DPS asks citizens to report suspicious behavior

AUSTIN — In the wake of the widely reported June 12 mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, the Texas Department of Public Safety called on Texans to pay close attention to what’s happening in their own communities.

DPS Director Steven McCraw on June 17 said, “Amid today’s ever-present threat of terrorism and crime, we are reminded that members of the public can be law enforcement’s greatest resource.”

And, he said, “When law enforcement and communities work together to combat crime, we are inherently more successful." He urged individuals to report illegal or suspicious behavior they see to iWATCH or to their local authorities.  “By speaking up, you could save a life,” McCraw added.

The DPS-maintained iWATCH website, www.iwatchtx.org, provides citizens with a place to report tips related to criminal activity.

Examples of information the DPS considers reportable include: 

- Strangers asking questions about building security features and procedures.

- Briefcase, suitcase, backpack or package is left behind.

- Cars or trucks are left in no-parking zones at important buildings.

- Chemical smells or fumes that are unusual for the location.

- People requesting sensitive information, such as blueprints, security plans or VIP travel schedules, without a need to know.

- Purchasing supplies that could be used to make bombs or weapons or purchasing uniforms without having the proper credentials; and

- Taking photographs or videos of security features, such as cameras or checkpoints.

Aid request is granted

President Obama on June 11 granted the request Gov. Greg Abbott made on June 9 for individual assistance for the flood-affected counties of Austin, Brazoria, Brazos, Fort Bend, Grimes, Hidalgo, Hood, Montgomery, San Jacinto, Travis, Waller and Washington.  

Also granted was Public Assistance Category B — emergency protective measures — for local and state response costs and sheltering, Abbott said. “Texans can now begin the process of rebuilding their lives after experiencing some of the worst flooding in recent history,” he added.

Governor invites CDC

Gov. Abbott on June 15 invited the Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to send personnel to Texas to review the Lone Star State’s Zika Virus Preparedness and Response Plan. 

Abbott urged the CDC to approve requests for three important projects to assist in funding Texas’ Zika response plan:

- $1.5 million to support Zika preparedness and response efforts;

- $360,000 to support Zika-related birth outcomes surveillance; and

- $9.2 million to strengthen epidemiology and laboratory capacity and improve health information systems.

“With the benefit of the CDC assets on the ground in Texas working with the Texas Department of State Health Services and our Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response, we can ensure that we are developing and implementing the strongest possible Zika virus response,” Abbott said. 

No borrowing necessary

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on June 14 announced that Texas, for the second consecutive year, would not have to borrow money to meet its cash flow needs.

Sound fiscal management, conservative budgeting and responsible stewardship of the state’s $9.66 billion Economic Stabilization (“rainy day”) Fund will allow the state to manage cash-flow challenges without issuing Texas Tax and Revenue Anticipation Notes for fiscal 2017, Hegar said.

Such notes had been used to deal with “anticipated mismatches” in funding that came primarily from the state’s providing nearly 50 percent of its payments to local school districts in the first three months of the fiscal year.

“Texas’ diverse and dynamic economy has weathered this downturn in energy prices significantly better than other energy-producing states, meaning we still have the ability to do the fiscally responsible thing and avoid unnecessary borrowing,” Hegar added.

Jobless rate stays same

The Texas Workforce Commission on June 17 reported that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.4 percent in May.

While Texas has added an estimated 171,800 seasonally adjusted jobs over the past year with the addition of 200 non-farm jobs in May, the state has added jobs in 13 of the last 14 months. 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate average currently stands at 4.7 percent.

AG division leads nation

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on June 13 said his office’s Child Support Division ranks first in the nation in child support collections.

The division collected some $3.87 billion in child support for the federal fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2015. 

Paxton cited the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement Fiscal Year 2015 Preliminary Data Report released in April, which lists Texas first among 54 states, territories and districts for: amount of child support collected; amount of child support collected per employee; and cost effectiveness.