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Solar Projects – not all are welcome!

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Horace McQueen ColumnBy Horace McQueen

Saddling our taxpayers with tax abatements and other giveaways for new energy producing installations is being played out all over Texas. The common refrain from the fast-talkers is that if county commissioners, school board members and city councils don’t cooperate, the projects will end up somewhere else. So be it! And it’s not just tax abatements! Taking large farms out of food production is also to be considered.

Several big—and I mean multi-million dollar—solar farms may be headed for Houston County. It would take thousands of productive acres to house the solar farms. The most talked about solar farm on the drawing board is on FM 2022—located about four miles from Crockett, just to the north of Hurricane Bayou. The property is a part of Stalwart Ranch—Attebury Division. Stalwart has several thousand acres in this ranch. The property has frontage on both sides of the highway and extends past the “Egg and Butter Road” on the west side.

Ask questions of our “leadership” and push for information about solar projects being planned. Any member of the local school board, city council or commissioners’ court should be freely sharing any and all information they have received. Several thoughts come to mind if a solar farm comes to our neck of the woods. One is the huge loss in local tax collections if the installation is not taxed at actual cost of construction.

Another big consideration is taxpayers are offered smoke and mirrors about the workers needed to build a solar farm. Granted the construction phase will bring in workers for a short time. After the project is complete, operating a large solar farm—covering hundreds of acres—will only employ four workers or fewer. Finally, there is ownership of the farm and equipment. By the time the farm is ready to produce electricity—and if it’s not cloudy or raining—the entire farm could well be owned by large corporations in Spain or other countries thousands of miles from the USA!

Several of our elected state officials want to restrict ownership of land in Texas by China. Frankly I would rather a Chinese farmer own a corn farm down the road from our farm rather than a massive solar farm that could be sabotaged, cutting off power to thousands of homes, hospitals and businesses.  If we are finally going to stand up for America, let’s keep ownership of our energy producers in the hands of our own citizens!  That’s –30—This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Puzzling pieces of legislation

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I’m a pretty huge sci-fi fan, having watched all the Star Trek series, “Space: 1999,” all of the bionic peoples, “Twilight Zone,” “Night Gallery,” even “Doctor Who.” Far and away, though, my favorite series is “Babylon 5.”

I won’t bore you with the synopsis (but check it out anyway), but there was a scene in one of the episodes that I will recount for you, which has some bearing on this topic.

At one time in the past of a character’s planet, a daughter of the ruler found the first flower growing out of the snow. This princess was so enamored of the plant, and so worried about it being walked on, she complained to her father, who ordered a guard to protect the flower.

The king was deposed, the flower died, but for 200 years, the guard reported to that same spot, because no one countermanded the order.

That story comes to mind every spring and every fall, when we’re forced by legislative fiat to change our clocks for daylight saving time, which to my mind is as ridiculous an idea as legislating the weather to fight climate change.

According to almanac.com, daylight saving time had its roots in a proposal from Benjamin Franklin, but really didn’t gain traction in the U.S. until World War I. In order to fight the Hun, energy needed to be conserved, and DST was instituted for a two-year span in 1918.

It was ended after efforts from the nation’s dairy farmers, who rightly pointed out that cows don’t tell time, and when it was time to milk, it was time to milk, regardless of what Mickey’s hands said.

It cropped back up again in World War II, because we needed all our energy to defeat the Axis Powers. This time, its use fell off gradually, leaving states and counties to figure it out for themselves.

In 1966, Congress, to solve the willy-nilly nature of time in the country, passed the Uniform Time Act, forcing folks to not only observe time zones, but DST again. Except, Alaska and Hawaii didn’t have to, because loopholes, so again, things are all outta wonky.

So like with ice cream, meaning bigger is better, in 1986 Congress made DST longer, and 2005, made it longer still.

Farmers still hate it, because cows steadfastly refuse to learn to tell time, but the government, both at the state and federal levels, still can’t come to a consensus about it.

The Texas Legislature, to my knowledge, has a bill introduced just about every session to abandon the practice; just recently, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill to abolish it, but it has languished in the House.

Here’s the rub: for a system designed to save energy, it doesn’t work.

Studies have shown that as far as electricity goes, it saves around 1 percent of costs, but strangely, costs for heating and cooling go up around 9 percent. That’s because actual house lights are no longer the big boy power eater, with electric stoves, heaters, water heaters, washers and dryers and, if Uncle Joe has his way, chargers for electric vehicles taking over the wattage wants.

So just like the guard who reports for no reason, this law exists for really no good reason, and should be abolished.

I’ve always thought that the government, which likes to empanel committees, should create a Sunset Committee, much in the same way Texas has, to evaluate services, programs and other laws for effectiveness and necessity. Once done, this can be turned into legislation that might actually be beneficial.

Or, we can continue to cut a rope from one end, attach it to the other end, and call it better.

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Have you ever taken your business elsewhere?

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Danny Tyree Column headBy Danny Tyree

I just heard about a local business losing a major customer over a trivial misunderstanding.

Most of us hate change and maintain loyalty to a brand or retailer through thick and thin. True, this veers into creepiness in extreme cases, such as refusing to outgrow your old pediatrician. (“But I don’t trust anyone else with my ED issues, doc. Do you happen to have a lollipop and the latest ‘Humpty Dumpty’ magazine to ease my mid-life crisis?”)

And I know it’s difficult to relinquish trusted lawyers, accountants or other professionals. Which reminds me of my friend Dinsdale, his recently deceased insurance agent and the whole séance thing. (“Is that you that Madame Zelda conjured up, Frank? I figured you could give me some advice since you’ve looked at term life insurance from both sides now…”)

But occasionally, either an unforgivable one-off customer service faux pas or the steady drip, drip, drip of aggravations pushes consumers to the breaking point and unleashes their righteous indignation.

I know my wife and I switched propane companies because of the way management fired a sick employee. And we have sworn off a local restaurant because the waiter refused to honor the price posted on the front door (and the manager was never available when we tried to get satisfaction).

Cost, quality and timeliness can all be areas of concern. Have you ever had a relationship with an independent contractor that never quite got off the ground? (“This is Joe from The Turbo-Charged Handyman. Am I speaking to Mr. Eduardo Hickenlooper? Oh, Mr. Eduardo Hickenlooper the third? I guess that was your grandfather and father who left so many messages. Anyhow, we’re ready to schedule installing your asbestos…”)

Sometimes an obnoxious or incompetent individual employee is the bone of contention. Sometimes a systemic new store policy is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Such policies might include having to scan your own groceries, losing the right to free drink refills, discovering that the business automatically tacks on gratuities for the store mannequins, etc.

Sometimes clerks, mechanics, etc. are clearly in the wrong. Sometimes the customer is demonstrably unreasonable. And sometimes there is a gray area. But if the gray area involves 10 acres of landscaping, refer back to the first point.

Don’t get trigger-happy with the old “The customer is always right” gambit. Think about it. You mean all those fun-loving Gestapo agents were invariably in the right when they ran their errands? (“Ve haff vays of making you validate parking.”)

I’m not sure which is worse: the irate customers who launch into a profanity-laced spectacle in a crowded business or the people who fade away without telling management why or warning their peers. (“Hey, look at the headline, honey. Someone ELSE disturbed that nest of boa constrictors in the restroom at O’Malley’s Gym. Guess maybe I should’ve sent that Yelp review after all. Live and learn.”)

Strive for an amicable resolution of problems. Count to 10 before saying something you may regret, but don’t forget to show some backbone. Understandably, this is difficult if the backbone is the issue. (“I know this was just supposed to be a root canal, but somehow I removed your spine as well. My bad.”)

Discuss your problems like adults. Unless some booger-head has already colored all the pictures in ‘Humpty Dumpty’! Then tantrums are downright upright.

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Legislature begins work on education

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Trent AshbyBy Rep. Trent Ashby
Representing District 9

As we approach the 50-day mark of the 88th Legislative Session, legislators are putting the finishing touches on the bills they intend to file before bill filing deadline and the hallways are bustling with visitors from across the state.

One of the highlights this week was welcoming sheriffs and Texas Game Wardens to the Capitol and recognizing them for their tireless dedication and service.

During the previous session, I authored a resolution designating the third Tuesday in February as Texas Game Warden Day, and I had the pleasure of recognizing these distinguished public servants on the House Floor for their continued efforts to preserve and protect our state parks and abundant natural and cultural resources.

With that, here’s an update from your State Capitol.

The Texas House was hard at work this week as members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article III met multiple times to consider our state’s budget as it relates to higher education.

The subcommittee heard testimony from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and numerous institutions of higher learning. Each institution and agency were given the opportunity to lay out their budget requests and answer any questions members of the committee may have. The Committee on Appropriations will continue to hold similar hearings over the next several weeks as members work to finalize the House budget.

Outside of hearings on the budget, the workload in other committees is steadily increasing after the first round of bill referrals.

If you’ve been keeping up with my columns, you’re familiar with my passion for increasing access to reliable broadband access in rural areas. Last session, I was proud to author and pass House Bill 5, which established the Broadband Development Office and charged the office with developing a plan to increase access across the state.

This week, I filed House Bill 2662, which will build upon the work we accomplished through House Bill 5 by enhancing state provisions to align with federal guidelines so that Texas can maximize our potential to receive federal dollars for broadband expansion.

I’m proud to continue working on this important policy initiative and will continue to prioritize legislative efforts to expand broadband access and infrastructure this session.

The Speaker of the Texas House recently unveiled four legislative priorities for this session. While these four bills are only a starting point, the Speaker will soon announce his complete list of priorities for the House.

The first bill, HB 4, would protect Texan’s online data by cracking down on how companies collect profit from personal data.

Another bill, HB 12, extends Medicaid eligibility to new mothers for a year after the delivery of their child.

The third bill, HB 18, would give parents more control over their children’s online data privacy by requiring companies to share access and limit data collection.

The final bill, HB 300, exempts essential baby items, diapers, wipes, and feminine hygiene products from the state’s sales tax.

The mobile office is on the road again and looks forward to seeing you on the following dates, in the following locations: March 1 at the San Augustine County Courthouse from 9-11 a.m.; March 8 at the Polk County Commissioner’s Court Room in Livingston from 9-11 a.m., or at the Tyler County Courthouse in Woodville from 1:30-3:30 p.m.; March 15 at the Houston County Courthouse Annex in Crockett from 9-11 a.m., or at the Trinity County Courthouse in Groveton from 1:30-3:30 p.m.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. My district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762. Additionally, I welcome you to follow along on my Official Facebook Page, where I will post regular updates on what’s happening in your State Capitol and share information that could be useful to you and your family: https://www.facebook.com/RepTrentAshby/.

Trent Ashby represents District 9, which includes Trinity County, in the Texas Legislature.

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Livestock Auctions—fewer and fewer!

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Horace McQueen ColumnBy Horace McQueen

Back thirty and forty years ago it seemed that local livestock auction markets were in most east Texas counties. Some counties boasted two markets. Well, that has changed leaving some livestock raisers miles and miles from a sale barn. In the past few weeks, another facility—Anderson County Livestock auction in Elkhart-- closed.

In the 80’s and 90’s, Lufkin, Jacksonville and Tyler had sale barns that sold lots of cattle. There were also several other auction markets that are now just a memory. Palestine had a thriving sale just east of town for many years. Henderson had two auction markets as did Sulphur Springs. But as owners aged or due to increased competition or property tax increases, some owners made the decision to close the doors. Don’t expect new sale barns to open in our area. The cost of construction would be mind boggling and most bankers would pass on an offer to provide financing.

This is a true story that offers a look into early Texas. Once the Civil War ended, the only thing of real value in the southern part of Texas was the rough, tough and prolific longhorn cattle breed. During the war years the longhorn ran free and had little contact with two-legged Texans.  After the Civil War ended some enterprising folks figured out that the cattle had good value—if they could be herded and driven north to market centers in the mid-west. Those cattle could then be sold for their hides, tallow and beef for $15 a head or more. That price got several takers that rounded up the wary longhorns, hired a team of cowboys to drive them north and, if lucky, come back home with plenty of money. One of the herd owners was William Burks, who in 1871 rounded up 1,000 head of cattle and herded them to Abilene, Kansas. His wife Amanda Nite Burks made the long ride as well—with over a dozen Hispanic cowboys and a herd of horses. Mrs. Burks rode a buggy for her journey, and according to those who recorded her trip, she made a top hand.

William and Amanda made their home on the La Mott Ranch in La Salle County near Cotulla. William Burks passed away at age 37 in 1877 at the ranch. Wife Amanda Burks managed La Mott Ranch until age 90 in 1931 and the ranch had grown to 43,000 acres. Amanda Nite Burks was born  in 1841 and raised near Porter Springs in Houston County southwest of Crockett. She was reverently known as “the Queen of the Texas trail drivers”. That’s –30—This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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