AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on June 6 joined President Donald Trump, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, FEMA Administrator Brock Long, White House cabinet members and governors from across the country for a video teleconference briefing on hurricane preparedness.
Along with Abbott in Austin were officials from various state agencies that oversee emergency response. The briefing was held to review lessons learned after the 2017 hurricane season. FEMA provided an overview of evacuation zones, clearance times, decision timelines, forecast uncertainty, responsible decision makers and public messaging.
Following the briefing, Abbott said Texas is getting resources ready and communication and response strategies together to protect families and property in the event of another hurricane. Abbott is encouraging Texans to prepare emergency supply kits, create communication plans, prepare homes for storms and heed warnings from local officials.
The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season began on June 1 and will end on Nov. 30.
Unit reaches milestone
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on June 6 announced his office’s Fugitive Apprehension Unit achieved its 10,000th arrest.
The unit works jointly with the U.S. Marshals Lone Star Fugitive Task Force.
“This major milestone is a testament to our Fugitive Apprehension Unit’s hard work and dedication. These courageous law enforcement officers have successfully arrested 10,000 fugitives and provided invaluable protection for Texans,” Paxton said.
The unit includes 22 investigators, three criminal analysts, two administrative assistants and a five-person command staff who operate in regional offices in Austin, Houston and Arlington. The unit’s mission is to locate and arrest violent fugitives and convicted child sex offenders who violate conditions of their parole, as well as sex offenders who fail to comply with the state’s mandated sex offender registration requirements. It also assists in locating missing and endangered runaway children reported by local law enforcement agencies to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Tax revenue reported
Texas Comptroller Hegar on June 4 said state sales tax revenue totaled $2.76 billion in May, an amount 10.2 percent higher than the amount reported in May 2017.
Strong growth in sales tax revenue was apparent across all major economic sectors, Hegar said. “While the most rapid growth was in remittances from the construction and oil and gas-related sectors, significant gains also came from information services, restaurants and retail trade,” he added.
Hegar also said state franchise tax revenue for May was $3.23 billion, 1.4 percent more than in May 2017. Year-to-date franchise tax revenue is up 11.3 percent, he noted.
Tax revenue distributed
Comptroller Hegar on June 6 announced his office would send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts some $710.4 million in local sales tax allocations for the month of June.
The amount is 11 percent more than the Office of the Comptroller distributed a year earlier, in June 2017.
The allocations are based on sales made in April by businesses that report tax monthly.
Depository is operating
Comptroller Hegar on June 6 announced the opening of the Texas Bullion Depository in Austin. It is the first state-administered, precious-metals depository in the United States.
The Texas Legislature in 2017 passed a law opening the door for the creation of the depository, which will accept deposits of gold, silver, platinum, palladium and rhodium.
“I can’t think of any place else in the world that could create a bullion depository this way and I’ve heard from legislators across the country who want to do what we are doing, from Tennessee to Utah,” said state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, author of the legislation that created the depository as a state agency under the Comptroller’s purview. “We will see a lot of financial interest in this depository, with gold, silver and other commodities coming here.”
Plans call for the depository to be relocated to a site in Leander, a city just north of Austin, in 2019. Austin-based Lone Star Tangible Assets operates the facility.
TEA: Special evaluations
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath on June 6 announced school districts, campuses and open-enrollment charter schools directly affected by Hurricane Harvey would be eligible for special evaluation in this year’s state accountability system if they meet a specific criterion.
Under the agency’s Hurricane Harvey Provision, 2018 accountability ratings would be generated for eligible districts, charter schools and campuses using available data.
If a campus meeting at least one of the Hurricane Harvey criteria receives an “Improvement Required” rating, the campus would be labeled “Not Rated.”
Ed Sterling is director of member services for the Texas Press Association.