For most Texans, Election Day is a misnomer.

More Texans voted early this year than cast their ballots during all of the 2016 general election. Many more voted early than went to the polls on Election Day.

A record 9.7 million people, or 57% of registered voters, completed their civic duty during the extended early voting period of Oct. 13-30, or by mail, according to the Texas Secretary of State.

Voters don’t register by party in Texas, so political pundits could only speculate about whether the record early turnout favored either Democrats or Republicans. Either way, the intense voter interest is unquestioned. When final election results are in, the state’s percentage of registered voters who cast ballots was expected to surpass 60% for the first time since the early 1990s.

20 years of deaths daily on Texas roads

Texas is approaching a deadly milestone that the Texas Department of Transportation is working to prevent.

The last deathless day on Texas roads was Nov. 7, 2000. Through its campaign #EndTheStreak, TxDOT is trying to stop 20 consecutive years of daily deaths on Texas roads. During that time, more than 70,000 people have died.

An average of 10 people die every day in crashes in the state.

“This is so horrific. Come on Texas! We can do better!” said Dr. Beverly Thompson Kuhn of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

A&M study analyzes Medicaid expansion

The state of Texas could deal with part of its looming budget shortfall by expanding Medicaid coverage, according to Republican Rep. Lyle Larson of San Antonio.

Larson’s position, endorsed by the Texas Medical Association, came in response to a new Texas A&M study that Medicaid expansion would bring the state about $5.4 billion from the federal government. Texas is one of 12 states that have chosen to not participate in Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Most state Republicans strongly oppose the Affordable Care Act, which is going before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“As we address the budget shortfall in the next session, we should seriously consider accessing federal Medicaid funding,” Larson tweeted. “This recently released study shows Texas is losing out on $5.4 billion while 38 other states are taking the federal dollars.”

New law protects breastfeeding mothers

Women are allowed to pump breast milk anywhere in public, the Texas Comptroller’s Office reminded the public in its latest issue of “Tax Policy News.”

A bill passed in the last legislative session aims to make it clear for businesses and employers that breast pumping in public is allowed just as breastfeeding already was under Texas law.

Texas Health and Human Services offers support for breastfeeding mothers. The Texas Lactation Support Hotline number is 855-550-6667.

Butterflies are free; license plate is $30

You can soon buy a Texas license plate that floats like a butterfly, or at least appears to do so.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recently announced the winner of its newest conservation license plate design. The public selected its favorite monarch butterfly design through an online survey.

Proceeds from the sale of the plates go to help conserve monarch butterflies and other at-risk, non-game species native to Texas. To be notified when the plates go on sale in March, sign up at http://bit.ly/TPWDEmailNotification.

All conservation specialty plates cost $30 a year, with $22 going to the parks and wildlife agency.

Changes proposed to sexual assault laws

Look for laws regarding sexual assault to change in the upcoming legislative session.

The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Task Force has issued its first report to the Texas Legislature. The group began meeting earlier this year after being created by the passage of House Bill 1590 during the 2019 session.

The report includes 11 policy recommendations for the upcoming legislative session. A few of those:

• Remove law enforcement’s ability to decline forensic medical examinations for sexual assaults reported within 120 hours and clarify language pertaining to law enforcement’s ability to decline forensic medical examinations outside of 120 hours.

• Require law enforcement to complete the Office of the Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Request for Sexual Assault Exam form for every sexual assault that is reported to them.

• Require that a forensic medical exam be offered to all children who report a sexual assault, including cases reported more than 120 hours post-assault.

• Remove the word “alleged” when referencing a sexual assault or other sex offense.

One-third of adult Texans, or 6.3 million people, have experienced sexual assault at some point in their lives, according to a 2015 study by the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

Chris Cobler is a board member and past president of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. He welcomes email at ccobler@texaspress.com.

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