Central figure in Paxton case charged
The Austin real estate developer who is at the heart of Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment was arraigned on eight federal charges Friday, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Nate Paul was arrested by the FBI on Thursday.
Paul, 36, has been accused of providing financial benefits to the attorney general, who in exchange intervened in several legal issues involving Paul. That connection led in part to the Texas House impeaching Paxton on May 27. He now awaits a trial sometime this summer in the Senate.
The federal charges allege Paul made false statements to financial institutions in Texas, Connecticut, New York and Ireland that underreported his total liabilities and overreported his cash, influencing lenders’ decisions to loan him money to buy commercial properties.
Meanwhile, Tony Buzbee, the Houston attorney hired to represent Paxton, said his client was the victim of a “kangaroo court,” according to the Texas Tribune. Buzbee, who is leading Paxton’s legal team, predicted Paxton “will never be convicted by the Senate. Not on this evidence. Not with this record. The fact is these allegations are completely untrue.”
Paxton has been temporarily removed from office, with former Texas secretary of state John Scott appointed as interim attorney general.
State fights to seize former state park land
Commissioners with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department voted unanimously Saturday to pursue eminent domain claims to acquire property that once was Fairfield Lake State Park.
The move came amid increasing acrimony between state officials and Todd Interests, the new owners of the land in Freestone County. Todd Interests recently purchased the land that had been leased to the state for the past half-century.
Shawn Todd, the company’s founder and CEO, told The Dallas Morning News the state had engaged in “intimidation” in an attempt to block his family’s company from acquiring the 5,000-acre tract from energy company Vistra. The state made a $25 million offer to buy Todd Interests out of its contract in mid-May, according to The News.
Arch “Beaver” Aplin III, chair of the nine-member commission, said the legal maneuver is an effort to save and expand a “beloved state park.”
At least three measures concerning condemning the park land in order to acquire it failed to pass in the last legislative session. The park averaged 80,000 visitors annually, according to TPWD.
billion budget sent to Abbott
Texas comptroller Glenn Hegar has certified that the recently passed $321.3 billion, two-year state budget is balanced. The budget legislation is the only task required of lawmakers by the Texas Constitution, the Texas Tribune reported. That means Gov. Greg Abbott can now review the 1,115-page document and potentially veto certain items that do not meet his approval. The deadline to do so is June 18.
Abbott’s line-item veto authority only applies to the state budget. The 2024-2025 budget allocates tax money toward tax cuts, broadband internet expansion, border security and raises for state employees, to name a few items. It does not provide increased pay for teachers. Although $4 billion has been set aside to increase teacher salaries and public-school funding, that will occur only if the Legislature acts separately to create a private school voucher program. Legislation for that failed in the regular legislative session but likely will be considered again in a special session later this year.
Jackson named interim chair of PUC
Kathleen Jackson, recently confirmed to the Public Utility of Commission by the Texas Senate, has been named interim chair by Abbott. That follows the resignation of chair Peter Lake, who will remain on the PUC until July 1. He joined the PUC in April 2021 in the wake of the major failure of the electric service after Winter Storm Uri the previous February.
“I’m honored and humbled by Governor Abbott’s trust and confidence in me to lead the Public Utility Commission at this very important time for the agency and for Texas,” Jackson said.
Drought conditions ease across state
Abundant rain in the Panhandle and much of Central Texas has eased drought conditions for much of those areas, according to Dr. Mark Wentzel, hydrologist with the Texas Water Development Board. The end of May saw the ninth consecutive weekly decrease in areas of the state affected by the drought. Less than 1 percent of the state is now listed as suffering from severe drought. That’s the least since March 2022.
A total of 34% of the state is listed in any type of drought condition, compared to 78% a year ago. The arrival of an El Niño weather pattern should bring a cooler, wetter autumn and winter, forecasters say.
State again No. 1 in Fortune 500 companies
With a record 55 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Texas, the state continues to lead the nation, Abbott announced.
“Texas is the headquarters of headquarters,” Abbott said. “With our strong and growing workforce and welcoming business climate, Texas is where businesses find the freedom to flourish, and people find opportunities to prosper.”
The greater Houston metropolitan area is second in the nation, home to 25 Fortune 500 headquarters. The Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metro area is third with 24.
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 and Cedar Park. Email: email@example.com.