Texas, nation mourn death of former president

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AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on Dec. 3 proclaimed Dec. 5 as an official day of mourning across the Lone Star State in honor of former President George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, who died in Houston on Nov. 30.
In the proclamation, Abbott encouraged Texans to “gather, assemble and pay their respects to the memory of George Herbert Walker Bush through ceremonies in homes, businesses, public buildings, schools, places of worship or other appropriate places for public expression of grief and remembrance.”
The proclamation also allowed state employees to attend such observances. State agencies, offices and departments were closed on that day, with general government operations and services maintained by reduced-size work crews.
The former president’s body lay in state in the U.S. Capitol rotunda. Crowds viewed the casket and a 21-gun salute was performed. Official funeral services were conducted at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and the body was transported to Bush’s longtime home church, St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, for funeral services. Crowds lined the railroad tracks as a funeral train carried the former president's body to College Station and its final resting place at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library on the Texas A&M University campus.

Pablos resigns from post
Secretary of State Rolando Pablos, Texas’ chief elections officer, has resigned from office, effective Dec. 15.
In his Dec. 6 letter of resignation, Pablos wrote to Gov. Abbott: "With the midterm elections successfully behind us and the 86th legislative session around the corner, I believe this would be a good time to begin the process of transitioning out of my position and passing the baton to the next secretary of state. Serving Texans as secretary of state has been the opportunity of a lifetime, but I feel the need at this time to turn my attention to my private practice.”
Abbott said Pablos “has been a dedicated public servant who has done an exceptional job upholding the integrity of our election system. He has strengthened Texas’ standing on the international stage by fostering our cultural and economic ties with countries around the world. The State of Texas is better for his service. I thank Rolando for his commitment to our great state and wish him and his family all the best.”
Before serving as secretary of state, Pablos served as chair of the Texas Racing Commission, as a member of the Public Utility Commission and as honorary consul to Spain. He also was founding chief executive officer of El Paso-based Borderplex Alliance and Uriel Americas, a renewable energy company.

AG joins anti-robocall group
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Dec. 6 announced he had joined 40 state attorneys general in an effort to stop or reduce “irritating and potentially harmful robocalls” that telemarketers and political campaigns may use to autodial the telephone numbers of private citizens and deliver recorded messages.
“Unwanted phone calls are both a nuisance and an invasion of privacy, and growing robocall scams could cost Texans anywhere from a few dollars to their life savings. This coalition is dedicated to protecting citizens from these risks and engaging telecom companies in a nationwide effort to put an end to these intrusive calls,” Paxton said.

Revenue total increases
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Dec. 4 said state sales tax revenue totaled $2.998 billion in November, 7.7 percent more than the amount reported for November 2017.
“While slower than the double-digit pace of recent months, state sales tax revenue growth in November was strong,” Hegar said. “Increased tax collections continue to be led by remittances from oil- and gas-related sectors, but at a slower pace than in recent months. Growth from retail trade and restaurants, the sectors most dependent on consumer spending, was positive, but comparatively modest.”
The sales tax is the largest source of state funding for the state budget, accounting for 57 percent of all tax collections.

DSHS promotes flu shots
The Texas Department of State Health Services, in conjunction with National Influenza Vaccination Week, reminded Texans on Dec. 4 to protect themselves and loved ones by getting immunized.
“Last flu season was severe, and the U.S. saw a record number of flu-related hospitalizations and pediatric deaths,” said Dr. Jennifer Shuford, DSHS infectious disease medical officer. “We have no way of knowing if this flu season will be milder or just as severe as last season. We are recommending all Texans six months of age and older get their flu vaccine as soon as possible.”
Texans may visit texasflu.org or contact a health care provider for more information.

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

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