IssuesThe Back MicThe Back Mic: Abbott Backs Austin Police Staffing Proposition, Patrick Endorses Sparks for Seliger Seat, Paxton Announces $290 Million Opioid Settlement

This week — Austin’s Proposition A gets backing from Abbott, a Senate candidate nabs the lieutenant governor’s endorsement, and Texas is set to receive nearly $300 million from an opioid settlement.
October 29, 2021

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Abbott Throws Weight Behind Austin’s Police Staffing Proposition

Years into a continuous squabble between the State of Texas and its capital city, Governor Greg Abbott has thrown his weight behind a ballot proposition that would set a minimum staffing level in the Austin Police Department (APD).

“Defunding police has been a disaster in cities across the country,” Abbott tweeted this week. “Austinites — vote FOR Prop A to support law enforcement & keep your community safe.”

On November 2, voters will consider the proposition that would set a floor of two officers per 1,000 residents. APD is struggling amidst an attrition crisis within its ranks and exacerbated by the $150 million budget cut and redirection and other reforms pushed by various progressive groups.

This isn’t the first time Abbott has gone to bat against Austin leadership, and not the first time on this issue, either. Last year, the governor specifically chastised Austin Mayor Steve Adler and the council’s police budget cut.

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He also backed May’s Proposition B which reinstated a public camping ban after two years of homeless encampments growing across the city. And since, he and the attorney general have threatened suit against cities that decline to comply with the new statewide public camping ban — eyeing Austin, specifically.

Earlier this week, Abbott’s campaign released an ad hitting prospective Democratic gubernatorial challenger Beto O’Rourke for statements he made last year supporting certain police defunding measures.

Lt. Governor Patrick Endorses Sparks to Succeed Retiring Seliger 

Less than a week after Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) announced his retirement from the Texas Senate, his intra-chamber rival Lt. Governor Dan Patrick endorsed his once challenger.

West Texas oilman Kevin Sparks had already announced his challenge to Seliger and received former President Donald Trump’s endorsement before Patrick’s public support arrived.

“As the size of rural districts like Senate District 31 in West Texas grow,” Patrick said in a release, “the challenges of representation increase.”

“SD 31 will need a special kind of Senator to represent the diversity of the district — from the Panhandle to the South Plains and extending to the Permian Basin.”

He added, “Kevin understands the unique challenges facing farmers and ranchers in West Texas, as well as what is needed to make sure our state’s energy industry remains a powerful economic force.”

“He is the best-qualified candidate for this seat.”

After redistricting, Senate District 31 remains the strongest GOP district. But its boundaries were moved slightly to advantage Texas’ energy heart, Midland and Odessa, in its electoral makeup as opposed to the Panhandle counties on which Seliger relied. At the time, Seliger accused Patrick of tipping the district’s scales against him.

Texas to Receive $290 Million in Opioid Case Settlement

Attorney General Ken Paxton announced this week the details of a settlement in the global opioid lawsuit against drug manufacturers. Texas stands to receive $290 million from Johnson & Johnson.

“I am pleased that all parties have reached final agreement on this monumental settlement,” Paxton said in a statement. “This is the next step to bring much-needed funding for Texans who have fallen victim to the irresponsible and deceptive marketing practices from opioid manufacturers that spurred this epidemic.”

On top of that sum, Texas will receive up to $1.2 billion from distribution companies that delivered the drugs.

The suit against Johnson & Johnson is one of a few sought by the State of Texas against manufacturers for “deceptive trade practices” and misleading advertising. Those actions, the state alleges, exacerbated the opioid crisis leading to over 1,000 deaths in the state since 2016.

Smith County Judge Nathanial Moran said of the settlement, “The funds from this settlement, which will be disbursed at the state, regional, and local levels in a manner and method specifically designed to fight the opioid epidemic and mitigate the harm it has caused, are appropriate and will bring much needed relief and treatment to citizens in rural East Texas, including Smith County.”


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.