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This month we remember LBJ

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My Five CentsThis month we remember President Lyndon B. Johnson on what would have been his 115th birthday. President Johnson was born in Stonewall, Texas in 1908 and was elected as a congressman, senator and later president of the United States. His birthday is an official state holiday in Texas.

Here are five things happening around your state:

TxDOT urges drivers to be mindful in school zones

School is back in session for most Texas students and the Texas Department of Transportation is reminding drivers to be extra cautious in school zones and around school buses to keep kids safe. Last year, there were 746 traffic accidents in Texas school zones, resulting in 23 serious injuries. The most common factors were driver inattention, speeding and failure to yield the right of way. Also last year, there were 2,305 accidents involving a Texas school bus, resulting in seven deaths and 51 serious injuries. Speeding and driver inattention were major factors in those accidents as well. Be sure to slow down, pay attention and follow all traffic laws to keep children safe as they head back to school this fall.

Texas Windstorm Insurance Association announces no rate increases

This month the TWIA Board of Directors met and voted not to increase rates for residential and commercial policies in 2024. TWIA then filed a 0% rate change for its annual required rate filing with the Texas Department of Insurance. The Actuarial and Underwriting Committee had recommended a 5% increase for residential properties and an 8% increase for commercial policies. An increase would require a two-thirds vote of the board, which it was unable to obtain. The board’s decision was made after receiving public comment from coastal community members, policy holders and elected officials.

East Texas schools receive $2.8 million in grants

This month the Texas Workforce Commission and Governor Abbott announced nine Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) grants totally over $2.8 million for five Southeast Texas schools.

JET grants are aimed at supporting career and technical education training programs by providing funding to purchase and install equipment. These programs will educate more than 890 students in high-demand occupations in the region. The JET grants include:

• Angelina College - over $348,000 to purchase and install equipment to train 76 students as electricians;

• Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD - over $377,000 grant to train 119 students as registered nurses in partnership with Angelina College;

• Diboll ISD - received three grants totaling over $1 million to train students in production occupations, industrial engineering and nursing in partnership with Angelina College;

• Nacogdoches ISD - over $130,000 for equipment to train 205 students as emergency medical technicians in partnership with Angelina College;

• Windham School District - received three grants totaling just under $850,000 for equipment to train students as production workers, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers and industrial truck and tractor operators.

New laws go into effect September 1

Many new laws go into effect on September 1 after a legislative session to line up with the new fiscal year. After the 88th Legislative Session, there are over 750 bills that go into effect this week. Some interesting new laws include:

• House Bill 25 – creates the “Wholesale Prescription Drug Importation Program” which allows the Health and Human Services Commission to contract with Canadian drug wholesalers and suppliers to bring safe eligible prescription drugs to Texas consumers at lower costs than U.S. wholesalers.

• House Bill 1885 – allows TxDOT engineers to temporarily adjust speed limits for sections of roads or highways during road construction or inclement weather conditions, like heavy fog, ice or rain.

• Senate Bill 379 – an exemption from sales tax for family care products, such as feminine hygiene products, adult and children’s diapers, baby wipes, maternity wear, breast milk pumps and baby bottles.

• Senate Bill 490 – requires medical providers send patients an itemized bill prior to attempting to collect any money from the patient.

 

General Land Office announces $10 billion for students from carbon capture storage leases

This month the Texas General Land Office announced it awarded six carbon capture and sequestration leases that will provide $130 million in signing bonus payments for the Permanent School Fund (PSF) and over $10 billion over the length of the 30-year lease term. The PSF is a constitutionally created fund that supports public education. The leases on state-owned land will allow these private entities to store carbon over half a million acres off the Texas coast.

 

Sen. Robert Nichols represents Senate District 9, which includes Polk County, in the Texas Legislature.

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Passionate about our passions

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Barnes Summer Mug for ColumnPUBLISHER POINTS #11 by Kelli Barnes

An election year beginning in 18 weeks is lingering in the back of many minds, and for some, is already more consuming than thoughts of cooler weather, rain, football, pumpkins, and Santa.

Those individuals who are thinking about politics 24/7 no matter the year, are either “called” to politics as an elected official or “called” to be a watchdog of elected officials. They could also be someone who likes (or thrives on) a good political argument.  In general, the rest of society either stays informed and votes, or decides to ignore it all. For this group, thinking about it all the time is unthinkable. Where do you fit in?

Before we get too hard on the politicians, watchdogs, lobbyists, etc. it is good to be reminded it is healthy to have a passion in this life. The most passionate of people are the makers of change. We should never suggest someone called to teaching, is an idiot for being in that career. We would never consider someone who runs a soup kitchen or backpack program feeding the poor week after week, year after year, crazy. If someone spends all their free time gardening, or fishing, or traveling, or with grandchildren, or volunteering … they are allowed, without prejudice.

The point is, we should acknowledge some in our society are called to politics, are passionate about it, and it is their hope to help create a better life for generations to come. They consider it a community service, even a labor of love.

I believe many people desire to have civility in politics. Friends, family, co-workers, and community members should be able to agree to disagree, to express their opinions to one another without being ostracized. Quality discussions need to replace cutdowns. And every citizen needs to vote. 

We may not be able to do anything about the toxic division politics is creating and feeding on a national or even a state level, but we can start at home. Let’s agree to be passionate about preserving conversation and relationships. This simple yet profound action can change things for good … even politics.

Our news organization has active social media pages on Facebook (Polk County Enterprise, San Jacinto News-Times, Trinity County News-Standard, Tyler County Booster) and we are interested in engaging with you, our readers, about happenings in the community. Also watch for our message board on easttexasnews.com beginning Oct. 1. This will provide another opportunity to share information, photos, and have discussions with your community.

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Don’t forget to purchase your hunting license

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Trent AshbyBy Rep. Trent Ashby
Representing District 9

With September just around the corner, the school year is in full swing, football stadiums will light up the Friday night sky, and hunters across the state are chomping at the bit to get back into the field. As I’m sure many of you are aware, this year’s dove season starts on September 1 and will run until the end of October just in time for the duck and deer season. That being said, here’s a friendly reminder to all of my fellow sportsmen and women to purchase a hunting license if you haven’t already done so. You can pick one up at your local gun shop or sporting goods store as you’re loading up for the season, or even purchase one online through the Texas Parks & Wildlife Outdoor Annual App or on the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s website www.tpwd.texas.gov.

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

In my previous column, I provided an overview of Proposition 1 and Proposition 2, which are the first two of the 14 ballot propositions that voters will consider in the upcoming November election. This week’s column will feature an overview of the next two propositions – Proposition 2 and Proposition 3.

Proposition 3 amends the Constitution to ensure the legislature cannot impose a wealth, or income, tax on individuals or families. Though the State of Texas already prides itself on not imposing an income tax, Section 1, Article VIII of the Constitution, authorizes the tax of both tangible and intangible property in unique cases. As a state that celebrates competition, even the possibility of a direct tax on an individual’s assets or property would serve as a disincentive to financial success. Proposition 3 helps ensure that the State of Texas and her people will continue to serve as a global beacon for economic growth and prosperity for future generations.

Proposition 4 offers an amendment that is long overdue to you and your family. It is the enabling legislation that will provide property owners with the largest property tax cut in our state’s history. In this proposition, a 20% cap or limit is imposed on non-homestead properties valued under $5 million for the next three years. In addition, the existing homestead exemption ceiling of $40,000 will be increased to $100,000. And, a “tax freeze” will be placed on the total amount of ad valorem tax that may be imposed on an elderly or disabled individual. Finally, the proposed amendment authorizes the legislature to require four-year terms for members of appraisal district boards in counties over 75,000 in population. Under current law, appraisal boards are composed of 9 appointed, voting members. Under the proposed legislation, appraisal district boards will now be composed of eight voting members – 5 appointed and 3 elected. This allows citizens to take comfort in knowing they have a voice in electing members responsible for issuing property tax values for their county. It is our goal to ensure all Texans feel a much-deserved sense of relief from skyrocketing property taxes. The Legislature has made a deliberate effort to ensure components of this bill allow Texans to see a noticeable decline in their taxes in 2024, as well as implement new accountability measures to help alleviate some of the tax burden on property owners across the state.

The mobile office is on the road again and our district director will look forward to seeing you on the following date, in the following locations: September 6 at the San Augustine County Courthouse in San Augustine from 9-11 a.m., September 13 at the Polk County Commissioners Courtroom in Livingston from 9-11 a.m., or the Tyler County Commissioners Courtroom in Woodville from 1:30-3:30 p.m., September 20 at the Houston County Courthouse Annex in Crockett from 9-11 a.m. or 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 and our Capitol office at 512-463-0508. 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/.

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Surprisingly Unsurprising - Modern Christian Worldview

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Jim Opionin By Jim Powers
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In my last column I wrote about a growing concern among some Evangelical Christian pastors from members of their congregation that Jesus’ admonitions in the New Testament weren’t relevant to modern Christian life, or that they were “weak” or “outdated.” Surprising.

If we look closely at the worldview of modern Christians, though, these expressions of Jesus’ inadequacy are not surprising at all. According to various studies, only around 17 percent of Christians actually hold a Christian worldview.

Christian worldview refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which a Christian understands and interprets the world and interacts with it. It encompasses a comprehensive and consistent set of perspectives that are rooted in Christian teachings, the Bible, and a relationship with Jesus. Here are some specific aspects of a Christian worldview.

Christians believe that the universe and everything in it was created by God. This belief is foundational to a Christian's understanding of the nature and purpose of humanity and the world. Simply put, if you do not believe in God, you can’t be a Christian.

Christians believe that humanity, initially created good, fell into sin through the disobedience of the first humans, Adam and Eve. This event introduced sin and brokenness into the world. Humanity, according to the Bible, needed redemption, which leads to the central tenet of Christianity, the belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who came to Earth, died for humanity's sins, and was resurrected. Through faith in Jesus, individuals can be reconciled with God and receive eternal life.

Christian worldview also holds that the Bible is considered the inspired and authoritative Word of God. It provides guidance, instruction, and wisdom for living, including moral truths and ethical standards that come from God and are revealed in the Bible. This moral framework provides guidance on issues of right and wrong.

In the Christian worldview, Christians believe in the eventual return of Jesus and the establishment of a new heaven and a new earth. This is important, because this belief affects how they view the future and their place in it. It has societal and political implications.

Life for the Christian is seen as purposeful and meaningful because it is a gift from God. Christians believe they are called to serve God and others, to spread the message of the Gospel, and to live in a manner pleasing to God.

The Christ worldview holds that every human being is made in the image of God and, therefore, possesses intrinsic value and dignity. This belief impacts views on issues like sanctity of life, human rights, and social justice.

Finally, Christians believe the Church is the body of Christ on Earth. It's a community of believers who come together for worship, fellowship, and service.

While some traditions and denominations emphasize different aspects or interpret certain beliefs in unique ways, the aspects I’ve noted here of this worldview are widely accepted across Christian traditions. They are a useful reference to compare our personal Christian worldview to a generally accepted one.

I think the central message here is that, with only 17 percent of those who identify as Christians sharing this worldview, we can’t assume that when someone tells us they are a Christian, that the word means the same thing to them that it means to us. They may, in fact, agree with us on most points. They can also have a worldview that we would completely disagree with.

The word Christian, like the word God, is being used these days for its connotation, not for its meaning. These words have, in fact, been emptied of their meaning by bad actors to influence us, knowing we’ll fill in the meaning with our own worldview, and trust the speaker, often for their political ends.

Claiming to be a Christian means something specific. Christian is not just a feel-good word; it demands specific beliefs and sets out how we must treat other human beings. As, for example, Jesus’ admonitions in the Sermon on the Mount.

Jim Powers writes opinion articles. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication.

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Rocketing down the slippery slope

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By Tony Farkas
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There’s a story coming out of Marion, Kan., that should give pause to anyone who values liberty. It certainly gives me pause for what happened and for what it means.

The police department there, under the direction of a newly minted police chief, raided the Marion County Record, as well as the home of the publisher, under the auspices of a search warrant issued for suspicion of criminal activity and the possibility of identity theft.

All computers, storage items, Alexa devices and internet routers were seized, leaving the newspaper struggling to put out its weekly screed. The publisher said that after the raid, his 98-year-old mother was stressed, and later died.

The raid was based on a claim from a local restaurant owner who said the newspaper had illegally obtained her criminal history. Apparently, there were DWI charges in her background, and she had petitioned the city for a liquor license.

Further information shows, however, that the newspaper had been doing a background investigation on the new police chief. Apparently, numerous people told the newspaper about allegations of impropriety, but as of the raid, no story had ever been printed.

(Incidentally, the warrants have been withdrawn, and the seized property has been returned. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation also has become involved in the case.)

So was the raid retaliatory, or justified? Seems like that’s a debate that will take some time to bring to ground, but the fact of the matter is that the first amendment guarantees the right to a free press.

For years, I had been taught that as long as the newspaper did nothing illegal to garner the information, it had the right to print it. There can be no laws restricting the right of a free press. Seems to me that since the newspaper was exercising its trade legally and with due diligence, the warrant was farcical and intended to intimidate.

Free and unfettered newsgathering is essential in a democracy. It allows the people of a country to keep track of their elected officials — at every level — and provides an easy way to monitor how tax dollars are spent.

Granted, media on a national level has operated mostly as a propaganda arm of the liberal cognoscenti, but local newspapers, small-town weeklies such as this one and others, keep tabs on their circulation area with credibility and for the most part, objectivity.

Should a newspaper staff commit a criminal offense in the performance of their duties, there are laws that deal with gathering evidence, most notably involving the use of subpoenas, not warrants. So, for my money, this was a case of a small-town lawman flexing, and blowing his nose on the Constitution.

The will of the Founding Fathers was pretty clear about the press, as is shown in this quote by Thomas Jefferson:

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

That goes for me, too. When people, and in this case their representatives in the press, are intimidated and browbeat into conforming to the approved version of information, it ceases to be informative and instead becomes indoctrination. There liberty goes to die.

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

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