Early primary voting starts on Valentine’s Day
Early voting in the March 1 primary begins on Feb. 14 and runs through Feb. 25. The last day to apply for a ballot by mail is Feb. 18.
There are seven statewide seats on the ballot: governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, land commissioner, agriculture commissioner, comptroller and one seat on the railroad commission. Winners in the Republican and Democratic primaries will face off in the Nov. 8 general election.
GOP incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott faces seven primary opponents, while five candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination, with the best-known being Beto O’ Rourke, a former candidate for U.S. Senate and the presidency.
In addition, congressional and state legislative races will be on the ballot, as well as county positions. Readers can find out who is on the ballot where they are registered to vote on the Texas secretary of state’s website: votetexas.gov.
Board awards $26.2 million in higher ed grants
A total of 60 Texas higher education institutions will share $26.2 million in grants awarded by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
The grants will help Texans gain higher-paying jobs by earning postsecondary credentials to be made available through two programs: the Texas Reskilling Support Fund Grant and the Accelerating Credentials of Purpose and Value Grant Program.
The Texas Reskilling Support Fund Grant provides emergency financial support to students whose education was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as displaced workers seeking training to return to the workforce and students who dropped out of higher education prior to the pandemic but are looking to return.
The Accelerating Credentials of Purpose and Value Grant Program allows institutions to create or expand short-term, industry-recognized postsecondary credentials that incorporate skills and knowledge required by high-demand careers that stem from digital skills, data analytics, and front-line healthcare programs, according to the THECB news release.
“To remain competitive, we must lead the nation at producing credentials of value that meet the needs of our fast-growing economy,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Harrison Keller. “We need to emphasize the importance of credentials that are affordable, attainable, and bring value to the lives of all Texans.
detected in Texas
Invasive quagga mussels have been detected in a Texas reservoir for the first time, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The discovery was made at the International Amistad Reservoir along the Texas-Mexico border near Del Rio.
Quagga mussels are closely related to the zebra mussels that have invaded nearly three dozen Texas lakes since first being introduced in Texas in 2009 at Lake Texoma.
“This detection of invasive quagga mussels is a very unfortunate first for Texas,” said Monica McGarrity, TPWD senior scientist for aquatic invasive species. “Quagga mussels can inhabit greater depths and are also able to settle on soft substrates like mud or sand in addition to hard surfaces like rock or infrastructure—unlike zebra mussels—meaning they can colonize more of the lake.”
Quagga mussels are found in the Great Lakes region and some western states, according to TPWD. Like the zebra mussel, the quagga mussel is often unknowingly introduced by contaminated boats. Boaters are urged to clean, drain and dry their boats to prevent the spread of the mussels.
“Each boater taking the necessary actions to clean and drain their boat before leaving the lake and allowing compartments and gear to dry completely when they get home can make a big difference in protecting our Texas lakes,” said Brian Van Zee, TPWD inland fisheries regional director.
Unclaimed property webinars planned
The Texas Comptroller’s office is holding a series of free training webinars for holders of unclaimed property, such as general businesses, city, county and state government agencies, financial institutions, oil and gas companies and cooperatives.
Topics to be discussed include an overview of unclaimed property rules, state requirements for reporting such property, and which reports to use. The schedule of webinars, which last two hours, can be found online here: https://tinyurl.com/2p8fpdpc.
Anyone who wants to see whether they are owed money can go to claimittexas.org.
COVID-19 cases drop sharply
Perhaps the peak has passed in the latest wave of COVID-19 cases in Texas, spurred by the omicron variant. The Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University reported 198,757 new cases in the past week, down nearly 100,000 from the previous week. New deaths totaled 1,395, up 15% from the previous week. The total number of deaths in the state since the pandemic began about two years ago stands at 80,662.
The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 10,657 COVID-19 patients in Texas hospitals, down 16.5% from the previous week. DSHS reported 16.987 million Texans have been fully vaccinated, which is 58.2% of the state’s population. An addition 5.98 million Texans have received a booster dose.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.