Capital Highlights | Gary Borders

DOJ report on response to Uvalde shooting scathing
The U.S. Justice Department issued a scathing report late last week on the May 4, 2022, mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a news conference in Uvalde that officials’ response that day and afterward “was a failure that should not have happened.”
The Justice Department’s nearly 500-page report noted that it took 77 minutes before the shooter was killed, and that officials made the mistake of attempting to negotiate with the killer in the classroom where victims were trapped.
“This was the most significant failure,” Garland said. “That failure meant that law enforcement officials prioritized a protracted evacuation of students and teachers in other classrooms, instead of immediately rescuing the victims trapped with the active shooter.”
The Uvalde victims’ families were first provided copies of the report ahead of its official release.

Medical board petitioned to issue abortion guidelines
Two Austin attorneys are asking the Texas Medical Board to issue guidelines on abortion laws to clarify the medical exceptions allowed under the state’s near total ban, the Statesman reported. Steve and Amy Bresnen, who are married, asked the board to devise rules to “ensure critical care to pregnant females and implement medical emergency exceptions to laws that otherwise punish those who perform abortions.”
The medical board has 60 days to either initiate a rule making process or deny the request.
The Texas Supreme Court made a similar request in December after rejecting the bid of a Dallas mother with a fatal fetal diagnosis to have an abortion in Texas. Kate Cox ultimately traveled to New Mexico to have the pregnancy terminated.

5th circuit throws out book ban
Citing free speech grounds, the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has halted a Texas law that bans school library books deemed “sexually explicit,” The Dallas Morning News reported. Two Texas bookstores and national trade groups representing booksellers, authors and publishers had filed the suit to challenge a law passed in the last legislative session.
The law was to take effect Jan. 1, but a lower court blocked its implementation. It was unclear whether the state would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Texas leads the nation in book bans, according to The News. Approximately 800 books were removed from Texas school libraries from July 2021 to June 2022. The ruling let stand a portion of the new law that requires the State Board of Education to approve standards for Texas school libraries to follow, which it has done. However, without the ratings required by the new law, the statute will not operate as originally intended.

Agency won’t fight whistleblower suit
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced last week his agency will no longer fight a whistleblower suit filed by four former top attorneys who were fired in 2020 after accusing their boss of corruption, The News reported. Previously the Texas Supreme Court ruled that Paxton and his aides must testify under oath about what led to the firings. Paxton announced he will accept a trial court judge’s final ruling on the lawsuit.
Paxton again criticized the whistleblowers, whom he previously referred to as “rogue employees.”
“I will not allow my office to be distracted by these disgruntled former employees and their self-serving sideshow,” he said.
The four former employees and their legal team are evaluating their next steps in the case. A settlement was reached last year for $3.3 million but the Legislature refused to fund it, sparking the embattled attorney general’s impeachment in the House and acquittal in the Senate. Joe Knight, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said Paxton’s argument against the validity of the case has already been rejected by four previous courts.
Meanwhile, Paxton paid the attorneys who successfully defended him in the Senate impeachment trial $2.3 million, the Texas Tribune reported. The money came out of his campaign funds, which is legal under state law. The trial centered on allegations from the whistleblowers that Paxton abused his office to help a major donor, Nate Paul, who has since been indicted on loan fraud charges.

CHIP postpartum coverage extended to 12 months
A law that takes effect March 1 extends Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) postpartum coverage from two months to 12 months, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced last week.
As a result, anyone enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP who is pregnant or becomes pregnant is automatically enrolled for 12 months of postpartum coverage.
“I thank Governor Abbott and the Texas Legislature for standing by our families,” said HHS Executive Commissioner Cecile Erwin Young. “Twelve months of postpartum coverage will help mothers across this state gain access to high-quality healthcare.”
The state projects that about 137,000 women will benefit from the extended coverage in fiscal year 2025.

State has transported more than 100,000 migrants to other cities
Since April 2022, the state of Texas has sent more than 100,000 migrants to major cities in other states, the governor’s office announced recently.
The largest number – 37,100 – have been sent to New York City, followed closely by 30,800 sent to Chicago. Other cities receiving migrants include Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Denver; and Los Angeles.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams has sued the bus companies paid by Texas to shuttle the migrants to his city.
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, Lufkin and Cedar Park. Email:å

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