Melania Trump and Karen Pence Visit South Texas for Harvey Follow-Up: Your Texas Roundup
Plus: Harris County changes development regulations to better prevent flooding, border arrests drop to a historic low, and Rick Perry visits Saudi Arabia.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Like so many hardworking Texans, I know it’s tough deciding between buying food, finding a decent place to live, and setting aside money for college tuition. Opportunity in Texas ought to be as big as this great state, but it is out of reach for far too many, that’s why I’m running for Texas Governor.”
—Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, in a statement released Wednesday morning, according to WFAA. Valdez will reportedly file the official paperwork this morning to run for governor, and is scheduled to make an official announcement just before noon at the Texas Democratic Party headquarters in Austin.
On Wednesday, First Lady Melania Trump and Second Lady Karen Pence will visit areas that were hit by Hurricane Harvey, according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. They’ll arrive in Corpus Christi early morning and meet with first responders who worked during Harvey in Aransas, Nueces, and Refugio counties before heading to Rockport to meet a family who was affected by the storm and tour the family’s temporary housing unit provided by FEMA. They will also tour classrooms at an elementary school and speak with faculty about the hurricane, and will end their trip with a stop at a food bank, where they’ll meet with volunteers and help sort boxes of donations. “The effects of the hurricane season are still being felt throughout southern portions of the United States and in Puerto Rico, and residents still need our help,” the First Lady said in a White House press release. “While I am heartened by the strength and resilience of those impacted by the storms, I will continue doing all that I can to lend a voice and shine a spotlight on those who need assistance to rebuild and start new family traditions. As Christmas and the New Year approach, I encourage people to lend their time volunteering or providing financial support to those still reeling from the hurricanes.”
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
On Tuesday, the Harris County Commissioners Court approved measures to significantly change regulations on new development, proposing to implement tighter restrictions in an effort to better prepare the Houston area for major floods, according to the Houston Chronicle. The court voted unanimously to increase the amount new homes that must be elevated to avoid floodwaters, up to eight feet higher than what was previously required in some flood-prone parts of the county. Despite the area experiencing a spate of major flood events in the past several years, this is the first increase to the home raising requirement in twenty years. The new rules would also implement regulations in a 500-year floodplain instead of a 100-year floodplain for the first time. All of the proposed regulations are focused on the unincorporated region of Harris County, where development is booming.
Numbers on the Border
Federal immigration officials released year-end statistics for the 2017 fiscal year on Tuesday, and the report claims that the amount of arrests made on the border have dropped significantly, according to the Texas Tribune. U.S. Border Patrol agents made 310,531 apprehensions while Customs and Border Protection officers recorded 216,370 inadmissible cases, a 24 percent drop since 2016. The federal government’s fiscal year runs from October to September, so the 2017 numbers include the last three full months of the Obama administration along with most of Donald Trump’s first year in office. Of those 310,531 apprehensions, about 304,000 occurred on the nation’s southwestern border. Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley Sector was more active than any other area, but still saw a 35 percent drop in apprehensions from 2016. Meanwhile, there’s been a huge spike in people arrested by immigration authorities away from the border. According to ICE, “interior removals” rose 25 percent this year to 81,603, including a 37 percent increase after Trump’s inauguration compared to the same period the year before, as reported in the McAllen Monitor.
Rick of Arabia
Energy Secretary Rick Perry visited Saudi Arabia over the weekend, and he apparently had an interesting trip, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Photos surfaced this week showing the former Texas governor holding a hawk, visiting food stands, and posing with Saudi Minister of Energy, Industry, and Mineral Resources Khalid al-Falih while wearing traditional Saudi dress and holding a sword. A photo also surfaced showing Perry sitting barefoot in the country’s sand dunes, as the sun sets (or rises?) in the hazy background. There’s no word yet on whether Perry will use the dramatic shot to drop an album, but Perry met with Saudi officials, including King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to talk about fossil fuels, according to Al Arabiya. “It was an honor to meet His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” Perry wrote in a tweet after his visit. “Glad to build on the strong relationship between the United States and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
WHAT WE’RE READING
Some links are paywalled or subscription-only.
Senator Cornyn snuck a provision that would give his oil and gas giant buddies a huge break into the tax bill International Business Times
A new Defense Department review found military branches fail to report violent offenders to federal law enforcement Washington Post
How repealing net neutrality would hurt small businesses in Texas Texas Tribune
Katy has more registered hobbyist drones than everywhere but Las Vegas Houston Chronicle
The green-breasted mango hummingbird was spotted in McAllen after not being seen in the U.S. for eight years McAllen Monitor