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Heavy Rain Pounds Greater Houston, Secretary DeVos Highlights Texas’ Efforts For More Workforce Training, Law Will Target State’s Rape Kit Backlog, And More

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

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Top afternoon stories:

Houston motorists were driving in the rain on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 on Elgin Street, in the University of Houston main campus.

Heavy Rain Pounds Greater Houston

Heavy rain is pounding the Houston region and weather forecasters predict rain will continue into Thursday.

Harris County meteorologist Jeff Lindner said the county received between .5 and 3 inches of rain in some areas, mainly in the east around Beltway 8 and I-10 East, since around 4 a.m. on Wednesday.

Lindner said additional heavy rain moving into the region from Fort Bend County could produce 1 to 3 inches of rainfall, especially south of I-10, on Wednesday into the early afternoon.

Some isolated areas of Fort Bend and east Wharton counties had between 7 to 9 inches of rainfall.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos toured an apprenticeship program in Baytown.

Secretary DeVos Highlights Texas' Efforts For More Workforce Training

On the first stop of a two-day Texas tour, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited a construction training program east of Houston in Baytown Wednesday.

There, DeVos got a quick lesson in welding and pipe-fitting from apprentices at S&B Engineers and Constructors.

Several workers — including military veterans and single moms — told DeVos that they've gotten a fresh start since they've been able to learn a high-demand trade and earn money at the same time. DeVos told reporters that the United States needs more of this kind of training and the federal government shouldn't stand in the way.

DeVos said that Texas has taken a big step forward on that front. This past legislative session, state lawmakers passed a new grant program that could reimburse companies up to $10,000 dollars for every apprentice they train.

On June 4, 2019, Gov. Greg Abbott signed several bills to help victims of sex crimes, including one that aims at ending the backlog of untested rape kits in Texas.

Gov. Abbott Signs Bill Targeting Rape Kit Backlog

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a measure into law this week that aims to eliminate the backlog of thousands of untested rape kits in the state.

The measure mandates law enforcement agencies conduct an audit to determine the number, status, and location of all of the untested rape kits in the state and then set timelines to ensure they are analyzed. It also allocates roughly $50 million toward hiring more workers at the state's crime labs and expands access to sexual assault nurse examiners for underserved populations.

Abbott said at an afternoon press conference held on Tuesday in Dallas the law would better address and provide justice for survivors of rape and sexual assault.

"One of the best strategies is the forensic testing of rape kits, but thousands of these kits have languished untested for years," Abbott said.

Democratic state Rep. Victoria Neave, who authored the bill, said it is currently unclear how many untested rape kits exist across Texas.

Poll Shows Texas As A Presidential Battleground

Texas hasn't gone blue in a presidential race since 1976, but a new poll indicates that at least early on, it could be a 2020 battleground. The latest survey from Quinnipiac University shows former Vice President Joe Biden with a four-point edge over President Donald Trump in a hypothetical one-on-one matchup.

Biden was the only Democrat with a lead over Trump. Texans Julián Castro and Beto O'Rourke trailed the president by three points; the margin for Elizabeth Warren, who spent nearly a decade in the state, was one point.

The poll's margin of error was 3.4 points — which means any of these hypothetical races could go either way.

The poll was conducted between May 28 and June 4 — and it's the first significant polling in Texas since Biden officially entered the race.

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