AUSTIN — Enhanced security measures have been implemented at the state capitol complex and grounds, the Texas Department of Public Safety announced Jan. 11.
According to the DPS announcement, “It has been observed that some individuals or groups seek violent confrontations during protests and equip themselves for physical combat. To ensure the safety and security of the general public and those who seek to exercise their right to peacefully assemble and protest, effective immediately, certain items may be prohibited from the capitol grounds unless worn or carried by a licensed peace officer.”
Open-flame torches, gas masks, helmets, pepper spray and shields were included on a list of more than 20 prohibited items provided by DPS.
Furthermore, the DPS said, while citizens have a right to counter-protest within the capitol complex, “they must do so at a distance sufficient to avoid physical altercations.” By statute, the DPS has the authority and primary responsibility for law enforcement and security services over the complex and grounds.
Police vests to be funded
Gov. Greg Abbott on Jan. 9 announced that Texas would provide police departments $23 million in grant funding for rifle-resistant vests. During the 85th Legislative Session, Abbott signed Senate Bill 12, authored by Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, and Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, creating funding for the grant program to provide personal body armor to law enforcement agencies throughout Texas.
While making the announcement on Law Enforcement Appreciation Day in Dallas, Abbott said, “The job of our law enforcement community is becoming more difficult as the threats our officers face continue to increase. The State of Texas will not sit idly by and tolerate these actions against officers who are simply doing their job to uphold the law and protect the people of Texas.”
The funding will provide law enforcement officers from 453 different jurisdictions around the state with some 32,842 rifle-resistant vests designed to protect against high-caliber rounds.
SCOTUS hears water suit
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the oral arguments his office presented on Jan. 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court “should result in a favorable decision for Texas in its years-long dispute with New Mexico over water rights to the Rio Grande River.”
New Mexico’s increasing water use and groundwater pumping below Elephant Butte Reservoir deprives Texas of water apportioned to it under the 1938 Rio Grande Compact, Paxton said.
Texas first filed a complaint with the Supreme Court in 2013, requesting that New Mexico stop pumping groundwater along the border so that more of the river could flow south to farmers and residents in El Paso. Last year, a special master appointed by the high court issued a draft report rejecting New Mexico’s claim that its state water appropriation law supersedes the Rio Grande Compact over the water it diverts from Texas, the AG’s office said.
SCOTUS adds Texas case
The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 12 added the Texas redistricting case, Abbott v. Perez, to its spring docket.
In 2011, the Texas Legislature redrew congressional and state House districts. The new maps became for the basis for complaints of racial gerrymandering by black and Hispanic rights organizations and have been in litigation ever since.
Flu illness hits Texas
Texas was in the group of states with high or widespread reports of seasonal influenza-like illness in a weekly report produced Jan. 12 by the Centers for Disease Control.
Texans can find out where flu shots are available through their health care provider, local health department, local pharmacy or the Vaccine Finder at TexasFlu.org.
The Texas Department of State Health Services says, “If people are experiencing flu symptoms, health officials encourage them to seek treatment promptly. Antiviral drugs may help shorten the duration or lessen the severity of the flu if started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.”
Rabies control effort begins
The Texas Department of State Health Services’ annual oral rabies vaccination program took flight last week.
Efforts are focused on a 25-mile wide swath in counties along the Texas-Mexico border from the Rio Grande Valley to Big Bend.
About one million packet doses will be dropped by aircraft over about two weeks to vaccinate wildlife and prevent them from exposing livestock and humans to the deadly virus, the agency said.
Ed Sterling is director of member services for the Texas Press Association.