OPINION: State Capital Highlights: Perry, Abbott react to Obama’s announcement on immigration
AUSTIN — President Barack Obama on Nov. 20 announced his decision to take executive action on immigration because Congress has not acted on immigration reform to address the presence and inflow of undocumented residents.
“In order to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation, these undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and unlawful permanent residents would have to: Have been here 5+ years, pass a background check, pay taxes,” according to information posted by the White House.
Gov. Rick Perry reacted, saying, “The president’s action tonight will lead to more illegal immigration, not less.” Governor-elect and Attorney General Greg Abbott said he is prepared to challenge the president in court. Two days before the president’s address to the nation, Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus jointly announced their decision to extend funding for the ongoing law enforcement surge at the Texas-Mexico border through the end of the current fiscal year, which ends Aug. 31, 2015.
Listed as sources of $86.1 million in funding for the extended border security operations are $13.7 million in disaster funds, $47.9 million in Texas Department of Transportation general revenue bond debt service, $17.5 million in Texas Public Finance Authority bond debt service, and $7 million in Emerging Technology Fund revenues.
The three officials said they took action “having established the model for securing the border in the absence of federal action.” Funding from the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Military Forces and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, to secure the presence of personnel along the border, is subject to approval by the 10-member Legislative Budget Board at its Dec. 1 meeting. Perry, Straus and Dewhurst are members of that board.
“This approach provides an important bridge to the 2015 legislative session,” Straus said. “The state’s law enforcement agencies will have the tools and technology they need to continue an enhanced presence on the border. Meanwhile, this funding will allow members of the next Legislature to evaluate the state’s border security strategy during the session and make adjustments if necessary.”
According to the governor’s office, funds for the DPS would include the addition of such items as new shallow-water patrol boats “to expand the surge footprint beyond the Rio Grande Valley Sector.”
Van de Putte resigns to run
State Senator Leticia Van de Putte declared her candidacy for mayor of San Antonio and announced her resignation from the Senate on Nov. 19. Van de Putte, a Democrat, ran for the office of lieutenant governor in the Nov. 4 general election, losing to Republican Dan Patrick of Houston. A pharmacist by trade, her legislative career began in 1990 when she was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. In 2000, she was elected to the first term of her 14-year tenure in the Texas Senate. State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, has indicated interest in running for mayor of San Antonio, the nation’s seventh-largest city. State Reps. Trey Martinez-Fischer and Jose Menendez, both San Antonio Democrats, have announced their candidacies for the Senate District 26 seat being vacated by Van de Putte.
Chair comments on frack ban
Texas Railroad Commission Chair Christi Craddick, in a Nov. 12 statement, said the passage of a ban on hydraulic fracturing by city of Denton voters in the Nov. 4 general election “has caused a bit of an uproar.”
“As a result of last week’s vote,” Craddick wrote, “it’s less likely a reasonable model of peaceful cooperation will be available to the people of Denton. In the meantime, Denton County will lose jobs, tax revenues, business development, and the other economic benefits that come with oil and gas production, our state’s most iconic and lucrative industry. Hydraulic fracturing “has never contributed to a single instance of groundwater contamination in our state — never,” she wrote, adding, “Let me be clear: The voice of the people of Denton should not be overruled; rather, cities and state regulators should work together to fulfill their responsibilities to the people. In the end, a solution that keeps the local and state economies strong and the will of Denton’s citizens intact is not only possible, but an obligation.”
Debt information is posted
State Comptroller Susan Combs on Nov. 20 announced the posting of updated “Debt-at-a-Glance” Internet pages at texastransparency.org. Internet users can use the site to view debt information for all water and municipal utility districts in the state, Combs said, and called it a major milestone in her efforts “to shine a light on government spending.” Posted is debt information for 2,106 water and municipal utility districts and an updated bond election table with the recent results from the Nov. 4 elections, Combs said.