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Eye on Politics: School safety, Dallas abortion resolution, and midterm elections

Eye On Politics: August 5, 2022
Eye On Politics: August 5, 2022 52:47

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) — How does Gov. Greg Abbott feel about criticism that the laws the state legislature passed in 2019 to address school safety don't go far enough in making sure school districts comply with new standards? What's the status of the Texas Governor's race?  And why is Dallas City Council set to vote on a reproductive rights resolution next week?    

CBS 11 political reporter Jack Fink explores these topics and more in the latest episode of Eye on Politics.  

Every week, CBS 11 political reporter Jack Fink breaks down some of the biggest political stories grabbing headlines in North Texas and beyond. Watch the latest episode of Eye on Politics in the video player above and stream new episodes live every Thursday and Friday at 7 pm on CBS News DFW.

Gov. Abbott weighs in on criticism of laws created after the deadly Santa Fe High School shooting

August marks the new school year for millions of Texas students, teachers and parents. This year, the first day of class for many comes less than three months after 19 children and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

CBS 11 has reported on the safety measures Texas school districts are taking to make sure families feel safe sending their children to school. Among those measures: clear backpack mandates, shooting drills and random metal detector checks. And all school districts in Texas are required to check the exterior doors of school buildings and facilities before the start of the school year and then each week after. 

After the deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School in 2018, the state legislature passed a variety of laws boosting school security. But some survivors tell CBS 11 that those laws have no teeth and don't hold school districts accountable when they don't comply. 

While Gov. Greg Abbott was in Greenville this week, political reporter Jack Fink asked him what he hopes to do about that. 

"We can see from what happened in Uvalde that in fact those laws either did not have teeth or they were not fully complied with," he said. "We expect to do two things: One is, we expect to reach agreement on even more enhanced standards and ensure there's going to be teeth to it so there will be compliance. I'll add to that, we will ensure that there is going to be accountability at all levels through the process."

In a state senate committee hearing in June, the director of the Texas School Safety Center said they do not perform compliance checks at the schools themselves because they are unclear they have the authority to do so. When we asked the governor if that needs to change, here's what he said: 

"It has changed. I made an announcement about how it will change, and there will be a forthcoming announcement soon about the fulfillment. Here's how it changed. I created a new position, the Chief School Safety Officer in the Texas Education Agency. That person and their team will be in charge of ensuring that schools across the entire state of Texas will be in compliance. They will work alongside the Texas School Safety Center as well as the ALERRT program as well as local school ISD police and local police to make sure all these schools will be in compliance with the standards. We all agree on one thing: We want our schools to be safe. We agree we need to have the best safety standard programs in place and we agree those protocols need to be followed. We will execute on all three of those components."

Abbott wants more enhanced school safety standards, accountability to ensure schools comply 01:15

Checking in on the governor's race, other midterm races in Texas

The campaign season will really start to heat up after Labor Day, but we're officially less than 100 days from the November election. So, how is the Governor's race shaping up and what key issues may drive the results?

Jack Fink spoke with Josh Blank, Research Director at the Texas Politics Project at UT Austin for insight.

 "In terms of how predictive it is and what is going to happen, I think there's just so many issues in the air at the moment," he said. "In some ways, that's why the race is as close as it is."

Blank said with so many key issues animating this race, there are a lot of variables that could change and shift the playing field over the course of the next few months. Among the major issues that could play a role in the upcoming election: abortion, gun violence, the power grid and the economy.

A CBS News-YouGov Texas poll released in late June showed Gov. Greg Abbott leading challenger Beto O'Rourke 49% to 41% among likely voters. That gap is notably narrower than Abbott's double-digit lead over his Democratic challenger in 2018 -- Lupe Valdez. But the exact reason this race is closer is still unclear.

Blank said this shift could signal the natural progression of a less Republican state, or it could be driven by the way certain issues have presented themselves in Texas.

But with a lot still up in the air, Blank said the major statewide races are Republicans' to lose.

"Ultimately, Texas is a competitive state at this point," he said. "It's certainly not a swing state and it's hardly purple."

Dallas Council to take up abortion rights resolution

Just weeks before Texas' trigger law banning most abortions is set to take effect, a Dallas City Council committee voted unanimously for a reproductive rights resolution Tuesday. 

Council members said the resolution is designed to protect a woman and her healthcare provider's right to privacy and won't allow Dallas Police and city resources from being used to investigate doctors who are accused of performing abortions. The cities of Denton and Austin have passed similar resolutions.

This comes after the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, allowing states to ban abortions in late June. A new state law goes into effect August 25 that bans most abortions with the exception to save the mother's life. Doctors can face felony charges, fines and lose their professional licenses if they violate the law.  

Council member Adam Bazaldua, who is chair of the Quality of Life, Arts, and Culture Committee, proposed the resolution.  

"This is not an attempt to legalize abortion, which is out of our local jurisdiction and purview," Bazaldua said. "This is, however, completely within our purview to regulate the resources that would be needed to enforce and prosecute such legislation."

CBS 11 reached out to the Texas Attorney General's office seeking comment on the resolution, but we did not hear back. The full Dallas City Council is expected to pass the resolution next Wednesday. 

Read more about the resolution here or watch the video below.

Dallas Council Committee approves reproductive rights resolution, heads to full city council 02:24

In this week's episode of Eye on Politics, Jack Fink also spoke one-on-one with two members of congress about the economy, a newly approved bill to expand production of computer chips in the U.S. and the border. Watch the full episode to hear from Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas and Republican Pat Fallon of the 4th Congressional District in North Texas.

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