AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on Sept. 5 issued eight executive orders in hopes of preventing further mass shootings.

Abbott’s orders came days after seven people were killed and 25 injured in multiple shootings by a lone gunman along thoroughfares connecting the cities of Odessa and Midland on Aug. 31. The suspect fired at law enforcement officers and civilians, including while driving a hijacked postal van between the two cities. Law enforcement officers brought the rampage to a halt in an exchange of gunfire resulting in the death of the suspect when the van he was driving had come to a stop after ramming a police vehicle. The suspect, a 36-year-old white male armed with an assault rifle, was identified as Seth Aaron Ator of Odessa.

Posted online at gov.texas.gov, Abbott’s orders enhance reporting requirements and ensure law enforcement and the public have the training, tools and resources to provide and respond to suspicious activity reports, Abbott said. Ordinary citizens’ reports of suspicious activities are accepted via phone call to (512) 424-7981 or (866) 786-5972; by fax to (512) 424-7418; or by email to TXFusionCenter@dps.texas.gov.

“Texas must achieve several objectives to better protect our communities and our residents from mass shootings,” Abbott said in a news release containing the executive orders. “One of those objectives is to marshal law enforcement resources to stop violent criminals before they commit mass murders. But more must be done. I will continue to work expeditiously with the legislature on laws to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals, while safeguarding the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Texans.”

The governor’s office referred to the executive orders as “a starting point in the process to keep Texas communities safe… to further advance solutions and jumpstart legislative action.” In related news, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen last week named select committees to study issues relating to the recent mass shootings and earlier mass shootings in Santa Fe, Sutherland Springs and Dallas.

Safety meetings are held

The Lone Star State’s first meeting of the newly formed Domestic Terrorism Task Force was held at the Capitol on Aug. 30.

On Aug. 29, the second-ever meeting of the Texas Safety Commission was held in El Paso, the city where a suspect wielding an assault-style rifle was arrested on Aug. 3 in a shooting that took the lives of 22 people and injured 24.

In El Paso, Abbott said the purpose of the meeting was “to help the community heal, combat the rise of extremist groups and hateful ideologies, keep guns out of the hands of deranged individuals, and combat domestic terrorism in Texas.”

Following the six-hour meeting in El Paso, Lt. Gov. Patrick told victims in attendance: “When one Texan is attacked all Texans are attacked, no matter your political party, no matter if you are black, brown or white, liberal or conservative. Every one of the 28 million Texans matters, and we stand together against hate, racism, white supremacy and evil as one Texas.”

Transportation plan OK’d

The Texas Transportation Commission on Aug. 29 approved a 10-year plan produced by the Texas Department of Transportation that includes more than $77 billion dedicated to improving safety, addressing congestion and connectivity and preserving roadways for Texas drivers.

Funds are earmarked for the widening of roads and the improvement of median barriers, bridges, guardrails and intersections — including upgraded traffic signals and signage — plus safety improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians.

According to the commission, many of the projects in the plan are roadway segments identified on Texas’ list of its 100 most congested roadways. The projects will be financed through legislative and voter-approved initiatives that allocate portions of oil and gas taxes, sales taxes and other money to the state highway fund. Revenue report is posted

The state’s fiscal year 2019 ended on Aug. 31 and Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Sept. 4 released totals for fiscal 2019 state revenues, saying “all funds” revenue was $127.94 billion, up 6.5 percent over fiscal 2018.

Hegar broke down the nearly $128 billion as follows:

  • General revenue-related revenue was $57.87 billion, up 1.2 percent over fiscal 2018;
  • Sales tax revenue for fiscal 2019 was $34.02 billion, up 6.5 percent from fiscal 2018;
  • Oil production tax revenue was $3.89 billion, up 14.6 percent over fiscal 2018;
  • Natural gas production tax revenue was $1.69 billion, up 17.8 percent over fiscal 2018; and
  • All funds tax collections were $59.38 billion, up 6.8 percent over fiscal 2018.

Ed Sterling works for the Texas Press Association.