Abbott orders action to ensure safety on juco campuses

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AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott is calling for immediate action to ensure the safety of Texas’ junior college campuses following a Feb. 14 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Abbott’s order came in a Feb. 28 letter to Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Commissioner Raymund Paredes. He issued a similar order addressing the safety of all Texas schoolchildren a week earlier.

Abbott outlined steps to be taken by the Higher Education Coordinating Board.

“These are important first steps to ensuring that junior college districts are meeting all requirements and have the best information available to help keep their campuses safe,” Abbott said. “Texas will continue to evaluate and improve our approach to ensure our students are safe.”

A few among a longer list of Abbott’s suggestions to officials were these:

•Catalog, share and distribute campus safety information;

•Ensure that all public junior college districts are in compliance with statutorily required school safety audits and multi-hazard emergency operations plans; and

•Work with the Texas School Safety Center, the Department of Public Safety and the governor’s office to draft recommendations to the Texas Legislature on policy changes to keep students safe.

The Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University in San Marcos serves as a clearinghouse for the dissemination of safety and security information through research, training and technical assistance for K-12 schools and junior colleges.

Paxton joins AG Sessions

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and the attorneys general of six other states on Feb. 27 joined U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Washington, D.C., as Sessions announced new steps the Department of Justice is taking to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Sessions praised Paxton and the state attorneys general, saying, “Each of them has made combating opioid abuse a priority and has shown outstanding leadership.”

Some 64,000 fatal drug overdoses were reported across the nation in 2016. Of those, 2,831 opioid-related deaths were recorded in Texas.

Paxton said his office would “continue to do everything it can to protect Texans from the opioid crisis.”

In 2017, Paxton and a coalition of officials in 40 other states served investigative subpoenas and additional requests on eight companies that manufacture or distribute highly addictive painkillers. The goal is to collect enough information so that the multi-state coalition can evaluate whether manufacturers and distributors engaged in unlawful practices in the marketing, sale and distribution of opioids, Paxton said.

In other news, Paxton was joined by the attorneys general of 15 other states in a U.S. Supreme Court brief supporting President Trump’s proposed travel ban preventing entry into the United States by citizens of a list of countries identified by the State Department as locations of known terrorist organizations.

Sales tax revenue is up

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on March 2 announced state sales tax revenue totaled $2.61 billion in February, an amount 8.6 percent greater than the amount reported in February 2017.

Total sales tax revenue for the three months ending in February 2018 was up 10 percent compared to the same period a year ago, Hegar said. Sales tax revenue is the largest source of state funding for the state budget, accounting for 58 percent of all tax collections, he added.

“Increased sales tax collections were spurred by business spending,” Hegar said. “Growth was especially notable in remittances from oil- and gas-related sectors as well as wholesale trade. But collections from retail trade, the sector most reflective of consumer spending, declined slightly from year-ago levels.”

DPS offers safety tips

The Texas Department of Public Safety on March 2 urged Texans to obey all traffic laws and use extra caution when driving during the spring break period, which stretches over the next few weeks.

State troopers and local law enforcement in the coastal areas of Texas will be enhancing enforcement efforts, watching for speeders, drunken drivers and seat-belt violators.

The DPS offered these safe travel tips:

•Don’t drink and drive;

•Eliminate distractions while driving, including the use of mobile devices;

•Buckle up everyone in the vehicle;

Slow down or move over for police, fire, EMS and Texas Department of Transportation vehicles and tow trucks stopped on the side of the road with emergency lights activated;

•Drive defensively; and

•Don’t drive fatigued.

Ed Sterling is director of member services for the Texas Press Association.

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