Lone Star watch by Ed Sterling
THE STATE has moved swiftly to take up its political leaders’ challenge to boost protection for children at risk of abuse.
The senate finance committee’s child protection workgroup met on November 7 and issued two recommendations for emergency funding to address deficits in care.
It wants a $12,000 annual pay raise for frontline caseworkers, to be phased in for new workers, and the immediate hire of 50 investigative caseworkers and 50 special investigators to ensure timely face-to-face contact with children following an allegation of abuse or neglect.
Announcing the recommendations, senate finance committee chair Jane Nelson said: “This is the first step of a continuing effort, but rest assured we will do everything we can to protect children. There is no issue of greater importance.” Governor Greg Abbott, lieutenant governor Dan Patrick and house speaker Joe Straus called in October for urgent action to reform procedures at the crisis-hit child protective services agency.
Spotlight upon election results
ALL INCUMBENT members of Texas’ US congressional delegation won re-election
on November 8.
In the two contests for open house-of-representatives seats, Democrat Vicente Gonzalez won the race for south Texas’ district 15 and Republican Jodey Arrington for west Texas’ district 19.
Gonzalez will succeed US representative Ruben Hinojosa, who is retiring, while Arrington will succeed US representative Randy Neugebauer, who is also retiring.
Democrat challengers bested four incumbent Republican state representatives.
In Houston-area district 144, one-term state representative Gilbert Pena lost by nearly 21 percentage points
to Democrat Mary Ann Perez, an insurance agent and former state representative who was elected to the district seat in 2012 and lost to Pena in 2014. The district includes parts of east Houston, half of South Houston and parts of Pasadena and Baytown.
Three-term state representative Kenneth Sheets lost a close Dallas-area district 107 race to Democrat Victoria Neave, an attorney and community advocate, while one-term state representative Rick Galindo lost by two percentage points to Democrat Philip Cortez in San-Antonio-area district 117.
And state representative John Lujan, who won a special election in January 2016 to succeed retiring San-Antonio-area district 118 representative Joe Farias, lost by 10 percentage points to Democrat Tomas Uresti.
In the senate, Houston Democrat and current state representative Borris Miles won the race to succeed his party’s retiring longtime district 13 senator Rodney Ellis with 92.5 per cent of the vote. The district includes parts of Harris County and Fort Bend County.
In a non-legislative race, former state representative Wayne Christian, a Republican, won a seat on the three-member Texas railroad commission with 53 per cent of the vote.
Tax rebates up slightly
THE AMOUNT of money being refunded to the state’s local-government bodies as their share of sales-tax revenues this month is greater than last November’s sum, but only just.
Texas public-accounts comptroller Glenn Hegar announced on November 9 that he will be sending cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $737.9 million in local sales-tax allocations this month, 0.8 per cent more than in November last year.
The allocations are based on sales made in September by businesses that report tax monthly, and sales made in July, August and September by quarterly filers.