State Capital Highlights, week of Jan. 13-19, 2020, compiled by Ed Sterling, Texas Press Association
AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott last week convened the quarterly meeting of his Domestic Terrorism Task Force at the state Capitol. Governor’s domestic terrorism task force meets at Capitol
"We must work together to develop meaningful solutions to fully eradicate domestic terrorism in the Lone Star State,” Abbott said in explaining the purpose of the meeting. "Just as domestic terrorism takes many forms, this task force is committed to developing comprehensive and evolving defense strategies to ensure a safe and secure future for every Texan," Abbott added.
Abbott’s office said the task force analyzed prevention strategies against domestic terrorism in the form of cyber attacks and discussed the importance of good “cyber hygiene.”
Task force members include Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and other high-ranking state, county and federal officials.
DPS releases reports
On Jan. 7, the Texas Department of Public Safety released two reports: the 58-page "Assessing the Mass Attacks Threat to Texas" and the 49-page "Texas Domestic Terrorism Threat Assessment."
In releasing the documents, DPS Director Steven McCraw said it is critical to evaluate public safety vulnerabilities. To further its mission in preventing acts of violence and terrorism, the DPS is urging Texans to report suspicious activity to their local law enforcement or through the iWatchTexas program, a system that captures and connects potential criminal, terroristic or school safety-related threats.
Both reports are available online at dps.texas.gov/news.htm.
Disaster is declared
Drought conditions have caused a state of disaster in 17 Texas counties, Gov. Greg Abbott declared on Jan. 3. The declaration applies to the counties of Bandera, Bell, Blanco, Burnet, Karnes, Kendall, Kinney, Llano, Maverick, McCulloch, Medina, Real, Uvalde, Val Verde, Williamson, Zapata, and Zavala.
Significantly low rainfall and prolonged dry conditions continue to increase the threat of wildfire and pose an imminent threat to public health, property, and the economy.
In the declaration, the governor authorizes the use of all necessary available resources of state government and its political subdivisions.
Injury statistics posted
The Texas Department of Insurance on Jan. 3 referred to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing there are more workers in shopping malls and retail outlets that get sick and injured than in any other private industry sector in Texas.
An estimated 33,200 retail workers in Texas suffered a job-related illness or injury in 2018, as compared to 12,300 in construction, 17,700 in transportation and 20,400 in manufacturing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
About 25% of these injuries required Texas retail workers to lose a day of work, while about 5% of the injuries required employees to lose 31 days or more of work.
The median time off for injured retail workers in Texas was five days. “There are more retail workers in the state getting injured than employees in construction, transportation or even on factory floors,” said Chris D’Amura, director of workplace safety at the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation.
“We’re seeing a lot of retail workers with sprains, strains, tears and overexertion. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the longer workdays, expanded schedules and irregular shifts can negatively affect the mental and physical health of retail workers,” D’Amura said.
“When you add less sleep and more crowd stress, it’s not surprising we start seeing more accidents. Falls from ladders, slips on floors and trips over boxes and equipment were cited among the most common causes of injuries in the retail industry. Overexertion due to lifting, lowering and repetitive motion is also a high cause of injury in retail," D'Amura added.
Paxton reacts to ruling
State Attorney General Paxton on Jan. 6 welcomed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruling that parties protesting the relocation of Confederate monuments at the University of Texas do not have standing to pursue their lawsuit.
“This case was correctly dismissed months ago for lack of standing, and we are pleased that the Fifth Circuit agreed with our arguments and affirmed the district court’s decision," Paxton said. "As the court recognized, the plaintiffs had no legal injury from the university’s decision to move property on its campus.”
The bronze statues of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston and John Reagan were moved in 2015 and 2017 to the Briscoe Center for American History on the university campus, where the figures are part of an educational display.