A continuing pandemic. An unusual and restrictive abortion law. An unstable power grid. These are the most important stories of 2021, and they will continue to be told in 2022.

2021 was a busy year in the news for Texas and the rest of the world. These are the top stories from a year filled with Texas political and policy news.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues.

There were some moments of relief after a terrible year of closures, deaths, and illnesses caused by the pandemic of 2020. Overworked health workers found comfort in 2021 with the arrival of vaccines that significantly lower the risk of severe disease and death. Some Texans began to leave their homes and catch up on time lost. After 19 months of closures, large counties temporarily relaxed safety measures in May. In November, the U.S.-Mexico border opened its ports of entry to reopen after 19 months.

The coronavirus mutated, disrupting everyday life and resulting in the death of more Texans, and the pandemic did not end. After being positive for COVID-19, more than 74,000 Texas residents have died. The virus ravaged unvaccinated communities, causing a surge in tested positive for the delta variant. Hospital workers suffered burnout as ICUs ran out of beds.

Teachers in the state were also tired, and many decided to quit their jobs. Not all public school students returned to the classroom. Test scores plummeted as academic gains were lost over the years. Additionally, fights over safety and mask mandates led to physical and verbal confrontations.

Political fights over COVID-19 policies and how to deal with an ever-evolving pandemic escalated. Cities, counties, and school districts often found themselves fighting against the governor’s ban on mandatory masks in court.

The highly contagious Omicron variant is rapidly spreading in Texas in 2022. Although there is much that health experts don’t know about this variant, health experts are concerned that the new surge in vaccinations could have a devastating effect on Texas’s uninsured population, which has 56.1%.

A rebellion, partly sparked by some Texans.

Texas politicians were involved in the pro-Trump riots that erupted at the U.S. Capitol early in January. Before the rioters stormed Washington, D.C., Attorney General Ken Paxton advised the Trump supporters to “keep fighting.” Ted Cruz, U.S. Senator, was the leader of a group of GOP senators who opposed Arizona’s certified electoral votes. U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert began the new year by appearing on television to suggest violence.

Some Republican voters still doubt the election results, despite no evidence that widespread voter fraud has been proven. Trump supporters want more partisan control over elections, even in Republican counties. After a long campaign by Trump loyalists, an election administrator with 14 years’ experience quit Hood County, where Trump won 81%. This is not the only case: election administrators all across the country are facing threats to their jobs, and many fear the 2022 midterms. America’s Newsroom.

The most restrictive abortion law in the country

Texas passed this year one of the most stringent abortion laws in the country, prohibiting abortions before pregnant women know.

An ultrasound that can detect a “heartbeat” in a fetal fetus can trigger an abortion ban. This can occur as early as six weeks after the embryo is born. Legal and medical experts agree that germs do not have a heart during this developmental stage. What’s being detected are electric impulses. A unique enforcement mechanism is also included in the law, allowing private citizens to sue abortion providers, patients, and anyone else who assists someone with an abortion.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court granted a legal challenge to the law to proceed, the justices did not block the law’s enforcement. Experts warned that the law’s intact could be used as a guideline for states to restrict other constitutionally protected rights. California’s governor has already announced that he is working to pass a bill that would allow private citizens the right to sue anyone who makes, distributes, or sells assault weapons or ghost guns.

The state’s restrictive abortion law has had a significant impact on the ground. Abortions slipped by half within the initial month of its implementation. “Trigger laws” in many other states, including Texas, that prohibit all abortions will be enacted within months. Due to the limited services, many abortion providers may not keep their doors open while the legal challenges are resolved. The U.S. Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade.

Winter storms exposed vulnerable power grid.

Energy officials advised Texas residents that they might experience power outages lasting between 10 and 45 minutes due to a winter storm that swept through Texas in February. Instead, disaster struck. Millions were without power for several days. Half the state’s residents were affected by water infrastructure issues. The storm caused property damage in the billions and killed hundreds, some from carbon monoxide poisoning.

It could have been worse: According to the grid operator, the state’s power grid was only seconds away from being down for months.

Although lawmakers and regulators have been aware of the grid’s weaknesses for many years, they continue to serve the interests of large electricity providers. Experts say that elected officials have yet to do enough to prevent another massive blackout.

Although another significant cold snap is unlikely this winter, scientists warn that climate changes affect climate patterns over time. Many consumers turn to portable generators to help them avoid future power outages or extreme weather events.

Regardless of whether Texas will experience more blackouts next year, you can expect to hear more information about the power grid by 2022. Democrats are planning to focus heavily on the issue. Gov. Greg Abbott has built his reputation on the promise that the lights will not go out this winter.


Redrawing the political districts of the state for the first time in a decade

Texas legislators redrew the political maps for the state legislature, congressional, and state Board of Education district this year in a partisan legislative process. This will preserve Republican strongholds and reduce the power of voters of color.

Since the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed, Texas has never made it past a decade without a federal ruling that disenfranchised voters. It was the first time that Texas legislators didn’t have to obtain prior approval from the federal government to create new political maps. Republican lawmakers created lines that the Department of Justice of the Biden administration said wouldn’t have survived preclearance.

Here are some key stories from the Tribune about redistricting in this year’s Tribune:

New congressional maps have divided Dallas-area Latino communities, disappointing communities who hoped that their increasing numbers would eventually translate into political power.

Texas’ congressional map shows only one district that would have been within a margin of 5 percentage points for the 2020 presidential election — this will make it easier for incumbents and may reduce civic engagement.

The Texas population has seen a significant increase in Asian and Pacific Islander residents over the last decade. However, their political power is being eroded by new congressional maps. This is how it was done in a northwest Houston neighborhood.

Multiple lawsuits have already been filed against the maps. These lawsuits will continue to be fought next year, possibly as voters go to the polls in new districts. These implications are enormous for 2022.

New voting restrictions passed.

Texas was at the center of a national news moment when the Democrats in Texas’ House broke quorum in a special legislative session to block the passage of a voting restriction bill.

Their impact was brief. While Democrats were absent for the duration, enough lawmakers returned to the Capitol to hold Abbott’s special session called for. The Legislature passed the bill, and it was sent to Abbott’s desk. The law establishes new rules for voting via mail, increases protections for partisan monitors, and repeals local voting initiatives disproportionately used in Harris County.

Schools fight for history and race.

After Matt Krause, a Republican state representative from Texas, launched an investigation into Texas school libraries and found that some books were related to race or sexuality and “make students feel uncomfortable,” Krause turned his attention to school libraries. Public libraries were then under scrutiny.

Krause’s inquiry was made as educators in the state struggled to implement new laws approved by lawmakers this year regarding how American history and race are taught in schools. This is part of a conservative effort to eliminate critical racism theory. Experts and teachers agree that critical race theory is not taught in K-12 schools. For some, it has become a shorthand for any discussion about race.

School boards have been split by disagreements about critical race theory, which has led to doxxing and death threats. Although school boards are traditionally elected in nonpartisan elections in the United States, the Texas Republican Party announced increasing its participation in local races in early December.

The Trump administration has not ended the existence of the border wall

The Texas-Mexico border was the destination for many migrants fleeing disasters and unrest in their homelands. Abbott claimed he was protecting the border and flooded South Texas with Texas National Guard personnel and state troopers in an unprecedented state effort to arrest illegal immigrants.

Abbott also revealed his plan to fund a state-funded wall at the border, following in the footsteps of former President Donald Trump. The name Operation Lone Star was given to the project. The state has $1.05 billion in funding for border barriers and at least $54 million of private donations. It has been plagued by confusion, faulty paperwork, and legal blunders, as well as an overwhelmed judiciary system.

The Trump-era “remain Mexico” program was revived by the Biden administration. This program sends asylum-seeking migrants across Mexico to border cities, where they risk violence while their cases go through U.S immigration courts. Since Biden’s election, the number of undocumented immigrants detained in detention centers has risen by more than half.

Although the first section of the new state walls was completed earlier in the month, questions remain over how the state will acquire sufficient land in 2022 to continue the project.

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