Abbott asks Rangers to investigate reports of misconduct

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott has asked the Texas Rangers to investigate reports of sexual misconduct and inappropriate relationships by Texas Juvenile Justice Department personnel.
On Dec. 13 Abbott sent a letter to Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw requesting the investigation.
 “Recent reports of sexual misconduct and inappropriate relationships by state employees at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department are reprehensible and necessitate an appropriate response,” Abbott said. “Action is needed to guarantee the protection of the youth in the care and custody of the State of Texas. I am requesting that our esteemed Texas Rangers immediately open a detailed investigation to determine the extent of the alleged misconduct at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.” 
Abbott also sent a letter to Camille Cain, newly named executive director of the Juvenile Justice Department, urging her to work with his office to ensure that the youth in the state’s care are protected, and to carry out the agency’s mission to transform young lives and create safer communities.
Tax payments spreadable
Taxpayers with hurricane-damaged homes and businesses may pay their 2017 and 2018 property taxes in installments, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a Dec. 13 statement.
Patrick said the option is open to residents with damaged homes and businesses in the 60 Texas counties declared disaster areas following Hurricane Harvey. Ordinarily, taxpayers are expected to pay their taxes in a lump sum due by Feb. 1.
 “This will not lower appraisals or property taxes, but it will spread out what is owed over several months and eliminate penalties and interest,” Patrick said.
Eligible property owners must take the following steps in order to pay their property taxes in installments:
— By Jan. 31, pay 25 percent of your property tax bill and inform your local taxing unit that you intend to pay the balance in installments;
— March 31, the second 25 percent payment is due;
— May 31, the third 25 percent payment is due; and
— July 31, the final 25 percent payment is due.
Abbott, DHS chief meet 
Gov. Abbott on Dec. 12 met with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen at the state Capitol.
The two discussed the ongoing recovery efforts following Hurricane Harvey, border security and cyber security. Joining them were John Sharp, head of the Commission to Rebuild Texas, Land Commissioner George P. Bush, FEMA Region 6 Administrator Tony Robinson and Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd.
“After today’s productive meeting,” Abbott said, “I am confident that we have a dedicated partner in Secretary Nielsen and this administration, and I look forward to working closely with them on issues important to Texas and the United States.”
DSHS urges immunization
With flu-like illness on the rise, it’s not too late for everyone 6 months old and older to get vaccinated, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced Dec. 15.
Texans can learn where flu shots are available at or by contacting their health care provider. People can help stop the spread of flu by getting vaccinated, washing hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home when they’re sick, the agency said.
Vaccination is especially important for older adults, infants, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions because they are at greater risk of developing serious complications from the flu, said DSHS Infectious Disease Medical Officer Dr. Jennifer Shuford.
Concern: Winter safety
The Texas Department of Public Safety on Dec. 5 encouraged Texans in all regions of the state to make preparations for winter weather.
“While we’ve all heard the joke about Texas only having two seasons — hot and hotter — all Texans need to prepare now for the serious threats that the upcoming winter could bring,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw.
A few among a long list of potentially lifesaving tips offered by the DPS are these: Winterize vehicles by checking the battery, windshield wipers, anti-freeze, tire pressure and tire tread, and by lubricating door and trunk locks to prevent freezing. 
Work agency sets rates
The Texas Workforce Commission on Dec. 12 announced the average unemployment insurance tax rate for all employers would be 1.37 percent for calendar year 2018, dropping from 1.64 percent in calendar year 2017 to its lowest point since 2009. 
Unemployment insurance taxes replenish the Texas Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund, which provides temporary income for Texas workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.