The Seabreeze Beacon

Capital Highlights Week of June 3 – June 7

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Phelan wins re-election bid, seeks speaker post again

House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, narrowly won re-election in a hotly contested runoff race and has vowed to seek his third term as speaker, drawing threats from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to oppose any of his supporters in the 2024 primary.

“I’ve done it twice, Phelan told The Dallas Morning News. “I’ll do it a third time.” But Patrick was quick to threaten opposition to any representative supporting Phelan’s bid.

“My message to Austin is clear: to those considering supporting Dade Phelan as speaker in 2025, ask your 15 colleagues who lost reelection how they feel about their decision now,” Paxton said in a statement. “You will not return if you vote for Dade Phelan again.”

Two former Phelan supporters already have announced they will run for speaker. Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, announced his plans to do so before the runoff results were known. Rep. Shelby Slawson, R-Stephenville, announced her candidacy on Thursday.

Phelan has drawn Paxton’s ire since supporting impeaching the attorney general, who was ultimately acquitted by the Senate last September.

FEMA opens more disaster recovery centers

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has opened more disaster recovery centers in southeast Texas counties hit by recent storms and flooding, the Houston Chronicle reported. New centers opened in Hardin, Montgomery and Walker counties and are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott added five more counties to the disaster declaration list: Dallas, Fannin, Hockley, Lynn, and Rockwall. That means more than 100 Texas counties are now under a disaster declaration after severe storms and flooding swept a considerable portion of the state in late April, with heavy rainfall, flash flooding, flooded rivers, large hail and hazardous wind gusts.

“I encourage every Texan who sustained damage to their home or business to report it using the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s iSTAT damage survey,” Abbott said. The link to the survey can be found at: damage.tdem.texas.gov.

SBOE to approve more rigorous course material

Public comment is now open for new course materials proposed by the Texas Education Agency and under consideration by its governing body, the State Board of Education.

The Austin American-Statesman reported the state has developed academic content that will be offered free online for kindergarten through fifth grade reading and language arts, and for kindergarten through eighth grade math. SBOE must approve the materials for use in all public schools that wish to use them.

Education Commissioner Mike Morath said the intent is to provide free, state-developed and vetted course materials. He said teachers have said in TEA surveys that they spend many hours outside of school looking online for such material. 

 “In many cases, the materials that have been cobbled together by curriculum teams or grade level teams, while seemingly appropriate, have not given students exposure to the background knowledge they need,” Morath said. “You want kids to be able to read independently, but you want them to be really stretched.”

If approved by the board, districts will receive an additional $40 per student to use board-approved books and $20 to print state-owned content. Anyone interested in viewing the proposed materials and provide feedback by going to the board’s website — sboe.texas.gov — and finding the “Instructional Materials Review and Approval” page.

The board could approve use of the materials in November.

TPWD approves rules for trapping mountain lions

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission last week approved rules for hunting and trapping mountain lions in the state, banning canned hunts and setting a 36-hour limit for checking traps for live mountain lions, kut.org reported.

Before the vote, there were no requirements for checking traps, and whatever was trapped could be left to die of exposure or dehydration.

“We don’t need to facilitate negligence. We have a duty to manage wildlife. We have a duty to be ethical as hunters,” Brandt Buchanan, a ranch manager and hunter, told commissioners.

Violating the new regulation is a class C misdemeanor. Prior to the vote, Texas was the only state that did not have any rules for trapping or hunting mountain lions.

Wildlife filmmaker Ben Masters told commissioners that technology provides an economical way for ranchers and trappers to comply with the new regulations for live mountain lions caught in traps, showing them a small motion-activated camera that can let them know what is in a trap.

“Y’all have the opportunity today to show some dignity and respect to our cats,” Masters said prior to the regulation being approved.

State revamps Narcan distribution following delays

Texas is revamping its distribution program for an overdose-reversing medication after years of supply and distribution challenges, The Texas Tribune reported.

The state has tapped into more than $45 million in federal funds since 2019 in order to get Narcan into the hands of law enforcement and members of the public seeking to reduce overdose deaths. The program has been beset by delays, supply challenges and communication lapses, however.

UT Health Science Center San Antonio will continue to administer the program, now called Naloxone Texas, and says it has improved distribution and communication in recent months.

“I am aware that individuals have expressed concern about the rapidity with which they receive naloxone,” said Jennifer Sharpe Potter of  UT Health San Antonio. “This is life-saving work, and we want to make sure that people get naloxone as quickly as possible.”

UT Health San Antonio’s contract with the federal Health and Human Services Commission requires it to distribute at least 120,000 doses a year in Texas, The Tribune reported. This year marks the first time the state is using its own funds in part for distributing naloxone instead of relying solely on federal money.

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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