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OPINION: State Capital Highlights: Suspected shooter dies in confrontation with police officer

AUSTIN — Police responded to reports of gunfire in the capital city’s downtown area around 2 a.m. on Nov. 28. 

An estimated 100 shots were fired in about 10 minutes, hitting buildings including the Mexican consulate, police headquarters and the federal court building. No pedestrians, motorists or building occupants were reported injured in the incident.

An armed suspect identified as Larry Steven McQuilliams, 49, of Austin, was shot and killed when he was confronted by an Austin police officer near police headquarters. Bomb squad officers searched McQuilliams’ parked vehicle and found small propane tanks of a kind the suspect may have used in a failed attempt to set the consulate building afire. 

Perry extends drought proclamation

Gov. Rick Perry on Nov. 24 announced the renewal of the emergency disaster proclamation he originally signed in July 2011, certifying that exceptional drought conditions posed a threat of imminent disaster in specified counties in Texas.

This month, the proclamation applies to 92 of the state’s 254 counties. In contrast, the proclamation applied to 98 specified counties in the month of October. The drought proclamation directs that “all necessary measures, both public and private” as authorized by state law “be implemented to meet that threat” and “all rules and regulations that may inhibit or prevent prompt response to this threat are suspended for the duration of the state of disaster.”

Noted public servant dies

Former state Sen. Ray Farabee, D-Wichita Falls, died Nov. 20 at his home in Austin.

Farabee, 81, served as a member of the Texas Senate from 1975 to 1988. He resigned from office in 1988 to accept a position as general counsel for the University of Texas System. His son David Farabee, D-Wichita Falls, served as a state representative from 1999 to 2011.

A Dec. 5 memorial is scheduled in the state Capitol Senate Chamber burial will be in the  Texas State Cemetery on Dec. 6.

Illegal fishing is targeted

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on Nov. 21 announced its Law Enforcement Division and the U.S. Coast Guard are distributing a wanted poster seeking any information related to illegal fishing activities along the Texas-Mexico border.

According to the announcement, “both agencies are investigating multiple cases of Texas and federal conservation law violations, including illegal long lining, gill netting, crabbing, hoop netting, shrimping and other offenses.”

Citizens are urged to report suspected illegal fishing by calling the Operation Game Thief hotline, 1-800-792-GAME.

Jobless rate decreases

Texas Workforce Commission on Nov. 21 reported the state’s economy added 35,200 seasonally adjusted total nonfarm jobs in October and over the year, Texas added 421,900 total nonfarm jobs, setting a record for jobs added in Texas for the third consecutive month. 

Eight of 11 major industries added jobs in Texas over the month, led by Trade, Transportation, and Utilities with 17,500 jobs added in October. 

According to the agency, Midland Metropolitan Statistical Area had the lowest October unemployment rate in the state at 2.5 percent; Odessa MSA came in second at 3.0 percent; and Amarillo MSA ranked third at 3.5 percent.

TCEQ opposes proposal

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on Nov. 26 publicized its opposition to a proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to lower the primary National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone air pollution from 75 parts per billion to a range of 65-70 parts per billion.

TCEQ Chair Bryan W. Shaw said the rule change would increase costs and yield “no significant health benefits.”

Also, said TCEQ Commissioner Toby Baker said he found it “offensive for EPA to make this announcement the day before Thanksgiving without giving the TCEQ, one of the largest environmental regulatory agencies in the world, a courtesy call to alert us it was coming.” 

Group underlines resolve

Texas Railroad Commission member Barry Smitherman on Nov. 19 reported the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ adoption of a resolution “reiterating both its 2009 resolution supporting state regulation of hydraulic fracturing and recognizing and reiterating that states are well suited to effectively regulate their (own) natural resources.”

Some two weeks earlier, local option, as a way to limit hydraulic fracturing activities, caught state and national attention in the Nov. 4 election, when city of Denton voters passed a ban on further hydraulic fracturing within city limits.

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