This Week in Texas: Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Posted April 8, 2020 in The Mignon Memo

Only in Austin…

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar Says Legislative Special Session Not Needed

Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Tuesday stated the Texas economy has all but certainly plunged into a recession, with oil prices deflated and most of the state sheltered at home.  Officials’ first real glimpse into the economic slowdown will come in June, but with syrocketing unemployment claims, plummeting hotel occupancy rates and most local businesses not collecting sales taxes – the single biggest source of state tax revenue – significant declines are expected.

The comptroller does not believe a special legislative session is necessary as of now to help respond to the coronavirus pandemic.  He has begun talking to agencies about cutting spending, and he plans to use the rainy day fund to help get the state through until Texas legislators reconvene in January 2021.  Under state law, the comptroller can borrow from the fund to maintain cash flow; he predicted the fund would end the fiscal year, in August, with about $8.5 billion.

Texas State Parks Closed Until Further Notice Due to Coronavirus

On Tuesday, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials temporarily shut down all state parks in order to help limit the spread of the coronavirus.  Even with rising concerns about the highly contagious disease, officials said state parks in March hosted nearly 740,000 visitors a day, and that they have now “reached a point where public safety considerations of those in the parks, and in the surrounding communities, must take precedence over continued operations.”

In Austin, all city parks, trails, greenbelts and preserves will be closed over the Easter weekend — closures will go into effect at sunset Thursday and will end at sunrise Monday.

UT President Greg Fenves Departing 40 Acres for Top Spot at Emory University

University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves is leaving the state’s flagship college for Emory University, where he will become president August 1st, he announced Tuesday.  His last day at UT will be June 30th; he has served as president since 2015.

Rice University Engineers Working to Solve the Ventilator Problem

Rice University engineering students have designed a bag valve mask device that could provide comfort to coronavirus patients as they wait for ventilators to become available.  Those interested in building the device, named ApolloBVM, can access the website and how-to instructions here.  Originally designed in March 2019, the device was brought up to medical grade through the help of Rice engineers and Texas Medical Center doctors.