AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on March 27 praised an announcement by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the Department of Justice will withhold and take back federal funds from cities that do not comply with federal immigration laws and enforcement directives.
“Texas joins the Trump administration in its commitment to end sanctuary cities and I look forward to signing legislation that bans these dangerous policies in Texas once and for all,” Abbott said. Senate Bill 4, legislation to prohibit anti-sanctuary city policies in Texas, was passed by the Senate on Feb. 8. It was heard in the House State Affairs Committee on March 15, but has not been scheduled for a committee vote.
In 2015, Abbott’s office implemented a policy that requires the sheriffs for each of Texas’ 254 counties to certify their cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests or risk losing funding through the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division.
In mid-March, the Travis County sheriff was denounced by the governor’s office for not complying with ICE detainer requests but was praised by immigration reform advocates. Travis County leads all other counties in the nation in not complying with these detainer requests, according to a report disseminated last month by the Trump administration.
While lack of funding and jail capacity complicate the issue for many counties, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez has said her policy is to honor ICE detainer requests when her office receives a judicial warrant or court order, or when a suspect is charged with capital murder, first degree murder, aggravated sexual assault or continuous smuggling of persons.
Senate OKs budget bill
The Texas Senate on March 28 approved a budget that would spend $106.4 billion in state revenue for fiscal years 2018 and 2019.
“This is a lean budget, but it’s also a smart budget,” said Senate Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound. The spending plan, set to be considered this week in the House Appropriations Committee, “responsibly meets the needs of our state and it preserves our principles of fiscal responsibility that have guided us through tough budgets in the past, and I believe it helps us come out stronger on the other side,” Nelson added.
On March 27, the Senate approved changes to the state’s 2014 voter ID law. SB 5 by Joan Huffman, R-Houston, takes into account a July 2016 ruling by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which said Texas’ current voter ID law violates provisions of the Voting Rights Act.
Under Huffman’s bill, a person without a valid voter ID would be allowed to sign an affidavit saying they had a reasonable impediment to obtaining one, such as transportation or work issues, and cast a regular ballot. It would be a felony to intentionally lie on this affidavit. The bill also permits the use of an expired state photo ID for up to two years after it lapses, and allows people 70 or older to use an expired ID to vote indefinitely.
Jobless rate about same
The state economy expanded in February by 6,700 seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs, but the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 4.9 percent for the month, the Texas Workforce Commission announced March 24.
The unemployment rate stood at 4.8 percent in January.
According to U.S. Department of Labor Statistics information, Texas’ education and health services category recorded the largest private-industry employment gain over the month with 11,700 jobs added. Leisure and hospitality employment grew by 4,400 jobs in February, and manufacturing employment expanded by 3,900 jobs.
‘Snapshot’ data is posted
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath on March 30 announced the availability of “2016 Snapshot: School District Profiles” on the Texas Education Agency website.
“Snapshot” gives an overview of primary and secondary education for a particular school year and contains a profile of each public school district and charter school but does not provide any campus-level information.
Common categories and a peer-search function permits grouping districts according to shared characteristics.
Scorecard compares states
Texas leads the nation in total energy production and new residents, according to an updated 50-State Scorecard unveiled March 28 by the state Comptroller’s office.
Texas also ranks high in its growth in employed workers and gross product, according to the web tool, which uses data from a variety of sources to score each state in six key categories: population and demographics; business and workforce; economic indicators; tax and debt; and, new this year, quality of life and natural resources.