OPINION

Capital highlights: Abbott halts border truck inspections

GARY BORDERS

Gov. Greg Abbott halted the state’s aggressive truck inspection at all Texas border crossings after days of bipartisan criticism over the extended delays of goods entering the United States.

According to the San Antonio Express-News and other media outlets, for more than a week Abbott had troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety stop all commercial trucks passing through Texas ports for safety inspections, leading to waits of up to eight hours. Normally it takes less than 30 minutes for trucks to cross the border.

Gary Borders

Abbott announced last Friday the inspections would end after he signed deals with the governors of the four Mexican states that border Texas to provide better security in an attempt to slow illegal immigration into Texas. He was criticized by the Texas Trucking Association and fellow Republicans, including Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.

“I understand the concern that businesses have about trying to move products across the bridge, but I also know the anger Texans face and have that’s caused by Joe Biden not securing the border,” Abbott said Friday.

Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who faces the governor in November, slammed Abbott, calling the inspections a “publicity stunt.” 

“This was completely unnecessary and did absolutely nothing to improve the security and safety of El Paso, of Laredo, of Pharr, or any one of our border communities of the state of Texas or of the United States of America,” O’Rourke said.

Meanwhile, at least five busloads of migrants were sent to Washington, D.C. at Abbott’s behest. Those migrants had already been processed and released by the Department of Homeland Security and volunteered to make the trip to the nation’s capital.

Drought conditions cover most of state

A drier and cooler March for much of the state has expanded drought conditions, which now cover 88% of the state, according to Dr. Mark Wentzel, a hydrologist with the Texas Water Development Board. The drought is most severe in the Panhandle, High Plains and South Texas. Few counties have escaped the dry conditions. 

The drought is expected to expand and intensify over the next few months, according to the latest seasonal drought outlook from the National Weather Service. Thanks to a Pacific Ocean weather cycle called La Niña, drought is predicted for almost the entire state by the end of June, according to Wentzel.

Agency warns against fraudulent online bank

Consumers are urged to be aware of a fraudulent website claiming to offer online banking services. The website claims to belong to Palm Springs Bank or PalmSpring Bank, according to the Texas Department of Banking. The fake bank’s website does not indicate a physical address but does list a post office box in Fort Worth as a mailing address.

“The website is not associated with any known bank. No bank doing business under the name Palm Springs Bank or PalmSpring Bank has been authorized to provide banking services in Texas, nor is any bank by either name supervised by the Department, the FDIC, or the Federal Reserve,” the news release said.

Anyone with information about the purported bank or its website should contact the Department’s Consumer Assistance Activities at consumer.complaints@dob.texas.gov or call 877-276-5554.

First West Nile case of year reported

A Dallas County resident has been diagnosed with West Nile virus —the first reported case of the year, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

West Nile virus is transmitted through bites from infected mosquitoes. About 20% of people who are exposed develop symptoms such as headache, fever, muscle and joint aches. In rare cases, less than 1%, more serious symptoms can occur, including death.

DSHS officials suggest wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, applying insect repellent and removing standing water and “not give mosquitoes a biting chance." 

There were 112 cases of West Nile disease in Texas last year that resulted in 14 deaths.

Teacher salaries unchanged in past decade

The average salary of Texas' public-school teachers has not improved in the past decade, according to a new study called “The Lost Decade.”

The Houston Chronicle reported on the new study by the nonprofit policy institute Every Texan and the Texas American Federation of Teachers. The study analyzed salary figures reported to the state from 2010 to 2020. It indicated that when adjusted for inflation there has not been a salary increase overall, and average pay for new teachers has slightly decreased.

“With double-digit increases in home and rental prices and general decreases or stagnation in teacher paychecks, the precarity becomes clear quickly, especially for those teaching in large urban districts,” the authors wrote. “If you cannot afford a roof over your head, how can you be faulted for looking for an exit from your demanding job?”

Continued swing in COVID-19 cases in Texas

The number of new COVID-19 cases in Texas dropped considerably in the past week, with 11,361 reported by the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University, along with 98 deaths. The number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations dropped once again, with 785 reported in the state.

The number of Texans who are fully vaccinated as of Sunday stands at 17.5 million, or 60% of the state’s population, with 6.635 million getting a booster dose.

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.