Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus on June 18 jointly directed the Texas Department of Public Safety to begin law enforcement surge operations on the Texas-Mexico border.
“To combat the flood of illegal immigration into the state in the absence of adequate federal resources to secure the border” was the reason given by Perry, Dewhurst and Straus. They authorized the DPS to fund the surge at approximately $1.3 million per week and instructed DPS Director Steve McCraw to have the agency:
- Provide an operational plan and detailed cost estimate to their offices;
- Establish metrics and collect all necessary data to enable the measurement of the impact and effectiveness of the operation; and
- Report monthly on significant developments or impacts resulting from the operation.
“In this current security and humanitarian crisis, the federal government’s failure to secure our border is resulting in serious consequences for Texas,” Speaker Straus said. “To immediately address these issues, today I join with Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst to direct the Texas Department of Public Safety to use the appropriate resources to keep our state safe.”
The joint directive came less than a week after Attorney General Greg Abbott requested $30 million in federal funds to help secure the border and to assist with the influx of children crossing the Rio Grande into Texas. Detention facilities at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio are being used to house unaccompanied minors who have been apprehended in recent days.
“The Department of Public Safety will have the tools and resources it needs to curtail illegal smuggling, horrific human trafficking and cartel imported crime,” Abbott said in a June 18 statement in support of state funding for border operations approved by the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker.
In other news on June 19, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times published a report that dozens of bodies had been found and were being exhumed in Brooks County, where undocumented people seeking work to the north are known to cross brush country on foot to make their way around a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint.
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE DROPS
Texas Workforce Commission June 20 announced the addition of 56,400 seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs in the month of May, and that 383,100 jobs have been added in the past 12 months, making it the largest over-the-year job increase in Texas in nearly 17 years.
Also, the agency noted, Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 5.1 percent in May, down from 5.2 percent in April and employers from all 11 major industries in the state expanded their payrolls in May.
“We continue to work with our workforce and education partners to ensure that Texas workers have the in-demand skills required to bolster this impressive job creation,” said Texas Workforce Commission Chair Andres Alcantar.
Gov. Perry lauded the news in a separate news release: “By virtually every measure, the Texas job creation machine is firing on all cylinders,” he said.
PANEL TO STUDY INCENTIVES
Also on June 20, Texas House Speaker Straus announced appointees to his newly created Select Committee on Economic Development Incentives.
“Texas has been very successful in attracting job creators and fostering economic opportunity,” Straus explained. “We owe it to taxpayers to take a detailed look at what has worked and what can be improved. Some incentive programs may need retooling and others may have outlived their usefulness. I’m confident that this committee can supply the answers that will help the full House prepare to address this issue in next year’s session.”
Rep. Angie Chen Button, R-Richardson, will serve as chair and Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, as vice chair. Also named to the committee were Reps. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin; Joe Deshotel, D-Port Arthur; John Kuempel, R-Seguin, Jodie Laubenberg, R-Murphy; J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville; Borris Miles, D-Houston; Poncho Nevarez, D-Eagle Pass; Ren Oliveira, D-Brownsville; Mary Ann Perez, D-Pasadena; Drew Springer, R-Muenster; and Jason Villalba, R-Dallas.
DISTRACTED DRIVING DISCUSSED
Small business owners, corporate executives and state officials joined the Texas Department of Transportation at Circuit of The Americas raceway in Austin June 17 to consider solutions for reducing driver distractions that caused more than 95,000 traffic crashes last year in Texas.
Doing any of the following while driving is considered distracted driving: texting, checking e-mail, eating and drinking, grooming, reading, programming a navigation system, adjusting a radio, CD player or other audio device.
“With distracted driving responsible for one in every five crashes in Texas, we want to help business leaders understand what they can do to protect their employees, themselves and other motorists on the road,” John Barton, TxDOT deputy executive director said in an agency statement.
Ed Sterling is member services director for the Texas Press Association, headquartered in Austin.