COLUMN: Abbott backs Cruz's filing of legislation addressing refugees

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AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott was in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 8 to participate in a news conference with U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who rolled out his proposed State Refugee Security Act.

Abbott said in a Dec. 9 news release that Cruz’s bill “gives states and governors the tools to reject the resettlement of a refugee in that state unless there is adequate assurance that the refugee does not present a security risk.”

“America is a charitable nation, but we cannot allow charity for some to compromise security for all,” Abbott said. “Congress intended to give states a substantial role in the refugee resettlement process. The federal government and resettlement agencies have sidestepped that role. My top priority as governor is to keep Texas citizens safe and this legislation helps me do that,” he added.

Cruz’s bill, S. 2363, directs the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement to notify the state agency responsible for coordinating the placement or resettlement of an alien refugee not later than 21 days before the alien's arrival in the state. The bill states that no alien refugee shall be placed or resettled in a state if the governor certifies to the Office of Refugee Resettlement that it has failed, in the sole determination of the governor, to provide adequate assurance that such person does not present a security risk to the state.

On Nov. 25, the Texas Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of Texas’ Catholic bishops, published a statement, saying, “We firmly believe that it is possible to maintain security at home while also welcoming refugees.”

TEA chief notes passage of act

Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams issued a statement on Dec. 9, following Congress’ final passage of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, legislation that succeeds the No Child Left Behind Act.

Williams said the act “represents a significant shift in education authority away from the federal government and a return of greater control to the state and local level. For Texas, this legislation brings an end to the ongoing requests for federal waivers made necessary by requirements few if any states could ever meet.”

Sales tax revenue decreases

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Dec. 9 announced sales tax revenue for the state in November was $2.58 billion, down 3.3 percent compared to November 2014.

“Sales tax revenue declined again due to reduced spending in oil and gas-related sectors,” Hegar said. “Remittances from other sectors, including construction, restaurants and retail trade, continued to grow. The net decrease in sales tax receipts is in line with the October Certification Revenue Estimate.”

Furthermore, Hegar said, he will send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $626.3 million in local sales tax allocations for December, 3 percent less than in December 2014. These allocations are based on sales made in October by businesses that report tax monthly.

DPS offers anti-theft tips

The Texas Department of Public Safety on Dec. 7 posted a reminder to Texans about the increased potential for vehicle thefts and burglaries during the holiday season and advised the public to take extra precautions, such as:

“Never leave your car running unattended, even for a quick visit to a business or store. Never leave keys in the car or ignition, inside a locked garage, or in hide-a-key boxes. Always roll up your windows and lock the car, even if it is parked at your home. When possible, always park in high-traffic, well-lighted areas.”

Also: “Install an anti-theft device that locks the steering wheel, column or brakes, especially if your vehicle is considered to be at increased risk for theft. Never leave personal documents, vehicle ownership title or credit cards in your vehicle. Always keep valuables or property hidden out of sight or locked in the trunk” and more.

TxDOT calls for sober rides

Texas Department of Transportation’s “Plan While You Can” campaign, launched Dec. 7, urges partygoers to plan for a sober ride now through Jan. 1.

The campaign, which runs in tandem with an increase in Texas DPS patrols and enforcement, includes a statewide tour featuring an interactive dodge ball game that uses custom gaming technology to replicate the effects of alcohol on a person’s reflexes.

For more information, visit SoberRides.org.