Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Thursday, March 25th (4:40 PM data)
Total Tests Performed – 25,120,308
Confirmed Cases – 2,377,275 (2,167 new cases)
Active Cases – 98,916
Hospitalizations – 3,410 (12,084 available beds, 1,121 available ICU beds)
Fatalities – 46,868 (132 new deaths)
Recovered Cases – 2,607,587
Vaccine Data – Thursday, March 25th (2:45 PM data)
Doses Shipped by state – 11,474,595
People with one dose received – 6,595,986
People fully vaccinated – 3,345,895
Total doses administered – 9,705,468
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Wednesday, March 24th was 5.68%. One month ago, there were 5,200 new cases reported, one week ago there were 2,600 new cases reported, compared to the 2,167 reported yesterday. The 3,410 COVID patients in hospitals now are 436 fewer than one week ago, and COVID patients make up 5.1% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 126,428 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of March 24th, 11.5% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
Bills Addressing Storm Recovery, Electricity Regulation Advancing
The House and Senate are each advancing priority legislation to address the state’s failure to provide power to all its residents during the winter storm. On the House side, the first set of bills will be debated on the House floor on Tuesday. Six bills are on the House calendar, ranging from restructuring the ERCOT board, to implementing a statewide outage alert system, to protections for consumers against wholesale pricing in times of disaster.
The Senate Business and Commerce committee this week approved Senate Bill 3, which is that chamber’s wide ranging bill to address the situation. This bill mandates weatherization for power generation companies and also creates a statewide alert system.
In an interesting development this week on this general subject matter, Warren Buffet has sent representatives from his company, Berkshire Hathaway, to Austin in an effort to gain approval for their proposal to help the state with power supply issues during peak times of demand. Berkshire Hathaway is proposing to set up an entity that would build 10 new natural gas power plants at a cost of $8 billion. The company would also maintain the plants, that would remain idle during normal usage periods, only coming online and producing power when customer demand threatens to surpass power supply. In exchange for the investment in the power infrastructure for the state, a new charge would be placed on the power bills of all Texas customers in an amount yet to be determined. State leaders have admitted their awareness of the proposal, but have been non commital regarding support.
Lt. Governor Patrick Sued Over COVID Restrictions in Senate
Two prominent Republicans have sued Lt. Governor Dan Patrick due to the COVID related restrictions facing visitors to the Senate and all of its related activities for the session. Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and longtime GOP activist Steven Hotze of Houston filed their lawsuit in Austin this week, claiming that the restrictions placed on anyone visiting the Senate is a violation of free speech and the right of citizens to petition their government. The Senate requires anyone wanting to attend a committee hearing, or watch the proceedings on the Senate floor to present a negative COVID test prior to entering a committee hearing room or the Senate chamber or gallery. The lawsuit seeks a restraining order and an injunction that would block the Senate’s testing requirement. The lawsuit was filed in state district court in Austin, a hearing date has not been set.
Abbott Continues Focus on Border
In a follow up to last week’s press conference, Gov. Abbott has sent a letter to President Biden asking the administration to interview all minors coming across the border to try and determine whether or not they have been subjected to human trafficking. Abbott goes on in the letter to ask the administration what they are planning to do regarding the recent surge in migrants attempting to cross the border. Over the past two weeks, overflow sites in Dallas and west Texas have been opened to take in the unaccompanied minors that have come across the border. The facility in Dallas took in 3,000 boys last week, and the facility in Pecos will eventually house 2,000 youths.
President Biden announced yesterday that Vice President Kamala Harris will be placed in charge of trying to slow the number of migrants attempting to cross the border from Mexico to the US. According to the administration, the Vice President will collaborate with officials from Mexico and countries in Central America, as well as officials at the border to try and respond to the increase in the influx of children that has been experienced since Biden took office. In the month of February, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encountered nearly 10,000 children who crossed into the US unaccompanied by a parent or guardian. This is in addition to the 15,000 that are already in federal custody.
Alcohol To Go Passes House
During the height of the pandemic when in person dining was prohibited, Gov. Abbott signed an executive order to allow restaurants to include alcohol to go along with pick up food orders in an attempt to provide an additiional revenue stream to an industry so critically impacted by the economic shutdowns. As the session began, Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan both declared they wanted to make this practice permanent, and that is now much closer to becoming a reality. House Bill 1024 passed the House yesterday by a vote of 144-1, and would allow beer, wine, and mixed drinks to be included in pick up food orders. The bill now moves to the Senate, where passage is expected in the coming weeks.
Eventful Week in Committees
This has been a very eventful week of hearings for the legislature. Two similar bills were set for hearings in the House and Senate relating to election integrity. These two bills are backed by the Republicans, saying that more oversight and stricter penalties are needed to ensure there is no fraud during our election process. Democrats have stood in opposition, saying the new requriements are really intended to target the disabled and minority groups, with the intention of making the voting process more difficult.
On Monday, as Senate Bill 7 was set for hearing, Senate Democrats used a parliamentary tactic to delay that hearing. Yesterday, House Bill 6 was was laid out in the House Elections Committee, but the hearing ended abruptly due to a violation of the House rules. After a contentios exchange between committee members, the committee chairman, after attempting to recess the committee, abruptly adjourned the meeting after not properly setting a time to resume the hearing. SB 7 is being heard today in the Senate committee, and no time has been set for the new hearing for HB 6.
Due to several hundered witnesses on major subjects such as gun control, the defunding of police departments, the George Floyd Act, and sexual assault legislation, two committees in the House met for nearly 20 hours. The House Homeland Security Committee and the State Affaris Committee each began meeting after the House session adjourned yesterday at 10:30AM. After several hundred witnesses in each hearing, the committees adjourned just before 6AM this morning.
There are 67 days remaining in the regular session. The House is adjourned until 4:00PM Monday , and the Senate is adjourned until 11AM Monday.