in the United States. Three storms — Hurricanes Hanna and Laura and Tropical Storm Marco — resulted in disaster declarations for several Texas counties, according to the Texas Association of Counties.

Hurricane researchers at Colorado State University warn that warmer Atlantic surface temperatures and the absence of El Niño conditions in the Pacific could result in a busy hurricane system.

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@texaspress.com.