Land Commissioner George P. Bush on Nov. 14 announced the Texas General Land Office’s approval of $21,155,575 in Hurricane Harvey funds for Fort Bend County to conduct a buyout program.
In the late summer of 2017, record-heavy rainfall brought by Hurricane Harvey catastrophically flooded streets and homes. Fort Bend County will use the funds to conduct a buyout program targeting approximately 100 homes most vulnerable to flooding.
The funds come from a much larger pool of federal assistance. Bush was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to lead Hurricane Harvey housing recovery efforts funded by $5.7 billion in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“Hurricane Harvey devastated communities across the Texas Coast,” said Bush. “These recovery funds are critical to protecting lives, homes and businesses from future storms. We continue to work with our partners in communities across the region to leverage these resources efficiently and effectively to benefit Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey.”
Court stays execution
The execution of a Texas death row inmate incarcerated since May 1998 was stayed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Nov. 15.
The court order came five days before Rodney Reed, 51, was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection. A number of Republican and Democratic federal and state lawmakers and celebrities called on Gov. Greg Abbott to prevent the execution as motions for the reexamination of DNA and other evidence and the introduction of new witness statements gained publicity. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted in favor of granting a 120-day reprieve of the execution.
In 1998, Reed was convicted in the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites, a 19-year-old grocery store clerk. Both Reed and Stites were residents of Bastrop when Stites’s body was found. Reed, who had dated Stites, was arrested as a suspect and taken into custody.
Lawmaker is charged
State Rep. Poncho Nevarez, D-Eagle Pass, on Nov. 14 was charged with possession of a controlled substance and released on $10,000 bond.
In September, Nevarez was observed on Austin airport security cameras dropping an envelope containing some 2 grams of cocaine. A conviction for possession of that amount of cocaine is a third-degree felony that could result in a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
Nevarez has announced he will not seek reelection to a fifth term as the state representative for District 74, an enormous district that includes the counties of Brewster, Culberson, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Kinney, Loving, Maverick, Pecos, Presidio, Reeves, Terrell and Val Verde.
Nevarez serves as chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety; as vice chair of the House Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention & Community Safety; and as a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources.
AG warns of scam calls
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Nov. 14 warned Texans about scam callers falsely claiming to be members of the Attorney General’s Crime Victim Services Division and attempting to obtain personal and financial information.
Fraudulent callers attempt to obtain personal identifying information from the call recipient and ask for money transfers or bank details after baselessly claiming the call recipient’s Social Security number has been compromised. Fraudsters use local numbers and sometimes provide a false case number during the call.
Paxton is encouraging those who receive such calls to notify his office’s Consumer Protection Hotline toll-free at 1-800-621-0508 or to file a complaint online.
Paxton also said his office’s true Crime Victim Services phone number is toll-free 800-983-9933 and local number 512-936-1200.
Abbott declares drought
Gov. Greg Abbott on Nov. 8 issued a declaration certifying that exceptional drought conditions pose a threat of imminent disaster in 53 of Texas’ 254 counties.
As stated in the disaster declaration, “Significantly low rainfall and prolonged dry conditions continue to increase the threat of wildfire across these portions of the state.”
The declaration authorizes the use of all available resources of state government and of political subdivisions that are reasonably necessary to cope with the disaster.
By Ed Sterling • Member Services Director for Texas Press Association