Capitol Highlights: Flags flown at half staff in honor of El Paso shooting victims

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Abbott, Patrick react after 20 die in deadly shooting

AUSTIN — After a gunman was arrested in the killing of 20 people and wounding 26 others at a popular shopping venue in El Paso on Aug. 3, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick offered thoughts and prayers.

Abbott ordered flags lowered in memory of those who lost their lives and said flags should remain at half-staff through sunset on Aug. 8.

The suspect, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius of Allen, Texas, surrendered after waves of first responders arrived on scene.

Crusius was charged with capital murder. He remains in custody in El Paso.

Lawmaker to take new post 

Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, last week announced his retirement from the state House of Representatives, effective Sept. 30.

Zerwas, a physician for more than 30 years and past president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2007. He is the 29th most senior lawmaker in the 150-member lower chamber.

Zerwas currently serves as chair of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee, and served in the same capacity in the 2017 Texas Legislature. He earlier served as chair of the House Committee on Higher Education. 

On Aug. 1, the University of Texas System announced the appointment of Zerwas as executive vice chancellor for health affairs, effective Oct. 1.

Kevin Eltife, chairman of the UT System Board of Regents and a former state senator, said Zerwas “comes to the UT System with a very high regard among colleagues in the medical, business and legislative arenas.”

More than two-thirds of the UT System’s annual budget is dedicated to health care, education and research, and UT institutions produce almost two-thirds of the state’s health professionals, according to the UT System news release.

Mitigation contracts issued

Eleven contracts totaling nearly $14.6 million in the Texas Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust settlement have been issued, mainly to school districts, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality announced Aug. 1.

The settlement is a result of litigation over emissions-control defeat devices that were found to have been installed on vehicles manufactured by Volkswagen and its subsidiaries. Some 590,000 vehicles are affected, according to the TCEQ.

Entities that have applied for funds from the trust will use the money to replace aging diesel school buses, shuttle buses or transit buses with new models. 

Alert system is launched

The Texas Department of Public Safety on July 30 announced the implementation of CLEAR Alert, the Coordinated Law Enforcement Adult Rescue Alert. 

The new alert system is designed to assist law enforcement in locating and rescuing missing adults who may have been kidnapped, abducted or who are in immediate danger of injury or death, and to aid in locating potential suspects. 

Rep. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood, authored HB 1769 creating the CLEAR Alert and Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, sponsored the legislation in the Senate. It was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott in May and takes effect on Sept. 1.

The system, to be managed by the DPS, will be operated in the same manner as AMBER, Silver, Blue and Endangered Missing Persons alerts. 

Revenue total is reported

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Aug. 2 announced state sales tax revenue totaled $2.86 billion in July, an amount 4.3 percent more than the amount reported for the month of July 2018.

"State sales tax revenue growth in July was moderate, with services and restaurant sectors leading the growth," Hegar said. "Tax receipts from the construction, wholesale and retail trade sectors also grew modestly, while receipts from the oil- and gas-mining sector remained about the same as a year ago."

Update: Measles cases

State health officials on July 29 confirmed that 21 cases of measles have been diagnosed in Texas so far this year.

The Department of State Health Services urged health care providers to consider measles when diagnosing patients because early identification, along with immunization, are keys to preventing the spread of measles.

A contagious respiratory illness, measles is a rash that begins as flat, red spots on the face and spreads down the neck and trunk to the rest of the body. Other symptoms include high fever over 101 degrees, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes.


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