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Abbott announces 3rd Special Session, agenda

(Photo by Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool/Getty Images)

AUSTIN – Governor Abbott today issued a proclamation announcing that he will convene a third special legislative session at 10 a.m. on Monday, September 20, 2021. The proclamation identifies 5 agenda items for the third Special Session.

“The Texas Legislature now has the opportunity to redraw legislative and congressional districts in accordance with the new census numbers,” said Governor Abbott. “In addition to redistricting, there are still issues remaining that are critical to building a stronger and brighter future for all Texans.”

Agenda items for the third Special Session will include:

Rotary Washer Tourney hits target

FIRST PLACE TEAM: Rotary president Jerry Fallin, center, poses with team “Community.” L to R: Keith Gaedchens, Bob McFehring. Gaedchens was also judged the Grand Champion of all players in the Tournament. (SEE MORE PHOTOS ON PAGE 5 OF THE PRINT OR PDF EDITION)

Crowds enjoy games, raise money for benefit

HIGHLANDS – Dozens of Rotarians, both local and city-wide, and friends and other residents converged on Charlie’s Ice House on N. Main Street last Saturday, Sept. 11 to compete in the annual Washer Board Charity Competition.

This year the event had a special Patriotic theme, since it was held on 9/11 and the 20th Anniversary of the Twin Towers attack. Rotary past president Andy Scott arranged to have a military honor guard present the colors in memory of those who have given their lives for this country.

The tournament is now in its 14th year, and the money raised by the Rotary Club is used for international projects, including Polio eradication worldwide. The club usually nets about $8000 for this effort.

EPA says remedial work can commence on Waste Pits southern empoundment

The Southern Impoundment area will start logistical work this year, and actual remediation construction will take place in 2022, according to the Environmental Protection Agency

Waste Pits take a major step forward in Superfund process

By Jackie Medcalf

On September 2nd, the EPA finalized the Unilateral Administrative Order (UAO) for the clean-up of the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site’s southern impoundment.

This is a major step towards physically addressing the contamination south of Interstate 10.

The order allows the clean-up to move into the Remedial Action phase of the superfund process, which begins with creating work plans, procuring materials, and securing contractors. These steps are anticipated to take place over the next year, setting the groundwork for construction to start in the fall of 2022.

Voter Regulations bill passes, Abbott ready to sign controversial legislation

AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott today issued a statement following the passage of Senate Bill 1, which Republicans say will protect the integrity of elections in Texas:

“Protecting the integrity of our elections is critical in the state of Texas, which is why I made election integrity an emergency item during the 87th Legislative Session. I thank Senator Brian Hughes, Representative Andrew Murr, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Speaker Dade Phelan for stepping up to ensure that this bill made it to the finish line during the second special session. Senate Bill 1 will solidify trust and confidence in the outcome of our elections by making it easier to vote and harder to cheat. I look forward to signing Senate Bill 1 into law, ensuring election integrity in Texas.”

Senate Bill 1 creates uniform statewide voting hours, maintains and expands voting access for registered voters that need assistance, prohibits drive-through voting, and authorizes poll watchers to observe more aspects of the election process. The bill also bans and penalizes the distribution of unsolicited applications for mail-in ballots and gives voters with a defective mail-in ballot the opportunity to correct the defect.

UPDATE ON BILLS MOVING THROUGH THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE DURING THE SPECIAL SESSION

Report by State Representative Mayes Middleton

AVOID EVICTION: Rent Relief available from Harris County

Money available for Residents Facing Eviction

HOUSTON — (August 27, 2021) — The Harris County Community Services Department has funds available for emergency rent relief for tenants living in unincorporated Harris County who are financially affected by COVID-19. The deadline to apply for aid was just extended to Nov. 30.

“People who find themselves in a bind right now may never have needed help before and they don’t know where to turn,” said Dr. Adrienne Holloway, executive director of CSD. “We want them to know we have resources and we are here to help.”

Tenant eligibility for the Texas Emergency Rental Assistance Program relies on the ability to provide a copy of the lease agreement, a household income at or below 80% of area median income and proof that financial hardship is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most importantly, this program requires landlords register their property to enable tenants to participate. Landlords may be able to recover up to six months of rent (dating back to April 2020).

County offers $100 for new vaccine shots

HARRIS COUNTY – Harris County Public Health Announced New Vaccine Incentive Initiative for All First Dose Recipients on Tuesday of this week.

Residents who receive their First dose of the COVID-19 vaccine through HCPH will receive a $100 cash card.

In an effort to improve vaccination rates and better protect the residents of Harris County from COVID-19, Harris County Public Health (HCPH) will provide $100 cash cards to residents receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at an HCPH vaccination site.

Walle’s return from DC allows Quorum in Legislature

Texas Democratic Representatives Armando Walle, and Ana Hernandez, seen above, and Garnet Coleman broke ranks with the group of missing Legislators, and returned to Austin from DC. This allowed the Republican controlled House to declare a Quorum for the first time in over a month.

ALDINE – State Representative Armando Walle and two other Democratic legislators, Ana Hernandez and Garnet Coleman, returned from their hiatus in Washington to the state Capitol in Austin last week. Their absence, along with about 50 others, had kept the Texas House from having a quorum and unable to pass controversial Voter Restriction legislation that the Democrats said would disenfranchise many minority voters.

However, with all Republicans plus these three Democrats and a few others who never left, the Speaker of the House Dade Phelan declared they had a Quorum, and would proceed to act on legislation.

The three returning Democrats received a great deal of criticism for allowing this to happen, from labor unions, minority voter groups, and their colleagues that were still in Washington.

Walle’s office issued the following statement in defense of the return:

State Senator Alvarado filibusters to block Voter Restriction bill

Senator Carol Alvarado speaking at the Texas Legislature during her 15-hour filibuster.

Texas Senate outlasts 15-hour filibuster by Senator Carol Alvarado to pass GOP voting restrictions bill

AUSTIN, Texas — Since before sunset Wednesday, state Sen. Carol Alvarado had been on her feet speaking, not allowed to sit or lean against her desk, on the Senate floor.

Unable to take bathroom breaks or drink water, she had worn a back brace, eyeglasses and running shoes and talked slowly behind a desk stacked with papers and with a microphone in her hand as she mounted a 15-hour filibuster. The target of her efforts was Senate Bill 1, the GOP’s priority bill that would place new restrictions on voting that many opponents say would disproportionately suppress ballots from voters of color and disabled voters.

But ultimately, her speaking marathon could only delay the passage of the bill in the Republican-controlled Senate. Shortly after she finally stepped away from her desk around 9 a.m., the Senate voted to advance the measure on a 18-11 party-line vote.

With her Democratic colleagues surrounding her desk on the Senate floor after her marathon, Alvarado invoked her Houston constituents – the voters who took advantage of the voting options SB 1 would ban – and asked why they should not be allowed as many opportunities to vote as the county was willing to offer.

County returns COVID threat level to RED

Delta Variant fills Hospitals

HARRIS COUNTY – Harris County judge Lina Hidalgo raised the COVID-19 threat level to “red” on Thursday afternoon, as the COVID-19 delta variant has increased hospitalizations and strained the region’s hospital resources over the past month.

It’s the first time the county has hit its highest threat level since June 2020.

The new advisory indicates that severe and uncontrolled outbreaks are present in the community and worsening, and that the public health capacity in the region is strained or exceeded, Hidalgo said.

“It’s straining our staff, it’s straining our hospitals, and it’s imposing heartbreak and anxiety in so many families in Harris County,” Hidalgo said.

The county judge called the latest surge a “perfect storm” of strained staff, a more transmissible virus, and the limited ability for local leaders to implement public health policies after Gov. Greg Abbott issued orders preventing such measures.

Hidalgo urged everyone eligible for a vaccine to get one, or else avoid “all but the most essential interactions.” She also recommended both the vaccinated and unvaccinated wear masks, and told the public to use ERs for life-threatening emergencies only.

GLO removing sunken barges from San Jacinto River

Workers clean mud off barge that has been raised from underwater.

By Carolyn Stone and Gilbert Hoffman

SAN JACINTO RIVER – Residents of the San Jacinto River Estates area along River Road, were surprised early in July to see excavation work barges lifting old sunken hulks of barges from the water along the waterfront.

This area is near the Superfund site, and also the area next to Riverside Inn where the Holtmar/TimTom company has been trying to install new barge mooring facilities.

Residents were concerned the cleanup was in preparation for the installation of the barge facility and the possible approval of the 03/04/21 Holtmar Letter of Permission from the Corps of Engineers.

However, closer inspection of the vessels and personnel performing the cleanup revealed they were from the TX GLO, or Texas General Land Office.

Residents say they are still concerned it may be related. Removal of the sunken vessels and other debris in the river would be a necessary step prior to construction of a barge facility in that area. Carolyn Stone reached out to Ana Hernandez’s office to hear if they had any information on why the GLO was in the proposed area for the barge facility removing the sunken vessels.

Several work barges, with cranes and other excavation equipment, are anchored along the bank near the San Jacinto River Estates neighborhood. They are removing sunken barges and other debris that impede the flow of the river and pose a hazard during flood conditions. Beyond the work barges can be seen the Riverside Inn, to the far left Meadowbrook Park, and to the far right the area for a proposed barge mooring facility. Work on that project has halted due to a question about whether it was properly permitted by the Corps of Engineers. (All photos courtesy of Greg Moss)