The Texas Legislature sent a $248 billion two-year state budget to Gov. Greg Abbott after the House approved the measure last Thursday.

The 140-day legislative session ended at midnight May 31. Senate Bill 1 is $13.5 billion less than the previous biennial budget, with the difference to be made up from COVID-19 relief funds from the federal government. As previously reported, Abbott plans to allow legislators to decide how to allocate those funds during a special session this fall.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has suggested a special session for this summer to address some of his pet bills, such as limiting the participation of transgender athletes in school sports, banning lobbyists paid with public funds and putting limits on social media’s power to restrict users. The Austin American-Statesman reported that Abbott called Patrick’s proposal “pretty goofy,” however. Only the governor can call a special session and dictate the topics to be addressed.

Expanded health coverage OK’d for Medicaid moms

The Texas Legislature on Friday approved a bill that provides mothers receiving Medicaid assistance at least six months of health coverage after birth. The measure expands postpartum coverage from the current two months provided under Medicaid.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Toni Rose, D-Dallas, is intended to reduce the maternal mortality rate in Texas and provide added assistance to mothers dealing with postpartum depression.

Medicaid covers almost half of the births in the United States, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. A provision in the American Rescue Plan of 2021 gave states the option of expanding Medicaid postpartum coverage.

More than a third of Texans vaccinated

With shots opened up to anyone 12 and older, more than a third of all Texans — more than 10.2 million — are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. That is 35 percent of the state’s population.

Abbott and the Texas Department of Emergency Management announced last week the expansion of the State Mobile Vaccine Program to include groups of five or more eligible Texans who voluntarily choose to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In addition, homebound residents can request a unit come to their home. Previously, a minimum of 10 people were required before requesting a mobile vaccination unit.

Anyone interested can call 844-90-TEXAS and select Option 13 to schedule a mobile vaccine clinic for groups of friends, families, employees and others. The call center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Cases up slightly, hospitalizations down

The number of COVID-19 cases in the past week dropped slightly, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University. As of last Friday, 282 deaths were reported. The number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 patients continues to drop, with 1,828 hospitalized as of Sunday, according to DSHS.

Number of missing children reported

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has issued its annual report on children and youth missing from that agency’s conservatorship or who are considered victims of human trafficking.

During fiscal year 2020, which ended Aug. 31 of last year, a total of 2,229 children and youth were missing at some point. On Aug. 31, 255 were still missing. During last year, a total of 47,913 were in DFPS conservatorship, meaning 4.6 percent went missing at some point.

Of the 1,972 children recovered during that time frame, 136 of them — 7 percent — reported being victimized while missing.

Sixty-eight children — 3.4 percent — reported being a victim of sex trafficking.

TX Film Commission celebrates 50 years

The Texas Film Commission, created in 1971 to expand the film industry in Texas, turned a half-century old this year. The commission has attracted $1.66 billion in local spending and created more than 157,000 production jobs in Texas from 2007 to 2020. More than 150 Texas communities are now officially designated as “Texas Film Friendly.”

“Texas has developed into such a vibrant destination for production across all media that the promise and potential recognized 50 years ago has been more than realized,” Abbott said.

Hurricane season begins on June 1

The 2021 hurricane season kicks off June 1, and it’s expected to be another busy one.

Last year’s Atlantic hurricane season included a record-breaking 30 storms, including a dozen that made landfall in the United States.

Three storms — Hurricanes Hanna and Laura and Tropical Storm Marco — resulted in disaster declarations for several Texas counties, according to the Texas Association of Counties.

Hurricane researchers at Colorado State University warn that warmer Atlantic surface temperatures and the absence of El Niño conditions in the Pacific could result in a busy 2021 hurricane season.

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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: gborders@texaspress.com.

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