News Roundup: The Texas Panhandle At Greater Risk For Wildfires This Week

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelFebruary 12, 2019 2:52 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

There’s increased risk for wildfires in the Texas Panhandle this week. Melanie Karns is Hazard Mitigation Coordinator for the Texas A&M Forest Service, and says the organization made the assessment based on a few factors, including weather patterns.

“Looking at the weather for the next two days out or so, there’s critical and elevated fire weather predicted for portions of the Texas Panhandle specifically,” Karns says.

Karns says there are a number of precautions people can take to prevent wildfires.

“We ask people to do simple things like maintaining their vehicles and ag[riculture] equipment. Things like that can reduce sparks and therefore not cause a wildlife,” Karns says.

Karns says it’s pretty normal for this portion of the state to see an increased risk for wildfires at this time of year.

The new Texas Senate Committee on Property Tax wasted no time pushing forward one of Gov.Greg Abbott’s top legislative priorities: slowing property-tax growth. The five-member group voted Monday to advance Senate Bill 2 to the full Senate. All four Republican Senators backed the measure, while Democrat Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa was present but did not vote.

The bill would require an election if local governments want to increase existing tax revenues by more than 2.5 percent. Houston-area Republican Paul Bettencourt chairs the committee.

Sen. Bettencourt described the legislation as the best property tax measure he’s seen in the three sessions.

“While the rollback rate of 2.5 percent is, to quote my joke earlier, “The House was at 6, the Senate was at 4, and the Governor decided to compromise at 2.5” – while that joke is true, it also provides a great deal of property-tax relief that I think taxpayers need going forward,” Bettencourt says.

The Republican-backed bill is a marquee issue for the state’s top lawmakers. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen all support the proposal.

Immigration officials are working to control a growing outbreak of mumps that has spread to a second detention facility in the Houston area. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirms a total of 13 detainees have now tested positive for the illness. Elizabeth Trovall with Houston Public Media reports:

After Houston health officials reported seven cases of mumps over the weekend, ICE confirmed six additional cases in a statement.

Most of the new cases were discovered at a detention center north of Houston – a different facility from where the previously confirmed cases were found. Only detainees have been infected so far. Officials discovered the first case in early January.

 Houston health officials say mumps causes flu-like symptoms, and though it’s uncommon in the U.S. because of vaccinations, foreign-born detainees come from countries less likely to vaccinate.