Wildfire chances increasing across state

The risk for wildfires across the state has risen along with the hot and dry conditions, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

“With the recent uptick in wildfire activity, Texas A&M Forest Service has mobilized additional personnel and equipment to assist with response,” said Wes Moorehead, Texas A&M Forest Service fire chief. “State and local firefighters are prepared to respond quickly but we need Texans to be careful and prevent wildfire ignitions while conditions remain hot and dry.”

Nine out of 10 wildfires cross the state are both human-caused and preventable. The most common causes of wildfires during summer are debris burning and equipment use. That includes parking in dry grass and dragging trailer chains.

The forest service reported seven active wildfires as of Friday, most of which were 90% contained. However, the Blum Fire covering an estimated 300 acres was only 40% contained, while the Classic Canyon Fire in Coryell County, covering 150 acres, was 20% contained.

There are 150 counties in Texas with burn bans.


Abbott signs tax relief bill; now goes to voters

With Gov. Gregg Abbott’s signature on an $18 billion property tax relief package, now it’s up to the voters in November to approve a proposed constitutional amendment that would put it into effect.

The Austin American-Statesman reported that, if passed in November, homeowners would be eligible for a $100,000 homestead exemption, with those 65 and older getting an additional $40,000 exemption. The omnibus measure also exempts many smaller businesses from paying franchise taxes and implements a pilot program to limit annual property tax appraisal value increases.

Voters also will decide the fate of 13 other proposed constitutional amendments on the November ballot. Besides the property tax measure, the propositions include creating a broadband infrastructure fund; creation of a Texas energy fund to build new electric generating plants; and creation of a water fund to finance water projects in Texas.


Bookstores sue over law 

rating books in schools

Texas bookstores have joined with national organizations to sue in federal court over a new Texas law that requires a rating system for books in schools and seeks to ban sexually explicit books from public school libraries.

The American Booksellers Association and other national groups were joined by BookPeople in Austin, Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston and others in filing the suit, saying the law, due to take effect on Sept. 1, “is unrealistic, limits students’ reading options and narrows libraries’ book selections,” according to the Statesman.

Named as defendants in the suit are several state agencies, including the Texas Education Agency, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and the State Board of Education, all of which will be responsible for implementing the law.

“This law is bad for small businesses, like independent bookstores,” Charley Rejsek, CEO of BookPeople, said. “The workload, and the monetary aspect that goes along with the workload, is just impossible to meet.”

In a tweet responding to the lawsuit, Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, who authored HB 900, said “bring it.”


One in five 

Texans live in flood plain

About 20% of the state’s population — nearly 6 million Texans — live in an area susceptible to flooding, according to new data gathered by the Texas Water Development Board and reported by the Texas Tribune.

The analysis by TWDB is part of its first statewide flood plan, required by a law passed in 2019 in response to Hurricane Harvey. Flood risks in Texas are increasing as the result of heavier precipitation due to climate change, stronger hurricanes and a rise in sea levels — even as the state’s population continues to increase.

In a presentation in mid-July, TWDB staff said one-fifth of the state’s land — about 56,000 square miles — falls within an area classified as being in a 100-year floodplain.

The state is likely to spend tens of billions of dollars in flood protection. One of the first projects is the “Ike Dike,” a massive gate system planned for the mouth of Galveston Bay, the Tribune reported.

“Getting this program up and running is a really big deal,” TWDB Chair Brooke Paup said before the board approved the 15 regional plans, a major step in creating the statewide flood plan. Each region is built around one of the state’s major watersheds.

“I know it’ll truly go so far to save lives and people’s homes,” Paup said.



concertina razor wire made by inmates

The miles of concertina razor wire strewn along the banks of the Rio Grande by Texas authorities — and the subject of a suit by the Department of Justice — is manufactured by inmates in an East Texas minimum-security prison unit, the Corpus Christi Caller Times reported.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice was authorized to purchase nearly $1.1 million worth of equipment to make the wire, according to the Legislative Budget Board’s contract database, the Caller Times reported. While the prison system has been making such wire for the state’s 100-plus prison units for some time, the new machines are allowing expanded production for use on the Texas border.

The new unit was shipped to the Powledge Unit near Palestine in East Texas. That prison also has a metal manufacturing unit.


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: gborders@texaspress.com.

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