The Texas Supreme Court heard hearings last week on whether state regulators can be sued by abortion providers in hopes of blocking enforcement of the state’s restrictive abortion law, known as Senate Bill 8.
The Austin American-Statesman reported that abortion providers who brought the lawsuit argued that “state agencies that regulate doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and the health care system have an enforcement role that makes them a viable target of their own lawsuit against SB8.” .
Attorney General Judd Stone II argued for the state that the law was written so that only private individuals can enforce SB8 by filing civil lawsuits against abortion providers who violate the ban on abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy.
“The aim here is just to find out the ordinary English meaning of this law,” Stone argued. “There is simply no ordinary English translation that carries with it the possibility of public enforcement (by government agencies or regulators),” the statesman reported.
Abortion providers have filed a number of lawsuits in federal courts, with the US Supreme Court declining to prevent the law from enacting last September pending appeals. The case, which went to state court last week, is also likely to end up in the nation’s highest court.
Comptroller hosts broadband audio tours
State Comptroller Glenn Hegar this month began touring a dozen Texan communities to gather insight and input from Texans on Internet access as the state develops its first comprehensive broadband Internet plan.
The events are free but require prior registration. The first forum was held on March 1st at Prairie View A&M University, with more planned in Victoria, Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Amarillo, Beaumont, Waco, Tyler, Abilene, El Paso, Edinburgh and San Angelo.
For more information and a link to an online survey for those unable to participate, go to: comptroller.texas.gov/programmes/broadband/communities/tour
Abbott orders increased protection against cyber attacks
Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered two state agencies to “use every available resource” to protect the state’s infrastructure as the potential for Russian cyberattacks increases. Abbott sent a letter to the Texas Department of Information Resources and the Texas Department of Public Safety last week. He ordered DIR and DPS:
• Improving Texas’ cybersecurity through the adoption of industry best practices and other key measures.
• Ensure Texas can quickly identify a potential cyber attack through the use of software services such as antivirus and endpoint detection and response technologies.
• Prepare for an attack by deploying a cyber incident response team.
• Maximize government resilience to a destructive cyber incident.
• Track and report all attacks from Russian sources so the public is fully aware of their tactics.
“Protecting the state of Texas from cyber threats during this time of Russian aggression is paramount,” Abbott wrote.
Arrest in timber fraud case
Law enforcement investigators from the Texas A&M Forest Service arrested a Magnolia man last week on double count lumber theft. Philip Eugene McKenzie, Jr., 60, was charged.
“Mr. McKenzie had timber harvesting agreements with two Walker County landowners and failed to pay them for timber harvested on their property,” said Texas A&M Forest Service law enforcement officer Josh Mizrany. In addition, McKenzie has pending charges unauthorized logging in Montgomery County.
Timber theft includes cutting down timber without the landowner’s knowledge or consent, entering into a formal agreement and failing to pay the full purchase price to landowners, and even stealing timber from logging companies.
Landowners who suspect timber theft or suspicious timber sale arrangements should call the Forest Service’s Timber Theft Hotline at 1-800-364-3470.
TEA Student Hero Award nominations wanted
The Texas Education Agency seeks nominations for public school students of all grades who demonstrate outstanding volunteer service that benefits their classmates, schools, or their communities. One student from each of the 15 districts on the State Board of Education is recognized and receives a plaque and medal from the SBOE.
Nominations can be submitted by anyone. The nomination period for outstanding students ends on March 31 at 5:00 p.m. You can find the form here: https://tinyurl.com/mubxb7af.
COVID-19 cases continue to fall across the country
The number of new COVID-19 cases in Texas continues to fall precipitously as the Omicron variant fades, with 36,814 reported over the past week by Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center. That’s less than 10% of the number reported at the peak of the variant in mid-January. A total of 1,127 deaths were reported over the past week, also down sharply. Hospitalizations are also down, with 3,949 reported by the Texas Department of State Health Services on Sunday.
The number of fully vaccinated Texans is slowly increasing, according to the DSHS, 17.22 million are now fully vaccinated, with 6.26 million Texans also receiving a booster dose.
Gary Borders is a veteran, award-winning journalist based in Texas. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas over a 30-year period, including those in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches, and Cedar Park. Email: [email protected]