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Capital Highlights

Texas counties among nation’s fastest growing


Recent estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that six of the 10 fastest-growing counties in the United States from 2022 to 2023 were in Texas. According to the Texas Tribune, Kaufman County, just east of Dallas, led the list with a 7.6% increase in new residents that brought its population to more than 185,000. Census data shows that Rockwall and Liberty counties closed out the top three, with growth rates of 6.5% and 5.7%, respectively.

Also in the top 10 with the largest residential growth rates are Chambers, Comal and Ellis counties. All 10 of the fastest-growing counties are in the South, Census officials said, and are due to people relocating from other parts of the country.

“Domestic migration patterns are changing, and the impact on counties is especially evident,” said Lauren Bowers, chief of the Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Branch.

Texas also holds eight of the 10 counties that added the most residents from 2022 to 2023, with Harris, Collin and Montgomery counties leading nationwide. Harris County added 53,788 residents, more than any other county in the U.S.

Major wildfires nearly contained

The largest wildfire in Texas history is 89% contained as of Sunday, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service, after burning more than a million acres. The Smokehouse Creek fire in Hutchinson County is one of two active wildfires in the state. The only other wildfire not contained is the Windy Deuce Fire in Moore County, 94% contained and consuming 144,045 acres.

There are currently 70 counties with burn bans in place.

The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved Gov. Greg Abbott’s disaster declaration request for the following Panhandle counties: Armstrong, Carson, Donley, Gray, Hansford, Hemphill, Hutchinson, Lipscomb, Moore, Potter, Randall, Roberts, Sherman and Wheeler.

“These disaster declarations will help Texans in communities affected by the Smokehouse Creek and Windy Deuce wildfires receive critical financial assistance they need as they continue to recover and rebuild,” Abbott said. 

Low-interest loans are available to homeowners, renters, and businesses affected by the wildfires. Applications can be downloaded at sba.gov/disaster.

Texas challenges federal methane rule

The state is challenging a tougher methane emissions rule recently put in place by the Environmental Protection Agency through a lawsuit filed by the Texas attorney general’s office last week. The regulations force oil and gas companies to reduce emissions in the next two years.

Texas oil and gas operators emit more methane than any other state, according to the EPA.  A report in the Houston Chronicle said the program would reduce negative climate impacts and improve health, saving up to $7.6 billion annually through 2038.

The Texas Railroad Commission claims the rule is detrimental to the oil and gas industry, and maintains the industry has made great strides to reduce emissions.

“Texas is taking action against the federal government’s egregious overreach,” said RRC Chairman Christi Craddick. “The latest attack on oil and gas is nothing more than an attempt to shut down the industry that creates hundreds of thousands of jobs, funds one-third of our state’s economy, and produces clean and reliable energy for the world.”

Court: Minors need parental consent for contraceptives

A federal appellate court upheld a state law requiring parental consent for minor seeking access to birth control, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The ruling partially upholds a late 2022 ruling that blocked federally funded clinics from providing contraceptives to teens without proof of parental consent.

Teens have the right to access confidential contraception services at Title X clinics under a program established in 1970. A lawsuit filed in 2022 challenged the Title X regulation, arguing it violates state law and  infringes on parental rights.

“Minors have been unable to access confidential contraceptive care in our network of Title X clinics for more than a year,” Stephanie LeBleu, a project director at Every Body, a nonprofit that administers federal funds to more than 150 Title X clinics across the state, said in a news release. 

Paxton, Cornyn still exchanging barbs

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is possibly considering a run against incumbent U.S. Sen. John Cornyn following a streak of successes in ousting Republican House incumbents in the March primary, The Dallas Morning News reported. Paxton has repeatedly attacked Cornyn, up for reelection in 2026, as being too moderate.

“Super Tuesday showed there is a large base of Paxton-friendly voters who not only admire him but want his kind of unapologetic aggressive conservatism in the United States Senate, said conservative radio talk show host Mark Davis.

The two have clashed several times on social media. When Cornyn announced he would run to replace Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, as the Republican leader in the Senate, Paxton posted on X, formerly Twitter, “Republicans deserve better in their next leader and Texans deserve another conservative senator.”

Cornyn replied, “Hard to run from prison, Ken.” Paxton faces a trial this spring for securities fraud and is under federal investigation for his ties to a since-indicted real estate investor.

Third anniversary of Operation Lone Star

Operation Lone Star, the state’s border initiative, recently marked its third anniversary. According to Abbott’s office, the multi-agency effort has led to apprehension of more than a half-million people believed to be here illegally. More than 36,100 felony charges have been filed and more than 100,000 migrants have been transported to other cities, the governor’s office said.

In addition, more than 469 million doses of fentanyl have been seized during that three-year period.

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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