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Saturday, July 13, 2024 at 3:51 AM

Fire safety urged for Fourth

CAPITAL HIGHLIGHTS | Gary Borders

With the Fourth of July bringing a possible four-day weekend for lucky Texans, the Texas A&M Forest Service urges outdoor enthusiasts to exercise fire safety outdoors, especially when using fireworks or starting campfires to roast hot dogs and toast marshmallows.

Approximately 90% of wildfires are caused by humans and their activities, and the Fourth of July is one of the top days for reported wildfires, according to the forest service.

Large wildfires generally are not expected, and none are prevalent currently, but north and northeast Texas has received little to no rainfall since early June. That reduces moisture content and increases the potential for wildfires to start.

“As we start to observe typical summer weather with conditions becoming hotter and drier, we anticipate wildfire activity to increase,” said forest service chief Wes Moorehead. “State and local firefighters are prepared to respond quickly, but we need Texans to be careful and prevent wildfire ignitions while conditions are hot and dry.”

Anyone considering using fireworks is urged to comply with any burn bans in place, follow the warning labels on fireworks, use only under close adult supervision and keep them away from structures, dry grass and brush.

Cornyn bill would increase security for judges

Legislation sponsored by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn would, if passed, establish a new resource center that would monitor threats to local judges and provide training for both judges and staff at state and local courts, The Dallas Morning News reported.

At a panel held recently at the University of North Texas law school, participating judges and prosecutors expressed support for the measure, which passed the Senate unanimously in mid-June and awaits consideration in the House.

A consultant for the nonprofit National Center for State Courts said attacks and threats against members of the federal judiciary increased 400% from 2015 through 2021. In Texas, security incidents involving local judiciary have increased four-fold on average since fiscal year 2017, though the number dropped slightly last fiscal year.

“This isn’t partisan. It’s just common sense,” Cornyn said during a news conference after the roundtable discussion.

Paxton probe appears headed to grand jury A federal appeals court appears to have cleared the way for officials in Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office to testify before a grand jury probing alleged corruption, the Houston Chronicle reported.

While the case before the 5th Circuit of Appeals remains under seal, last week the court last rejected an unnamed state agency’s attempt to stymie federal investigators from calling top officials.

While the case is under seal, the Chronicle reported, “the dates and details line up with those in the years-long federal probe into allegations by Paxton’s former top deputies, who say the attorney general took bribes to benefit Nate Paul, an Austin developer who is a friend and donor of Paxton’s.”

The court said that the AG officials may have evidence of a potential crime, and that the Department of Justice can invoke the “crime-fraud exception” to get around potential attorney-client privileges.

Paxton did not respond to requests for comment.

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches, Lufkin and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@ texaspress.com


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