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Gov. Greg Abbott has created a statewide task force after several “street takeovers” recently took place in Austin in which motorists obstructed intersections, shot off fireworks and drove recklessly.
Videos posted after the events showed vehicles doing donuts, crowds gathering around intersections, and people setting off fireworks, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Seven people were arrested in the incidents, which occurred at four Austin intersections.
Abbott directed the Texas Department of Public Safety to investigate the events and “target the organized crime aspect” of the events, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Additional arrests are expected, law enforcement officials said.
TxDOT proposes $100 billion transportation plan
The Texas Department of Transportation is proposing a record $100 billion, 10-year transportation plan to improve congestion, increase safety and maintain the state’s roadways. That’s a $15 billion increase over the original plan and comes after record projected revenue for the state, generated by oil and gas fees that are dedicated to highway projects.
The latest plan would increase funding in a number of areas, including “safety, energy sector, rural and urban connectivity, border infrastructure, maintenance and preservation,” according to a TxDOT statement.
“Safety is a top priority for TxDOT, and these funding levels reflect that,” TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams said.
TxDOT now has more than $33 billion in transportation projects under construction throughout the state. More than 7,000 projects are either underway or scheduled to break ground this year.
State could foot AG office’s legal bill
A $3.3 million settlement of a whistleblower complaint filed against the Texas attorney general’s office should be paid by the state and not personally by Attorney General Ken Paxton, an agency attorney said. The AG’s chief of general litigation told lawmakers that the agency, not Paxton personally, is the defendant under the Texas Whistleblower Act, and that taking the case to trial would cost even more.
“The agreement itself is contingent on legislative funding,” he said. “It’s a settlement that we made in order to save money for the state of Texas. It was the prudent thing to do to minimize litigation risk,” Chris Hilton of the AG’s office said, according to kut.org.
However, House Speaker Dade Phelan has said he does not support using taxpayer dollars for the settlement. Abbott has said “this is an issue that the attorney general is going to have to fully explain to both the House and the Senate.”
TEA releases teacher vacancy recommendations
A task force appointed last year by the Texas Education Agency has released its recommendations to address the teacher and staff vacancy crisis in Texas, as record numbers of both leave the education field in the wake of the pandemic and other issues.
The Teacher Vacancy Task Force, established last March, was comprised of teachers and school system leaders from across the state. The recommendations include:
• A significant increase in overall teacher salaries
• Enhancing teachers’ total compensation package, including reducing cost of health care insurance.
• Provide incentives and support for hard-to-staff areas, such as special education and bilingual education teachers.
• Improve the pipeline and pre-service preparation of novice teachers.
• Expand training and support for teacher mentorship.
• Provide access and support for high-quality instructional materials.
• Demonstrate respect and value for teacher time.
• School culture and discipline supports.
The task force urged the Legislature to increase funding for teacher salaries, noting the state ranks 28th in the nation for average teacher salary.