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Texas briefs

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BORDER: A Texas House committee on Tuesday advanced a funding bill that would appropriate nearly $2 billion to beef up Gov. Greg Abbott’s crackdown on immigration at the Texas-Mexico border.

After seven hours of testimony from sheriffs, Texas Department of Public Safety officials, an adviser for Abbott and immigrant advocates, the House Appropriations Committee approved House Bill 9 on a 14-8 vote, with five members absent.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood, would pay for prosecuting migrants for trespassing, building border barriers such as fencing and dispatching state troopers to the border to arrest migrants.

FOOD AID: Families with students relying on free or reduced-cost meals at school can now receive a single payment of $375 as a part of a summer round of Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer food aid, which has previously provided single payments of up to $1,200 for eligible students.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that families who applied for P-EBT aid for the 2020-21 school year and already received benefits will automatically receive the $375 payment, along with families of children born after Aug. 1, 2014, who relied on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits this summer. SNAP provides food aid for low-income adults.

PAXTON: Nearly 11 months after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s former top aides accused him of accepting bribes, Paxton’s office on Tuesday published a 374-page internal report that concludes he’s innocent of the allegations.

Last October, seven former employees told authorities that they believed Paxton was using his power as attorney general to aid Nate Paul, a campaign donor and Austin real estate developer, who whistleblowers have said helped Paxton remodel his home and gave a job to a woman with whom Paxton allegedly had an affair.

All of those employees were either fired or left the office under pressure after their complaint. Four of the employees filed a whistleblower lawsuit saying Paxton used his position to help Paul’s business interests, investigate his foes and help settle a lawsuit.

But in Tuesday’s report, Paxton’s office said there was no basis for a criminal complaint against their boss, a second-term Republican.

The report also said it found “no evidence” that Paxton had taken a bribe or that there was a quid pro quo relationship between Paxton and Paul. And it accuses three of the Paxton aides who reported him of breaking the law.

SAN ANTONIO: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine Monday is cracking open the door for Texas cities, counties and school districts to compel their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 — moves previously blocked by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Pedro Martinez, superintendent for the San Antonio Independent School District, called for mandatory employee vaccinations last week — drawing a lawsuit from Attorney General Ken Paxton, who accused the district and Martinez of breaching Abbott’s ban on vaccine mandates.

But with the FDA’s full approval, San Antonio school officials are moving forward with their vaccine requirement for district employees.

Other city and county officials in Texas’ major urban areas have been silent about mandating vaccinations for their workers.

— The Texas Tribune

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