AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on Oct. 24 announced $55.5 million in funding from the federal Homeland Security Grant Program to support state and local efforts to prevent terror attacks and crack down on terroristic activity in Texas.
These awards, according to a governor’s office news release, will go toward local anti-terrorism efforts across the state, including 227 different State Homeland Security Program projects and 134 Urban Area Security Initiative projects.
"Texas is confronted with a wide range of threats that pose a risk to our safety and security each day, and as governor, my first priority is to ensure the safety and security of all Texans. These grants will enhance state and local officials' efforts to not only confront, but also prepare for and prevent, attacks before they happen," Abbott said.
Most of the grant is to be meted out as follows:
• $19.9 million for equipment, training and exercise support for local, regional and state-level response teams such as SWAT, bomb, HAZMAT and search and rescue teams, and for other law enforcement and fire and emergency medical services personnel;
• $12.1 million for state, regional and local planning and preparedness efforts;
• $8.1 million to sustain and enhance operational communications capabilities;
• $3.7 million to support state and regional "fusion centers" that promote intelligence and information sharing capabilities among federal, state and local partners.
Agencies conduct exercise
The Texas Department of Public Safety on Oct. 25 announced the Dallas, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio divisions of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Texas DPS would lead a statewide training exercise Oct. 28-30.
The DPS said the purpose of the "Full-Scale Training Exercise" is to "examine the ability of federal, state, local, tribal and territorial jurisdictions to respond to complex terrorist attacks with a focus on integrated response planning among law enforcement, medical services, emergency management and other whole-community stakeholders."
Host cities for the exercise include Greenville, Brenham, San Antonio and El Paso.
Safety Week is observed
In promoting Texas Safe Schools Week, Oct. 21-27, the Texas Education Agency and the Texas School Safety Center encouraged schools to take a comprehensive approach to school safety.
A comprehensive approach means school staff, students, parents, first responders, mental health professionals and community stakeholders working together to ensure safe and secure learning environments.
“School safety practices should be a priority every day in our schools,” said Texas School Safety Center Director Kathy Martinez-Prather. “Prevention and preparedness efforts play a critical role in fostering a safe school climate. Having regularly reviewed emergency plans developed with local first responders, as well as regular training and drilling in emergency procedures, ensures that responses are well-executed in the event of an actual emergency.”
Early voting begins
The Office of the Secretary of State posts early voting cumulative totals for the Lone Star State's 30 most populous counties.
Sizable numbers of voters in those counties cast ballots between Oct. 22 and Oct. 26, the first five days of the 12-day early voting period that will end Nov. 2. For the five most-populous counties, numbers were reported as follows:
Harris: of 2,338,460 registered voters, 380,266 (16.26 percent) voted in person or by mail;
Dallas: of 1,335,313 registered voters, 272,062 (20.37 percent) voted in person or by mail;
Tarrant: of 1,122,597 registered voters, 219,947 (19.59 percent) voted in person or by mail;
Bexar: of 1,098,257 registered voters, 193,521 (17.62 percent) voted in person or by mail;
Travis: of 775,950 registered voters, 181,739 (23.43 percent) voted in person or by mail.
Election Day is Nov. 6.
Pablos refers complaint
Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos on Oct. 22 confirmed that the agency had received a complaint regarding "pre-filed voter registration applications" sent to Texas residents who are ineligible to vote and that his office referred the complaint to the Texas Attorney General’s office for investigation.
Pablos said some Texans may have received potentially fraudulent materials from third parties prompting them to register to vote despite being ineligible to do so.
"We continue to urge all Texans to be vigilant when receiving registration or ballot-by-mail materials from third parties, and my office will continue to work to ensure that Texans and Texas voters are protected from any illegal activity," Pablos said.
Information about procedures for voting in Texas are available at votetexas.gov.
Ed Sterling is director of member services for the Texas Press Association.