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  • Anti-mask mandate mandated

    governorFILE PHOTO Gov. Greg Abbott

    Special to the News-Times

    AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday issued an executive order prohibiting governmental entities in Texas — including counties, cities, school districts, public health authorities, or government officials — from requiring or mandating mask wearing. 

    Public schools may continue to follow current mask-wearing guidelines through June 4. After June 4, no student, teacher, parent, or other staff member or visitor can be required to wear a mask while on campus, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

    However, in San Jacinto County, the governor’s action will have no effect, as both the Coldspring-Oakhurst and Shepherd districts had already voted to remove masks.

    Shepherd Superintendent Jason Hewitt said that in April, the board voted to remove masks after a survey of the staff and community showed masks should be removed.

    Cassie Gregory, information officer for COCISD, said that board had made masks optional previously.

    Beginning May 21, local governments or officials that attempt to impose a mask mandate or impose a limitation inconsistent or conflicting with the executive order can be subject to a fine of up to $1,000.

    "The Lone Star State continues to defeat COVID-19 through the use of widely-available vaccines, antibody therapeutic drugs, and safe practices utilized by Texans in our communities," Abbott said. "Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities. We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans' liberty to choose whether or not they mask up."

    Exempt from the order are state-supported living centers, government-owned or operated hospitals, Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities, Texas Juvenile Justice Department facilities, and county and municipal jails.

    Additionally, the governor said that Texas will opt out of further federal unemployment compensation related to the COVID-19 pandemic, effective June 26.

    This includes the $300 weekly unemployment supplement from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, a release states.

    “The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring in communities throughout the state,” Abbott said. “According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the number of job openings in Texas is almost identical to the number of Texans who are receiving unemployment benefits. That assessment does not include the voluminous jobs that typically are not listed, like construction and restaurant jobs. In fact, there are nearly 60 percent more jobs open (and listed) in Texas today than there was in February 2020, the month before the Pandemic hit Texas.”

    The current job openings are good paying jobs. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, nearly 45 percent of posted jobs offer wages greater than $15.50 per hour. Approximately 76 percent pay more than $11.50 per hour. Only 2 percent of posted jobs pay around the minimum wage.

    At this stage of opening the state 100 percent, the focus must be on helping unemployed Texans connect with the more than a million job openings, rather than paying unemployment benefits to remain off the employment rolls.

    Another reason why the action was necessary is the high level of fraudulent unemployment claims being filed. TWC estimates that nearly 18 percent of all claims for unemployment benefits during the pandemic are confirmed or suspected to be fraudulent, which totals more than 800,000 claims, worth as much as $10.4 billion, if all claims had been paid.

    Federal law requires the effective date of this change to be at least 30 days after notification is provided to the Secretary of Labor. As a result, the effective date will be June 26.

  • Anti-mask mandate mandated

    052721 mandateFILE PHOTO Gov. Greg Abbott

    Special to the News-Times

    AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday issued an executive order prohibiting governmental entities in Texas — including counties, cities, school districts, public health authorities, or government officials — from requiring or mandating mask wearing. 

    Public schools may continue to follow current mask-wearing guidelines through June 4. After June 4, no student, teacher, parent, or other staff member or visitor can be required to wear a mask while on campus, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

    However, in San Jacinto County, the governor’s action will have no effect, as both the Coldspring-Oakhurst and Shepherd districts had already voted to remove masks.

    Shepherd Superintendent Jason Hewitt said that in April, the board voted to remove masks after a survey of the staff and community showed masks should be removed.

    Cassie Gregory, information officer for COCISD, said that board had made masks optional previously.

    Beginning May 21, local governments or officials that attempt to impose a mask mandate or impose a limitation inconsistent or conflicting with the executive order can be subject to a fine of up to $1,000.

    "The Lone Star State continues to defeat COVID-19 through the use of widely-available vaccines, antibody therapeutic drugs, and safe practices utilized by Texans in our communities," Abbott said. "Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities. We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans' liberty to choose whether or not they mask up."

    Exempt from the order are state-supported living centers, government-owned or operated hospitals, Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities, Texas Juvenile Justice Department facilities, and county and municipal jails.

    Additionally, the governor said that Texas will opt out of further federal unemployment compensation related to the COVID-19 pandemic, effective June 26.

    This includes the $300 weekly unemployment supplement from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, a release states.

    “The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring in communities throughout the state,” Abbott said. “According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the number of job openings in Texas is almost identical to the number of Texans who are receiving unemployment benefits. That assessment does not include the voluminous jobs that typically are not listed, like construction and restaurant jobs. In fact, there are nearly 60 percent more jobs open (and listed) in Texas today than there was in February 2020, the month before the Pandemic hit Texas.”

    The current job openings are good paying jobs. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, nearly 45 percent of posted jobs offer wages greater than $15.50 per hour. Approximately 76 percent pay more than $11.50 per hour. Only 2 percent of posted jobs pay around the minimum wage.

    At this stage of opening the state 100 percent, the focus must be on helping unemployed Texans connect with the more than a million job openings, rather than paying unemployment benefits to remain off the employment rolls.

    Another reason why the action was necessary is the high level of fraudulent unemployment claims being filed. TWC estimates that nearly 18 percent of all claims for unemployment benefits during the pandemic are confirmed or suspected to be fraudulent, which totals more than 800,000 claims, worth as much as $10.4 billion, if all claims had been paid.

    Federal law requires the effective date of this change to be at least 30 days after notification is provided to the Secretary of Labor. As a result, the effective date will be June 26.

  • Closing the barn door behind the eight ball

    tony farkasFILE PHOTO Tony Farkas

    By Tony Farkas

    Gov. Greg Abbott last week issued the mandate to end all mandates by mandating that no government entity can mandate the use of masks.

    Better late than never, I guess.

    For the liberty-minded among us, this is something that has all the earmarks of government — at least at the state level — is headed in the right direction. It’s really nice to see that at least one politician understands that it is not them what holds the ultimate power over our lives, but us people do.

    The issue for those that cherish liberty and individual freedom, though, is that it’s comes only after the fact.

    The government did not hesitate in the least to issue the mask/social distancing/stay home-stay safe mandates the minute some unelected government flunky suggested it. (This is the same government flunky that been not only caught not wearing a mask, but has been shown to have opinions about the efficacy of mask use that are as varied as there are grains of sand on the Gulf.)

    At one point, everyone was following the bizarre and ever-changing guidance of the Center for Disease Control, spurred on by the governments Czar of All Things COVID Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to President Biden and director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (Note: still not elected.)

    One mask, two mask, Pfizer shot, J&J not, everybody do the pandemic conga.

    Because the hysteria even gripped Texas, Abbott followed suit. This is not to say that the pandemic should have been taken lightly; this is to say that there really wasn’t any authority for the action, not to mention no real evidence proving it would (or did) make a difference.

    Because of those actions, he has drawn the attention of people who believe the mandates were short-sighted, and have now announced their attention to run for governor against him — even as conservatives.

    It would be easy to believe, then, that the governor’s actions were self-serving, an act of preservation of a legacy, and a chance at re-election. While that may be the case, it also misses a critical point, in that the federal government doesn’t exhibit any inclination to honor states’ rights.

    See, Unca Joe loves us, and will always lock us up and throw away the key to show that love, and will do so with a smile because he, after 40-plus years in government crafting things toward that end, the government is becoming the be-all, end-all for everything.

    So the next time there’s a pandemic, guess what happens? The feds will clamp down, and force — passive-aggressively — states to comply by threatening federal funding for things like health care or hospitals or emergency services. Because as was pointed out so eloquently in “The Wizard of Id” so many years ago, they operate by the Golden Rule: “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.”

    I do, I really do appreciate the governor’s gesture. However, the cynical elf that lives in my brain is laughing hysterically because he knows nothing will change with things as they are. Texas will always be independent, but it’s the feds that have usurped all power, because — everyone say it with me now — we let it happen.

    Becoming comfortable with being taken care of, combined with nurturing propaganda and vilification of any opposition, has been going on so long it’s become ingrained in us that rebelling against tyrannical actions has become unthinkable.

    In order for the governor’s actions to become something more than a token gesture, it needs to be the first domino in a chain that will ultimately right the American ship, putting it back on course. Individual liberties are paramount, and we’re not subject to the whim of people who “know what’s best for us” and the diktats that inevitably, inexorably follow.

    Tony Farkas is editor of the San Jacinto News-Times. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • Houston County named to ‘Save Our Seniors’ initiative

    NEWS Vaccine 031721FILE PHOTO

    By Chris Edwards

    CROCKETT – Governor Greg Abbott announced today that Houston County is one of four East Texas counties added to the statewide “Save Our Seniors” initiative.

    The initiative was announced on March 1 by Abbott to ensure that more senior citizens are vaccinated throughout the state. Houston County senior citizens can receive their free shot at the Crockett Civic Center Thursday, March 18 and Friday, March 19.

    The vaccines, which will be administered by a military team, will be available from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. each of the two days. According to the Houston County Office of Emergency Management and Fire Marshal, the availability in the county of the vaccine as part of the initiative is the most recent plan to protect the county’s citizens. Five hundred doses of the Moderna vaccine will be available at the vaccination center.

    Anyone who is age 50 or older, along with members of the same household (21 and older) and/or caregivers is eligible for the vaccines on these dates. The availability has also been opened to employees of the education field.

    Other counties in the region that were added to this wave of the initiative are Trinity, Shelby and Hopkins. This is the third week, thus far, and there were previously 26 and 34 counties participating, respectively, each of the other two weeks. This week, in total, there are 28 Texas counties named to the initiative by the Texas Division of Emergency (TDEM), the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the Texas Military Department (TMD.)

    “The continued expansion of our ‘Save Our Seniors’ initiative is protecting elderly Texans from COVID-19 and ramping up our vaccination efforts across the state,” Abbott said.

    For those who have questions regarding the vaccine or might need to schedule a home visit for a home-bound individual, they can call 936-544-7175, and registration is also available on-site. The Civic Center is located at 1100 Edmiston Drive in Crockett.

  • White makes statement on light rail project

    JasWhite 102220BETH FAIRCLOTH | TCB State Representative James White (R-Hillister) speaksto the Tyler County Republican Women group last Thursday at the group’s monthly meeting. Terri Simpson (left) and Kathy Hodges-Spoon (middle) of TCRW listen to White.

    By Chris Edwards

    AUSTIN – Rep. James White (R-Hillister) is one of several Texas lawmakers who are urging Gov. Greg Abbott to ignore “misinformation” about a proposed high-speed rail project.

    The project, which would be under the oversight of the Federal Railroad Administration, if brought to fruition, is a proposed 240-mile high-speed railway system to travel between the Dallas and Houston metropolitan areas, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. In a TxDOT news release, a private entity, Texas Central Railway (TCR) is funding and developing an environmental study for the project.

    White said that the project does not have any permits, at present, to begin construction, and also lacks public support.

    White and several other members of the Texas House of Representatives sent a letter to Abbott last week with their concerns about the project. The letter claims that information available about the project features “inaccurate talking points and promotion of ideas consistent with the liberal Green New Deal.”

    The Green New Deal, which White referenced, is a proposed package of federal legislation aiming to address climate change and economic inequality.

    Another concern White addressed, which constituents have shared with him, is that eminent domain might be used to strip them from their land and homes. “Judges have already blocked the use of eminent domain and county elected officials have publicly denounced the project,” White said.

    “We don’t need Japan building our infrastructure, or taxpayer-funded boondoggles such as the Green New Deal on Texas soil,” he said.

    Opponents of the proposed high-speed rail have also referenced a letter Abbott wrote to the Japanese Prime Minister praising the project and offering his full support as governor. “I am hopeful that final negotiations of this project with Japan can be concluded so that construction can begin,” Abbott wrote.

    A group calling itself Texans Against High-Speed Rail cited both Abbott’s letter to the Prime Minister of Japan and the legislators’ letter to Abbott in a Facebook post, and stated that the legislators who signed the letter “will be strong advocates” for transparency with regard to the project.

    White said the governor is reviewing the accuracy and legitimacy of the project. “I urge the governor to listen to my fellow legislators and hear our concerns about protecting Texans’ private property rights from foreign governments,” White said.

    According to TxDOT the project, as well as the Dallas-Fort Worth Core Express and Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study may provide alternative methods of transportation within corridors that are experiencing increased congestion due to continued population growth.