Three New State Representatives Sworn In Today

On Tuesday, the three winners of the Jan. 28 special election runoffs are being sworn in to the Texas House as state representatives filling out unexpired terms. 

Katy real estate mogul Gary Gates, who won the Fort Bend County special election runoff, was sworn in this morning at the state capitol by House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) as state representative of House District 28. This is his first time Gates will hold public office after seven campaigns for local and state positions. He replaces Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond), who resigned from office to take a position with the UT System. Gates was joined by supporters who were bused in from Fort Bend.

Gates faces one primary challenger in his re-election campaign, Schell Hammel, a vape bar owner. Gates’ special election opponent, Democrat and educator Eliz Markowitz, is running in the November general election. Early voting in the primaries begins next week, on Feb. 18.

Dallas political operative Lorraine Birabil, who won the Dallas County House District 100 runoff, was also sworn in at the capitol. This will also be the first public office for Birabil. She replaces former State Rep. Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) after he won the Dallas mayoral race last May. Birabil’s win increases the House complement of women to 34 in the 86th Texas Legislature. It also means she is the 170th woman ever to serve in the Legislature.

Birabil faces several primary opponents on her path to re-election, including James Armstrong III; attorney Jasmine Crockett; attorney Paul Stafford; Dallas business owner Daniel Clayton, former aide to Rep. Toni Rose; and former Dallas City Councilwoman Sandra Crenshaw. No Republican filed so whoever wins the primary is elected for the next term.

Former Houston ISD Trustee Anna Eastman is the only one of the three to hold her swearing-in ceremony in her district rather than the capitol. The ceremony is going to take place at the Waltrip High School library this evening. Eastman won the House District 148 special election runoff to replace Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston)

Eastman faces several primary challengers in her re-election campaign, including business development manager Emily Wolf, former 2019 Houston City Council candidate Cynthia Reyes-Revilla, former 2018 Harris County Commissioner candidate Penny Shaw, and paralegal Adrian Garcia. Whoever wins that primary will face Republican Luis LaRotta on November 3.

In the interim, the off-season for Texas lawmakers, the three new state representatives will not be able to vote on bills or file them.

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Texas needs to tackle water scarcity before it gets worse 

Texas is no stranger to water scarcity. In every decade of the twentieth century, Texas has experienced a serious drought. However, Texas’ ability to outmaneuver its water crisis has a limit.

A deepening drought is now affecting a large part of Texas. On Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration due to a prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall in Central Texas.

The parched lands spanning from the Rio Grande Valley toward central and east Texas are only a symptom of a greater problem.

“The fact is that [the population] is going to double in the next 50 years,” said Dr. Andrew Sansom, professor of practice in Geography at Texas State University. In fact, according to the Texas Demographic Center, Texas’ population is expected to rise to 47.4 million residents by the year 2050.

However, it is not only the total population numbers that concern experts, it is also the concentration of Texas’ population around major cities. The success of Texas’ cities will soon begin to breed challenges.

Today, nearly 90 percent of Texas’ population lives in metropolitan centers and with this percentage considered to grow, water distribution is a mounting concern for many experts.

According to Dr. Sansom, “the Hill Country is the single most threatened” because “the counties along the 1-35 corridor are some of the fastest growing counties in the United States.” Hays County, which is located just south of Austin, is estimated to grow by 464 percent by 2050, thus causing their groundwater to be in extreme risk.

If no action is taken, Texas could have a statewide water shortage that would cost $151 billion in estimated annual economic losses by the year 2070 .

As cities continue to grow and total population increases, Texas will have to figure out how to deal with a state that’s getting larger, hotter, and drier all at the same time.

Water scarcity doesn’t strike without notice. It’s a slow-moving disaster that creeps through the international community. We have the time to prepare for it, and we have the system to deal with it. So let’s start fixing it.