Governor points out actions taken to make schools safer

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AUSTIN — Just before Labor Day weekend, Gov. Greg Abbott released a School Safety Action Plan Summary that lists actions taken by school districts to harden campuses in the wake of the deadly Santa Fe Independent School District shooting in May.
“Elected leaders, community members, students, teachers, parents and everyday Texans all share the common goal of making schools a safe place for our children,” Abbott said. “Our goal is being realized as school districts across the state continue to put immediate and long term plans aimed at prevention and protection in place. While progress is being made, there is still much work to be done and I encourage everyone in Texas to continue the discussion surrounding school safety to ensure that we put in place measures that will benefit the safety and well-being of our state’s greatest resource — our children.”
Highlights from the summary include developments such as:
• 1,705 public school employees attended Mental Health First Aid training courses during June and July;
• The Texas Department of Public Safety expanded its“iWatchTexas” program to include school incidents as reported via mobile app, Internet or phone by students, teachers, parents and others in the statewide centralized system designed to provide law enforcement the opportunity to detect and prevent an attack;
• The Texas School Safety Center has worked with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to provide introductory school-based law enforcement, behavioral threat assessment and emergency operations plan development courses to more than 500 people;
• An additional 92 school marshals had been appointed, with 73 prospective marshals in the training process as of Aug. 17, tripling the number of trained and licensed school marshals; and
• The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training program at Texas State University has provided direct training to nearly 1,300 police officers, firefighters, dispatchers, EMS personnel and others since May 18.

7 now in race for speaker
State Reps. Walter “Four” Price, R-Amarillo, and Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, last week announced their candidacies for speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.
The 150-member House will vote to elect a new speaker after the 86th Texas Legislature convenes on Jan. 8. Already having declared intentions to run for speaker are Reps. John Zerwas, R-Sugar Land; Eric Johnson, D-Dallas; Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches; Phil King, R-Weatherford; and Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound.
Almost a year ago, the current speaker, Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, announced his intention not to seek re-election, after having presided over the House for a record five consecutive terms.

Governor forms committee
Gov. Abbott on Sept. 5 issued an executive order establishing the Governor’s Committee to Support the Military.
Abbott appointed 22 Texas-resident military veterans, community leaders and business leaders to the committee and commissioned the body to look for “ways to maintain and enhance military value at installations within the state.”
The committee’s first report, due by Dec. 1, is to contain recommendations for legislative action during the 2019 legislative session.

Revenue totals announced
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Sept. 5 announced state revenue totals for fiscal 2018, which began Sept. 1, 2017, and ended Aug. 31, and state revenues for the month of August.
For the fiscal year, sales tax revenue totaled $31.94 billion, an amount 10.5 percent great than the total reported for fiscal 2017.
Details were given as follows:
- Oil and natural gas production tax revenue: $4.82 billion, up 56.1 percent over fiscal 2017;
- General revenue-related revenue: $57.2 billion, up 9.3 percent over fiscal 2017;
- All-funds tax collections: $55.6 billion, up 12 percent over fiscal 2017; and
- All-funds revenue: $120.2 billion, up 8.1 percent over fiscal 2017.
Hegar also said state sales tax revenue totaled a record $2.87 billion in August, an amount 15.8 percent greater than the amount reported in August 2017. The amount eclipsed the previous monthly record amount of state sales tax revenue, which was $2.78 billion in November 2017, he added.

Coalition seeks to end ACA
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and 19 other states on Sept. 5 asked a Fort Worth U.S. District Court to issue a nationwide injunction to halt the Affordable Care Act while a lawsuit attempting to repeal the 2010 federal law proceeds.
One of the coalition's main arguments before the court was that Obamacare’s key "individual mandate" was rendered meaningless when Congress passed the Trump administration’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
The court had not ruled on the motion for an injunction as of Sept. 9.

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

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