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Legal challenges to amendments appear quashed


A half-dozen lawsuits challenging the 13 approved Texas constitutional amendments appear to be dead in the water, The Dallas Morning News reported. The secretary of state’s office last week declared the propositions approved and now a part of the Texas Constitution, while Gov. Greg Abbott canvassed the election and certified the results. One proposition that would have raised the retirement age of judges was rejected by voters.

In addition, the Texas attorney general’s office said the lawsuits had improper “citation and return of service.” The plaintiffs are unable to correction those citations because the election results have been certified.

The six nearly identical lawsuits claimed the state used uncertified polling machines that exposed the election to voter fraud, and the plaintiffs called for the courts to throw out the Nov. 7 results and hold a new election using paper ballots only, The News reported.

The suits threatened to delay voter-approved property tax cuts and a raise in retired teachers’ pensions.

Abbott enters primary battle fray, mum on fifth special session

The Texas Legislature’s fourth special session ended last week with the House and Senate still at loggerheads over Abbott’s push to allow the use of taxpayer money to pay for private school costs, commonly known as school vouchers. Last month, 21 House Republicans joined with Democrats to remove the voucher provision from a broad education bill that did not pass both chambers.

Abbott is sticking to his promise to endorse primary challengers to House Republicans who voted against the voucher plan, the Texas Tribune reported. With the holiday season underway, it appears unlikely there will be another special session this year, but Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he believed the best day to come back for another session “would be Feb. 5, 30 days before the election.”

The impasse means legislation to increase public school funding, provide teacher bonuses and hike funding for school safety measures also died on the vine.

State halts efforts to take Fairfield Lake property

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has ceased its efforts to seize a 5,000-acre tract of private land that once included a state park and adjoins Fairfield Lake, The News reported. A private developer purchased the property from a utility company for about $103 million last June and plans to close Fairfield Lake State Park were announced. The land for the park had been leased from Vistra Corp., the utility company for 50 years.

Todd Interests, the developer, plans to build luxury homes with a golf course, restaurants and shops, as well as access to a private air strip. Less than two weeks after the developer bought the property, the state voted to condemn the land using eminent domain.

A judge-appointed commission of three Freestone County residents put the fair market value of the property at $418.3 million – more than four times what the developer paid for it. Fairfield Lake is considered the largest privately owned lake in the state and possibly the nation, The News reported.

State seeks public input on broadband internet plan

The Texas Broadband Development Office is soliciting input from the public on the proposed Texas Digital Opportunity Plan, which seeks to improve and expand broadband access across the state. Almost 7 million Texans lack access to high-speed internet, or nearly 25% of residents.

“Access to reliable, high-speed internet as a means of advancing education, training, employment opportunities, healthcare, and delivery of essential services is critical to the future of our state,” said Glenn Hegar, comptroller.

Through Jan. 5 of next year, Texans can give their opinions on the plan by visiting broadbandfortexas.com/tdop.

The newly created broadband office is partnering with chambers of commerce, the Texas Workforce Commission, industry associations and elected officials to highlight the importance of access to high-speed internet in today’s digital world.

Workers’ comp costs drop in state

A report issued by the Texas Department of Insurance indicates that the cost of treating injured employees in the state’s workers’ compensation system dropped considerably from 2012 through 2022. Total health care costs dropped 30%, from $1.15 billion in 2012 to $812 million last year, while the total number of claims dropped 20% during the same period, from 319,000 to 256,000.

Hospital costs also dropped 20% in that decade, while the costs for professional services – such as physicians – was down 26%, from $657 million to $483 million.

The report used administrative data reported by insurance carriers for the 10-year period. The costs were not adjusted for inflation, which would have made the decrease in costs even greater.

PUC approves new price protections during power emergencies

The Public Utility Commission has implemented a new Emergency Pricing Program that limits consumer exposure to high wholesale electricity prices during power emergencies, as occurred during Winter Storm Uri in February 2021.

“Implementing the Emergency Pricing Program provides another layer of financial protection for Texas consumers and will ensure their electricity bills remain affordable even when conditions are tight in the ERCOT system,” Thomas Gleeson, PUC executive director, said.

The new program comes after passage of Senate Bill 3 during the last regular legislative session.

“This is a key part of our ongoing work to ensure electric reliability for Texans at a reasonable cost,” Gleeson added.

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: gborders@texaspress.com.


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