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State immigration law again on hold


The on-again, off-again state immigration law is once more on hold while the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals considers its constitutionality. Senate Bill 4 would allow state and local law enforcement officials to arrest and deport people suspected of entering the state illegally from Mexico, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The U.S. Supreme Court last Tuesday removed a temporary hold on the law, which allowed it to take effect for several hours before the 5th Circuit court again stopped SB4 from being enforced while it considers its constitutionality.

At issue is whether the law usurps federal power to enforce border laws. A three-judge panel from the appeals court held a hearing last week but made no ruling.

“SB 4 is a modest, but important statute. It’s modest because it mirrors federal law,” Texas Solicitor General Aaron Nielson told the judges during Wednesday’s hearing. “It’s important because it helps to address what even the president has called a border crisis.”

While many law enforcement officials support SB4, major questions persist about how it will be enforced if found constitutional, the Texas Tribune noted.

“There’s so much that we don’t really know what it’s even going to look like. We don’t have precedent for a state doing this. It kind of changes the game,” said Jamie Longazel, a political science professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Migration is about someone coming from one country into another and so two national governments deal with the question. Now you’re having Texas and Mexico deal with this, potentially.”

Phelan ally announces run for House speaker

A former ally of House Speaker Dade Phelan announced last Thursday that he will run to replace him when lawmakers return to Austin in January for the 2025 legislative session, The Dallas Morning News reported.

“At this point, leadership change is required in the Texas House,” state Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, said in a news conference. “The status quo is too dysfunctional to continue, and the change from top to bottom is needed.”

Phelan is locked in a tough runoff battle with David Covey, an oil-and-gas consultant backed by Attorney General Ken Paxton and former President Donald Trump. He was targeted by state Republicans’ far-right faction after last year’s vote to impeach Paxton, and for continuing the tradition of appointing Democrats to chair some House committees.

Phelan said in a statement Thursday that he was focused on winning his May 28 runoff race and increasing the GOP majority in the House.

“As Speaker, I’m focused on winning these races, getting our team over the finish line and ensuring we start the session united and ready to deliver another banner conservative session for Texans,” Phelan said.

Medical Board unveils draft abortion guidelines

The Texas Medical Board on Friday released draft guidelines for administration of the state’s near-total abortion ban. Critics said the proposed rules fail to clarify which health conditions must be present for a doctor to legally perform an abortion.

“Putting all the definitions in one place, that’s helpful. But it doesn’t tell you any more about what you should do or not do,” said Steve Bresnen, whose joint petition with his wife, Amy, spurred the board to act after almost two years of calls by Texas OB-GYNs, pregnant patients, lawmakers, Gov. Greg Abbott and the state’s highest court for the agency to issue the guidelines.

Bresnen told the American-Statesman he was “very disappointed” with the board’s initial proposal, which it announced during a meeting attended by hundreds of Texans online and dozens in person. Both abortion rights proponents and those against the procedure acknowledged widespread confusion around medical emergency exceptions.

The abortion ban law allows exceptions when a pregnancy is contributing to a “life-threatening physical condition.” However, physicians have been reluctant to decide whether an emergency abortion is needed, fearing prosecution if it is deemed to be illegal under the new state law.

Gender wage gap in Texas among worst

Texas has one of the worst wage gaps between men and women in the country, with only North Dakota and Alabama ranked worse, according to Forbes Advisor. The San Antonio Express-News reported the Forbes study indicated that women’s median earnings in the state are 25% less than men’s: $39,615 versus $52,823.

The state also has one of the biggest disparities when it comes to making a six-figure income, the study shows, ranking 10th-worst in that category. More than 25.61% of men working full-time make at least $100,000, compared to just 13.19% of women.

“An abundance of high-paying jobs in male-dominated fields like oil and gas could contribute to this metric,” the study notes.

It’s tornado season in Texas

Spring means it is tornado season in Texas, which averages 137 twisters annually, the most of any state in the country, according to the National Weather Service. Perhaps surprisingly, the metropolitan area that experiences the most tornadoes is not in “Tornado Alley” in North Texas, according to the staff meteorologist for the Express-News. Rather it is Harris County, which includes Houston. Harris County has had 247 tornado reports since 1950. Tarrant County, home to Fort Worth, trails far behind, with 110 tornado reports in the same time period.

When it comes to property damage, tornadoes hitting Dallas County have been by far the costliest, causing $2.55 billion in damage since 1950. Harris County comes in second place with $526 million, followed by Travis County (Austin) with $268 million and Tarrant County at $237 million.

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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