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Texas Press Association

The Lone Star State continues to lead the nation in jobs added with 58,200 new positions in February, bringing the state to nearly 14 million total nonfarm jobs, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. February also marked two full years of uninterrupted job growth in the state.

“ The past 24 months of uninterrupted job growth show the strength of the Texas economy and ongoing economic opportunities for Texans,” said TWC Chairman Bryan Daniel.

The state’s jobless rate in February was 4.5%, which is higher than the national rate of 3.9%, according to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest jobless rate in a Texas metropolitan statistical area is 6.8% in McAllen-Edinburgh-Mission. The lowest rate in an MSA is 3.0% in Midland.

RAINY DAY FUND HITS CAP FOR FIRST TIME The state’s piggy bank is nearly full.

Comptroller Glenn Hegar predicts the state’s so- called Rainy Day Fund, officially the Economic Stabilization Fund, will reach its statutory limit by 2025, which is 10% of what is deposited in the General Revenue Fund. Rising revenues fueled by spikes in energy prices and inflation have filled the state’s coffers, Hegar said.

“The revenue increases that we have seen truly have been historical and unprecedented. We have never seen anything like this in the past, and I don’t think we’ll see anything like this in the future,” he said.

The state experienced record growth in tax collections in 2022 of 25.6% from the previous year, filling the state’s coffers with a surplus of $32.7 billion.

“ I am glad to see that lawmakers are giving careful thought to how this tremendous asset can be best put to work for Texans,” Hegar added.

SENATE PASSES BILL TO LIMIT GOVERNOR’S POWERS T h e T e x a s S e n a t e unanimously passed a bill to rein in the governor’s authority during emergencies or disasters, the Austin American-Statesman reported. A matching proposal in the House is awaiting a committee hearing. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R- Granbury, would require the governor to call the Legislature into special session if the executive office wants to extend a disaster or emergency declaration past 30 days. Only the Legislature would be able to put restrictions on businesses such as those imposed during the initial weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We must no longer allow a 19- month legislative interim to be leveraged against the Legislature, especially during times of emergency disasters that affect a significant number of Texans,” Birdwell said.

Under current law, disaster declarations last 30 days but can be renewed by the governor. For example, Gov Greg Abbott has extended a disaster declaration relating to illegal border crossings each month since May 2021, according to the Statesman.

Abbott expressed support in his State of the State address in January for involving the Legislature in disaster declarations that deal with public health crises.

SENATE BACKS BOOST FOR RETIRED TEACHERS The Texas Senate also unanimously approved a package that allocates $ 4.7 billion from the budget surplus to increase monthly payments for retired teachers and gives a one-time bump to retirees over 75, the Statesman reported. The bill is now headed to the House for consideration.

The measure calls for a 2% raise for teachers who retired between Sept. 1, 2013, and Jan. 1, 2022, and a 4% raise for those who retired before Sept. 1, 2013. Senate Bill 10 also provides a one-time stipend of $7,500 for retirees older than 75. The bill affects nearly a half- million retired teachers.

“This is a significant financial commitment from the state,” state Sen. Joan Huffman, R- Houston, said. “ Many TRS retirees have been struggling for so long. We needed to do this.”

Retired teachers on average make $2,100 a month through the Teachers Retirement System.

BOATERS, ANGLERS URGED TO AVOID COASTAL ROOKERIES Anglers and boaters along the Texas coast are urged to watch out for nesting birds during this peak breeding and nesting season, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Brown pelicans, roseate spoonbills, black skimmers and reddish egrets are among the birds nesting in dense colonies, called rookeries. TPWD encourages folks to watch out for these nesting birds so they are not disturbed during a sensitive time.

“With too many disturbances, an entire colony of thousands of birds may abandon an island and give up on breeding for the year, which can potentially lead to drastic population declines,” said Trey Barron, a diversity biologist with TPWD. “When approached too closely by boaters or people wading nearby, birds are frightened off their nests, leaving eggs and chicks exposed to the summer sun, which can cause them to overheat. The abandoned nests also allow opportunistic predators like gulls and grackles to quickly swoop in and feed on them.”

Boaters and anglers are also encouraged to properly dispose of fishing line, tackle and other waste to ensure it does not harm birds, turtles or other marine life.

“The habitats that waterbirds use are the same habitats in which we — including myself — enjoy fishing, hunting and photographing wildlife,” Barron said. “ We just have to remember to give them their space, especially during the nesting season, and pick up after ourselves. If you’re out on the water, look for the yellow signs that identify rookery islands and keep your distance. We can all enjoy the same places, as long as we do it responsibly.”

HOUSE PASSES DIAPER, PERIOD PRODUCTS BILL The Texas House last week overwhelmingly passed a bill repealing the state sales tax on diapers, period products, baby wipes and similar items. The measure now heads to the Senate.

Its sponsor, state Rep. Donna Howard, D- Austin, has tried for several sessions to get the measure passed.

“ This bill provides an opportunity to help Texas families at every stage of life,” Howard said Tuesday, as reported by The Dallas Morning News. The measure also exempts adult diapers.

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: