Capital Highlights: Task force on concert safety formed and 4 other Texas-sized issues

By Gary Borders, Texas Press Association
Posted 11/15/21

Gov. Greg Abbott last week announced the formation of a task force on concert safety after at least nine people were killed and hundreds injured at the Astroworld Festival in Houston on Nov. 5. …

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Capital Highlights: Task force on concert safety formed and 4 other Texas-sized issues

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Gov. Greg Abbott last week announced the formation of a task force on concert safety after at least nine people were killed and hundreds injured at the Astroworld Festival in Houston on Nov. 5. Members include safety experts, law enforcement officials, firefighters and leaders from the Texas Music Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and a half-dozen other state entities.

The task force is led by Brendon Anthony, director of the Texas Music Office.

“Live music is a source of joy, entertainment and community for so many Texans — and the last thing concertgoers should have to worry about is their safety and security,” Abbott said.

Lawsuits have been filed on behalf of more than 200 victims. Defendants include rapper Travis Scott and concert promotion giant Live Nation, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle. The deaths and injuries occurred when a crowd rushed the stage as Scott performed.

Filing period for 2022 primary opens

The filing period for the 2022 Texas primary elections opened on Nov. 13, allowing candidates to file with their respective party chairs for spots on the March 1, 2022, primary ballot. For primary elections, candidates must file their applications with their state party chairs. If a district is solely contained within a single county, a candidate would file with the county chair.

The filing period for county, district and statewide offices ends at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 13. Early voting for the March 1 primary begins on Feb. 14. Among the statewide offices on the ballot are governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, agriculture commissioner, land commissioner, railroad commissioner and seven states on the state board of education.

To find out who has filed to date, go here: https://tinyurl.com/4s89j6be

Drought conditions spread in October

Blame it on La Niña.

Drought conditions throughout much of the state continued to expand in October, thanks in large part to the weather conditions caused by the atmospheric phenomenon, which pushes warmer and drier conditions in the southern United States while causing cooler, wetter weather in Pacific Northwest.

Dr. Nelun Fernando of the Texas Water Development Board wrote recently that this winter is likely to be drier and warmer than average. The U.S. Drought Monitor released last week indicates 61.4% of the state is considered abnormally dry, while nearly 38% of the state is in moderate or severe drought.

Most of the drought areas are in East Texas, the Panhandle and Far West Texas.

Alligator snapping turtle going on endangered list

The alligator snapping turtle, which is North America’s largest freshwater turtle species, is slated to be listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pending public comment due by Jan. 10. The turtle, a popular target of poachers in Texas and other states, can weigh more than 200 pounds.

In recent months, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and other agencies and institutions teamed up to repatriate a couple dozen confiscated alligator snapping turtles to their native Texas rivers. While all states ban commercial harvest of the turtle, recreational harvest is allowed on a limited basis in Louisiana and Mississippi.

The Texas comptroller’s office has contracted with the Environmental Institute at the University of Houston–Clear Lake to develop long-term monitoring procedures in an effort to develop more effective conservation measures.

Majority of COVID-19 deaths among unvaccinated

A study by the Texas Department of State Health Services during the Delta variant outbreak of COVID-19 indicates unvaccinated Texans were 20 times more likely to die from the virus than those who had received one of the vaccines. From the report: All authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the United States are highly effective at protecting people from getting sick or severely ill with COVID-19, including those infected with Delta and other known variants. Real world data from Texas clearly shows these benefits.

Meanwhile, the total number of new cases of COVID-19 in Texas in the past week rose slightly to 23,350, as did new deaths at 846, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University. Since the pandemic began, 4.28 million Texans have been diagnosed with the virus — 14.6% of the state’s entire population. COVID-19 has taken the lives of 72,760 Texans, roughly equivalent to the entire population of Harlingen.

The good news is that at least for now, the number of hospitalized, lab-confirmed COVID-19 patients continues to drop, with 2,736 reported by DSHS as of Sunday. That is down 75% from mid-August levels.

DSHS also reports the number of Texans who are fully vaccinated continues to inch upward, with 15.67 million reported, a number that now includes children ages 5-11 who are now eligible for the vaccine.

 Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@texaspress.com.

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