The Seabreeze Beacon

Capital Highlights Week of June 10 – June 14

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35 Texas counties eligible for individual disaster aid

  Residents in a total of 35 Texas counties now qualify for individual disaster assistance following a series of severe storms and flooding that began in late April, The Dallas Morning News reported.
  “I thank our federal partners and emergency response personnel across our great state who are working tirelessly to protect and support their fellow Texans,” Gov. Greg Abbott said Saturday. “Texas will continue to provide every necessary resource to regions across the state who are recovering from these storms.”
  Under the individual assistance program, funding can be provided for temporary housing, emergency home repairs, uninsured and underinsured personal property losses, disaster legal services, disaster unemployment assistance, and medical, dental, and funeral expenses caused by the disaster, The News reported.
  The following counties qualify for the federal assistance: Austin, Bell, Calhoun, Collin, Cooke, Coryell, Dallas, Denton, Eastland, Ellis, Falls, Guadalupe, Hardin, Harris, Henderson, Hockley, Jasper, Jones, Kaufman, Lamar, Leon, Liberty, Montague, Montgomery, Navarro, Newton, Polk, San Jacinto, Smith, Terrell, Trinity, Tyler, Van Zandt, Walker and Waller.
  Homeowners and renters can apply for the aid at disasterassistance.gov or by calling the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s hotline at 800-621-3362 between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Math results still lagging, STAAR results indicate

  Scores released from the state’s standardized test indicate high school students are still struggling with algebra, with scores 17 percentage points below students’ pre-pandemic scores in spring 2019. The Texas Tribune reported scores have remained essentially unchanged in Algebra 1, with 45% meeting grade levels.
   “The data is clear; Texas students continue to struggle with math recovery,” said Gabe Grantham, policy advisor at public policy think tank Texas 2036. “We run the risk of leaving students ill-equipped to enter the future workforce without the basic math skills needed to be successful.”
   On the bright side, the percentage of Texas students who met or mastered grade-level English has increased since 2017 from 45% to 57%, the Texas Education Agency reported.
   Across the five subjects that are tested, low-income students graded lower than other students. For example, 35% of low-income students met grade level in Algebra I, compared to 61% of all other students.

PUC sees strong industry response to loan program

   The Public Utility Commission has received 125 notices of intent to apply for loans through the Texas Energy Fund Loan Program intended to boost power generation throughout the state. The requests for loans total $38.9 billion for nearly 56,000 megawatts of proposed power generation projects for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
  “To ensure reliable, affordable electricity for the growing number of homes and businesses in Texas, we need more on-demand, dispatchable power generation,” PUCT Chairman Thomas Gleeson said. “Seeing such a strong initial response from industry … is an encouraging sign that the Texas Energy Fund will be an effective tool and incentivize the investment needed to bring more on-demand power to the state.”
   The program will provide low-interest loans to finance new construction or upgrades to existing electric generating facilities and requires a minimum of 100 MW of new generation to the ERCOT grid.

Stock exchange possibly coming to Dallas

  Efforts are underway to create a Texas-based stock exchange that backers believe could be a major boost to the Texas economy. The Texas Standard reported that financiers have raised $120 million in capital to start a stock exchange in Dallas later this year. Backers include BlackRock, Citadel Securities and about two dozen other investors. The Texas Stock Exchange’s backers are seeking registration with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to open later this year.
  “Texas and the other states in the southeast quadrant have become economic powerhouses. Combined with the demand we are seeing from investors and corporations for expanded alternatives to trade and list equities, this is an opportune time to build a major, national stock exchange in Texas,” said James Lee, founder and CEO of TXSE Group.
  Stock exchanges allow stocks, bonds and other securities to be traded. If TXSE is cleared to trade, it would be the first stock exchange to open in the country in recent years.
   The Dallas area is second only to New York in number of financial industry jobs, with about 400,000 employed — roughly half of the number working in finance in the Big Apple.

Consumer protection rules in place as summer arrives

  The Public Utility Commission is reminding Texans of consumer protection rules that prohibit disconnecting an individual’s electric service during extreme weather. Providers are required to offer deferred payment for bills incurred during extreme weather as the state again faces a long, brutal summer.
  “Anyone who has experienced a summer in Texas knows that having reliable power to cool your home or business is a matter of health and safety,” PUCT Chairman Thomas Gleeson said. “Ensuring the power stays on for all consumers during extreme weather, regardless of their financial situation, is a top priority for the PUCT.”
  Gleeson added the PUC wants Texans to be aware of rules to protect them as temperatures begin to rise. Consumers are encouraged to first contact their electric provider to resolve any issues regarding ability to pay. If they are unable to reach a resolution, they can contact the Consumer Protection Division of the PUC at 888-782-8477 or by emailing [email protected].

State kills 249 deer after long court battle

  After a three-year court battle, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has killed 249 white-tailed deer at a Kaufman County ranch that had been exposed to chronic wasting disease. The owner of the ranch, who raised the deer for trophy hunts, went to court in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the state from killing the herd under a policy intended to stop the neurological disease from spreading.
  A report by kut.org indicates conservation biologists consider CWD as the biggest threat to the nation’s deer herds. The state’s first case was discovered in West Texas in 2012. Nearly 800 deer have been found to have the disease, primarily in deer-breeding facilities, according to TPWD.

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, Lufkin and Cedar Park. Email: [email protected].

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