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Abbott Announces 5 Emergency Items In State Of The State, Progressives Criticize Ogg’s Request For Increased Budget, And Cornyn Blasts Washington Bureaucracy

These are some of the stories Houston Public Media is covering.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Top afternoon stories:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gives his State of the State Address in the House Chamber, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019.

Abbott Announces 5 Emergency Items In State Of The State Address

Texas Governor Greg Abbott delivered his State of the State address Tuesday before the Texas Legislature. He kicked off the speech with a long list of platitudes about the state: from leading the nation in job creation to having the fastest growing economy in the U.S. to hitting its lowest recorded level of unemployment ever.

But the speech was also important for laying out the challenges still left to address. Abbott did that by announcing five emergency items for lawmakers to pick up: Education funding and teacher pay raises, school safety, mental health issues, property taxes and Hurricane Harvey recovery.

Legislative rules bar lawmakers from passing bills before the 60th day of a session, but with the governor’s emergency designation, any bill on that topic can be taken up immediately.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg.

Progressive Groups Criticize Ogg’s Request For Increased Budget

Some progressive groups are accusing Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg of violating her campaign pledge to reform the criminal justice system. The complaint follows the DA’s request for a $20 million increase of her department’s budget to hire 102 new prosecutors, an increase of roughly 40 percent.

The Texas Organizing Project (TOP) and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition say Kim Ogg is backtracking on her pledge to reduce mass incarceration.

The Texas Civil Rights Project also expressed its concern. Natalia Cornelio, legal director of the group’s criminal justice office, underscored the “alarming incarceration rate” in Harris County and said in a statement that Ogg’s request is “another step in the wrong direction to achieve true criminal justice reform.”

Prosecutors have been handling up to 900 cases at a time since Harvey. That, Ogg says, is delaying justice. “I believe that to ensure criminal justice reform progresses, you have to fund it,” she says, “and absent funding, it’s just lip service to talk about reforming the system, because we’re the people who have to do it.”

U.S. Senator John Cornyn.

Cornyn Blasts Washington Bureaucracy For Delaying Funding For Harvey Recovery

John Cornyn, the Senate’s number 2 Republican, is blasting the Trump administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for failing to release nearly $4.4 billion in recovery funding to Texas after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, Cornyn said “they’ve kind of run out of excuses,” and added “they just need to let that money go. It’s been long enough.”

In February 2018, Congress approved $4.383 billion in federal grants meant to encourage post-Harvey rebuilding in ways that can help resist future large hurricanes.

But federal guidelines and other rules allowing the grants to flow haven’t yet been set. “I don’t want the bureaucrats at OMB to hold it up,” said Cornyn.

Along with the other senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, Governor Greg Abbott and members of the Texas congressional delegation, Cornyn signed a letter sent Monday to OMB Acting Director Russell Vought urging him to expedite issuing the rules and regulations for Community Development Block and Disaster Recovery Grants.