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Around the Texas Capitol
Runoff elections, state revenue deficit and COVID-19 updates

Election provides boost to political junkies

The Republican and Democratic primary runoff elections, along with a Texas Senate special election in Central Texas provided plenty of excitement for political junkies who have been starved of action for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and recent protests.

Several races are worth highlighting because the dairy industry was either involved in or watching closely.

For U.S. Congress, former White House physician and Trump-endorsed Dr. Ronny Jackson took 55% of the vote against Josh Winegarner, the industry affairs director for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, in the Republican primary runoff for Congressional District 13 (formerly Mac Thornberry seat).  Jackson will face Democrat Gus Trujillo and Libertarian Jack Westbrook for the seat in the November general election. Trujillo won a Democratic primary runoff against Greg Sagan.

In the Texas Senate, Senate District 27 veteran Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville) will be returning to Austin after he pushed back against his opponent by gaining 53% of the vote in the Democratic primary runoff. He will face Republican Vanessa Tijerina in the general election but is overwhelmingly favored to keep his seat.

In the big West Texas senatorial district that includes parts of Bexar County, former State Rep. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) picked up 53% of the vote and will challenge incumbent Sen. Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton) in November.

In a special election to replace retired Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin), Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt picked up 49.7% to State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) 33.8%.  As of press time, at least 2,000 votes have not been counted. This race appears to be headed to a future runoff election. The winner will take the SD 14 seat – it is not on the ballot again until the 2022 elections.

In the Texas House of Representatives, two incumbents whose districts contain several dairies and TAD has worked well with over the past 18 years, lost their Republican runoffs.

In Central Texas’ HD-59, Dr. J.D. Sheffield (R-Gatesville) lost his re-election bid to Stephenville attorney Shelby Slawson, who will take the seat as there is no Democrat challenger on the November ballot.

Over in Northeast Texas’ HD-2, long-serving State Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Canton) was unseated by businessman Bryan Slaton. Slaton will face Democratic nominee Bill Brannon of Como in November for the office. Flynn defeated Brannon in the 2018 election.

It’s interesting that these two members would lose their re-election bids on the same night.  For years, Flynn led the charge against TAD to open additional markets for unpasteurized (raw) milk, while Sheffield, a medical doctor who served on the House Public Health Committee, would quietly work against the “raw milk bill.”  Both of these gentlemen have been unselfish public servants who worked tirelessly.

TAD says “thank you” and wishes them the best of luck as they leave the halls of our beautiful State Capitol.

In other state news . . .

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar projects a fiscal 2021 ending shortfall of $4.6 billion in revised revenue estimate

Comptroller Glenn Hegar on July 20 offered a sobering reassessment of the state’s fiscal condition in light of the challenges Texas faces with the COVID-19 pandemic and a downturn in oil & gas markets – a net $7.5 billion turn for the worse, with the state’s current budget now $4.6 billion in the red.

Just over a year ago, in June 2019 after the Texas Legislature passed the state’s 2020-21 budget, Hegar certified the budget and estimated state had a $2.9 billion surplus.

Hegar updated his budget numbers during testimony before the Legislative Budget Board, a ten-member House-Senate leadership committee co-chaired by Lt. Governor Patrick and House Speaker Bonnen.

Read more in the Comptroller’s press release.

Texas Education Agency issues additional reopening guidance, including online-only local option start to school year

The Texas Education Agency on July 17 issued important updates to earlier guidance surrounding the reopening of public schools for the 2020-2021 school year.

School systems will now be able to temporarily limit access to on-campus instruction for the first four weeks of school. After the first four weeks, a school system can continue to limit access to on-campus instruction for an additional four weeks, if needed, with a board-approved waiver request to TEA.

TEA says these guidelines are in response to the varying public health realities of each Texas community and provide the needed flexibility for schools to effectively provide a smooth transition for students, teachers, and staff so that they will experience the safest and least disruptive mode of learning during the beginning of the school year.

Read more from the TEA.

Abbott hosts Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for ceremonial signing

Gov. Greg Abbott on July 16 hosted U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue for the ceremonial signing of the Shared Stewardship agreement between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the State of Texas.

The Shared Stewardship agreement establishes a framework for federal and state agencies to improve collaboration in responding to natural resource concerns and ecological challenges in Texas. The agreement is between the USDA’s Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and Texas A&M Forest Service.

Read more from Gov. Abbott’s press release.

Abbott announces $41 million in federal COVID-19 emergency funding for local governments

Gov. Abbott on July 15 announced that his Public Safety Office (PSO) will provide $41 million in federal funds to assist cities and counties throughout the COVID-19 response. These funds come from the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) Program authorized by the federal Emergency Appropriations for Coronavirus Health Response and Agency Operations Act. The first round of awards, totaling $7 million, will be distributed this week.

A list of jurisdictions that have received an award can be found here.

Abbott extends statewide COVID-19 disaster declaration

On July 10, Gov. Abbott issued a proclamation extending his disaster declaration for all Texas counties in response to COVID-19. Originally issued on March 13, the disaster declaration provides the state a number of resources to effectively serve Texans as the state continues to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

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