The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.
Monday is the last day of the 2019 Texas legislative session and state lawmakers got a lot done over the weekend. That includes passing a state budget and priority bills on school funding and property taxes.
Another piece of legislation that made it through was House Bill 3557.
If signed into law, activists could face harsher penalties for using civil disobedience to protest pipelines and other energy projects.
For example, it would be a felony to damage a pipeline, a refinery or anything else considered to be “critical infrastructure.”
State Sen. Nathan Johnson, a Dallas Democrat, criticized the measure, which was sponsored by Republican Sen. Brian Birdwell in the upper chamber.
“And this is just a classic case of the legislature addressing a small problem in the wrong way,” Johnson sais. “They’re taking a sledge hammer to smash a gnat, but in this case it’s your kid who is in college making silly decisions.”
The advocacy group, Texas Campaign for the Environment, criticized the passage of HB 3557.
They said in a statement, “We will keep fighting, and will be working in the months to come on holding our legislators accountable for this attack on free speech and the environment”
The bill now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wants to make sure people only use shrimp native to the Gulf of Mexico as bait when fishing in fresh or salt water this summer.
Julie Hagen is with the Coastal Fisheries Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife.
“We have four types: we have pink shrimp, brown shrimp, white shrimp and a mantis shrimp which is also killed a sea lice,” Hagen says. “All of those are commonly available and they’re all native to the Gulf of Mexico and should be the only shrimp used as bait.”
Hagen says that if anglers were to use imported shrimp, it could introduce viruses and diseases to the native shrimp population.
“One common one is the white spot syndrome virus. This virus can be found in other types of shrimp – it’s not toxic to humans, so if you’re consuming this shrimp you’re totally fine. But if this virus gets into the water via bait shrimp it can infect our crustacean populations so that’s shrimp, crabs and crayfish. And if they get this virus, it’s rapid mortality. Within days they can start dying off and we could have severe consequences for the entire ecosystem.”
Hagen says this virus has never been introduced into Texas waters, but she says it has happened in other places like Thailand and Australia. And if the ecological ramifications aren’t enough to convince you – it’s actually illegal under Texas law to introduce imported shrimp to the aquatic environment.
Texas is one of just three states that did not sign onto a letter sent to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos this past Friday. Attorneys general for 47 states are asking DeVos to automatically forgive student loans for eligible disabled veterans.
The Department of Education has identified 42,000 veterans who qualify for a federal loan forgiveness program. The attorneys general say those veterans have $1 billion in debt that could be forgiven.
The other two states that did not sign onto this letter are Alabama and Arizona.