The Darsch Report: February 24 to March 2

San Antonio Coronavirus

Health officials in Texas have now confirmed three new cases of coronavirus in San Antonio, bringing the total number of cases up to six. Health officials are also waiting on four additional test results from people who are showing signs of the virus.

All of the infected people, including one evacuee from Wuhan, China, are currently being held in isolation at the Texas Center for Infectious Disease. Officials say the quarantine for this group will stop around March 2nd, as after exposure, it takes two to 14 days to potentially become symptomatic.

Despite the rise in infections, authorities are urging the general public not to overreact to the threat the virus may pose to the local community.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg says, “Let’s be clear. The most dangerous, damaging infectious disease is hysteria. And so, what we’re trying to do is make sure that we have a compassionate, human response to a crisis that’s happening, that we do so while all the while maintaining the safety of the public.”

With these cases, the total number of cases in the US jumps up to at least 53.

ACLU vs Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn

On Tuesday the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against seven Texas towns that have declared themselves “sanctuary cities for the unborn.”

The ACLU is filing the challenge on behalf of the Texas Equal Access Fund and the Lilith Fund, stating that the ordinance is unconstitutional for violating the “right to abortion” and the organizations’ “First Amendment rights,” says Anjali Salvador, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas. The ordinances label the two organizations as “criminal organizations” and ban from offering services, renting or buying property or having a presence in the cities.

“Under these local laws, our clients cannot speak up about abortion rights, recruit volunteers to help them do their important work, or congregate to share informational materials in these cities without worrying about getting sued,” Salvador says. “The laws intentionally and unconstitutionally obstruct our plaintiffs’ ability to do their jobs, impeding the advocacy work that is integral to their mission.”

In a statement, the Pro-Life group Texas Right to Life called the ACLU’s lawsuit “scattershot,” “desperate” and “baseless,” and accused the plaintiffs of “throwing a hodgepodge of complaints at the court and seeing what they can get to stick.” 

“We are confident the Sanctuary City for the Unborn ordinances will hold up in court… In passing the ordinance, cities acted within their constitutional rights to self-governance and within the scope of current U.S. Supreme Court abortion jurisprudence,” Texas Right to Life stated.

California Lottery Shortchanges Schools

California state officials released a scathing audit of the California Lottery this week, alleging that the agency shortchanged schools by millions of dollars over the last four years and recommending that most of the money be repaid.

State Auditor Elaine Howle stated that the California Lottery failed to provide $36 million that should have gone to education in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2018.

“The Lottery has not followed state law, which requires it to increase its funding for education in proportion to its increases in net revenue,” State Auditor Elaine Howle wrote in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature.

However, the auditor originally determined that the lottery should have provided $69 million more to education but reduced the amount to $36 million after hearing an explanation from lottery officials.

The California Lottery is designed so that 34% of sales revenue to go to schools and administrative expenses are capped at 16%, but a smaller percentage is allowed to go to education as long as lottery managers use “best practices.”

Lottery Director Alva V. Johnson disputed that the agency has shortchanged schools, saying he and the auditors have a “fundamental difference of opinion” over how to interpret the California State Lottery Act and the 2010 change in the law.

US Economy

The stock market had a terrible time this week with massive drops in many sectors of the stock market. The Dow Jones decreased to 25,409.36 on Friday, decreasing by -2,551.44 points, or -9.13 percent compared to its February 21st close of 28,992.41. The S&P 500 decreased by -271.67 points or -8.42 percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq increased on Friday by -7.09 percent.

The stock market plunge comes on the heels of reactions to how coronavirus is affecting life both in and outside of China. With China shutting down major industrial areas to contain the infection, global supply chains relying on Chinese goods will suffer shortages and with the virus spreading globally consumers will be less likely to spend money in an effort to avoid areas where they might catch the disease.

Bexar County Weed

Last year Governor Greg Abbot signed into law a bill that made industrial hemp legal and ushered in a new definition to distinguish the material from the drug. The new law has prompted a need for new equipment to tell the difference between the two substances after the law inadvertently made it difficult to press charges in some marijuana cases.

Months later, Bexar County’s crime lab may become the first in Texas accredited to test the difference between hemp and marijuana.

The Bexar County Criminal Investigation Laboratory has submitted its new procedures to the American National Standards Institute, the agency that oversees national accreditation for forensic testing.

“The goal is to be the first in Texas to go online,” said Brian Cho, a forensic scientist who helped develop the new procedures. “An individual has been assigned to go over our documentation to verify our procedures and our data.”

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who toured the crime lab Tuesday morning, said he was impressed by the new testing and excited for Bexar County to be among the first labs in the state to be accredited in the new procedures.

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