Standoff at border continues between state, feds
A standoff at an Eagle Pass park continues as the Department of Homeland Security has sent a second letter to Gov. Greg Abbott demanding access to the Rio Grande park that is now under state control.
Abbott contends the state has the right to defend itself from what he called “record-smashing levels of illegal immigration,” The Dallas Morning News reported. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that the Border Patrol can resume cutting or removing razor wire that the state installed to deter migrants.
Citing that ruling, DHS sent a second letter demanding the state give Border Patrol agents “full access to the Shelby Park area currently obstructed by Texas.”
A DPS spokesman said the state is installing more razor wire along the riverbank. U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, has urged President Joe Biden to federalize the Texas National Guard if the state defies the Supreme Court ruling.
State delays vote on
proposed land swap with SpaceX
Heat from conservation groups prompted Texas Parks and Wildlife commissioners to delay a proposed land swap with SpaceX. The proposal would have given the space exploration company 43 acres of Boca Chica State Park land in exchange for 477 acres near the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, The News reported. Groups, including the Sierra Club and Save RGV, urged commissioners to delay the vote to allow the public more time to examine the proposal, which will be revisited in late March.
Environmental groups sued the Federal Aviation Administration last year over its approval of the expansion of billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s rocket-launch operations. The suit was filed after the company’s Starship exploded during a launch and hurled debris thousands of feet into the air. They have also expressed concern for possible loss of wildlife and habitat since the launch site is within miles of the state park and wildlife refuge.
More Texans than ever have signed up for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act for 2024, according to federal health data released last week and reported by the Texas Tribune. The number of Texans in ACA programs, which offer inexpensive or free health care coverage, rose 37% to nearly 3.5 million – or 1 in 9 residents.
National enrollment is at record highs as well, with more than 16.3 million people signed up for plans under ACA. That is double the number of Americans signing up for ACA plans since it was launched in 2014.
“The clear takeaway is that Texans want coverage that is affordable and comprehensive, and when you make sure they have that — and it’s easy to know about, and it’s easy to get signed up — they sign up in droves,” said Stacey Pogue, a health care policy analyst.
Texas continues to lead the nation in the number of uninsured residents, with nearly 5 million Texans living without health insurance coverage. That’s nearly double the national average.
DSHS launches new tools to track
The Texas Department of State Health Services has created a respiratory virus dashboard that shows trends in the three major respiratory illnesses most likely to cause serious illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths – COVID-19, influenza and RSV.
“Those data points demonstrate the diseases’ most severe effects on people, communities and the health care system,” said DSHS Commissioner Jennifer Shuford. “The dashboard provides a near real-time look at conditions, so people can make informed decisions on precautions for themselves and their families, and health care professionals can make recommendations to their patients.”
The site can be accessed at healthdata.dshs.texas.gov/Home.
Judge rejects Paxton’s motion to block deposition
A Travis County judge again blocked a motion by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to stop a deposition in a wrongful termination lawsuit brought by former top aides in his office, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The deposition is scheduled for Feb. 1. The four aides went to the FBI to complain about the embattled attorney general’s actions in helping developer Nate Paul. The aides were subsequently fired and filed suit in 2020.
Earlier in January, Paxton tried to end the matter by saying he would no longer contest the facts of the case and accept whatever judgment the court handed down, though he continued to deny any wrongdoing. He condemned the judge’s latest ruling, saying Travis County Judge Jan Soifer was “recklessly disregarding legal precedent, abusing the litigation system, and displaying shocking bias.”
Before Paxton filed his latest motion attempting to avoid testifying, both the state 3rd Court of Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court rejected his earlier appeals.
Meanwhile, four months after the Senate voted to acquit Paxton in his impeachment trial, which stemmed from an investigation into a proposed settlement of the whistleblower lawsuit, a senator that voted to acquit is accusing Paxton of possibly misleading the Senate during that trial. He urged the Senate to consider reopening the Paxton’s impeachment.
State Sen. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, said Paxton’s decision not to contest the facts of the whistleblower lawsuit point to his culpability. Paxton “cannot admit guilt while claiming innocence,” Springer wrote in a post on X. Springer had previous announced plans to retire from the Senate.
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, Lufkin and Cedar Park. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.