AUSTIN — Following the Aug. 3 shooting that claimed the lives of 22 people and injured 24 others at a popular El Paso shopping venue, Gov. Greg Abbott and a group of officials met in the border city to discuss ways to address violence.
Joined by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, and area state Reps. Cesar Blanco, Art Fierro, Mary Gonzales, Joe Moody and Lina Ortega, Abbott and the group talked about how to improve public safety.
"The entire state of Texas continues to grieve the tragedy in El Paso," Abbott said. "While our hearts remain broken, it is our responsibility to show the resolve that is needed to address this shooting and begin the process of working together to lay a groundwork of how we are going to respond. The people of Texas — including the people of El Paso — deserve to be safe and it is our responsibility to ensure that safety," he added.
Sen. Rodríguez, in a statement on behalf of the El Paso legislative delegation, said: “State leaders pledged to work with the El Paso delegation to address gun violence driven by white nationalism. We all agreed that gun violence and white nationalism are pressing issues. Gov. Abbott, in his remarks, was frank about calling the shooter a white supremacist and his actions domestic terrorism. All leaders, from local to state to federal, must reject the ideology of white supremacy.”
Abbott announced the state would provide more than $5 million in immediate financial assistance through the Criminal Justice Division of the Governor’s Public Safety Office for law enforcement agencies and the community of El Paso.
According to a governor’s office news release, the financial assistance will take these forms:
* Psychological first aid and crisis counseling;
* Behavioral health services, including needs assessments, strategic planning and care coordination with local service providers;
* County reimbursements for expert witness and juror fees, investigation, increased security and more;
* School-based mental health services to support students affected directly or indirectly and referrals for youths with certain behavioral health and psychological needs;
* Post-critical incident seminars, emphasizing peer support to assist first responders suffering from traumatic stress; and
* The establishment of a “family resiliency center” to be a focal point for community services including mental health needs, legal services, faith-based assistance and public information.
New accessibility rules set
House Bill 3163, establishing new rules for accessible parking spaces in Texas, will become law Sept. 1.
According to a governor’s office news release, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation will draft rules that implement the legislation to amend Government Code Sec. 469.052, as follows:
* The international access symbol must be painted on the parking space;
* The words “NO PARKING” must be painted on access aisles next to accessible parking spaces;
* The signs marking accessible parking spaces must include the penalty for parking illegally in the space. Fines and towing are examples of possible penalties.
Notably, current signs and parking spaces do not need changes until the new rules go into effect. The new rules will be open to receive comment in the Texas Register after drafting and approval, and importantly, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation anticipates the rules to take effect near mid-2020.
Tax revenue distributed
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Aug. 7 announced he would send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $876.8 million in local sales tax allocations for the month of August. That is 4 percent more than the amount distributed in August 2018.
Allocations are based on sales made in June by businesses that report tax monthly and on sales made in April, May and June by quarterly filers.
Details on sales tax allocations to individual cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose districts can be found online in the comptroller’s monthly sales tax allocation comparison summary reports at comptroller.texas.gov.
Battleship visits to stop
The Battleship Texas State Historic Site in La Porte will close to the public Aug. 26, allowing staff and contractors full accessibility to the ship to safely perform necessary preparation work ahead of a repair project.
The last day the public may explore the 573-foot dreadnought-class vessel will be Aug. 25, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department announced Aug. 7.
During the closure, thousands of artifacts on board the Texas will be catalogued and secured and exhibit collections removed before it is towed to another site for repair.
Visitors will continue to have access to the nearby San Jacinto Monument, the San Jacinto Battleground and the park’s nature trails during the closure.