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School safety bill in committee

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My Five CentsI hope you took the time to reflect on the meaning of Easter and the miracle of the Resurrection. From my family to yours, hope you enjoyed a blessed and happy Easter. 

Here are five things happening around your state:

1. School safety bill heard in committee   

This week Senate Bill 11 was heard in the Senate Education Committee. I authored Senate Bill 11 based on the recommendations on school safety that came out of the committee I chaired in the interim, the Special Committee to Protect All Texans. Senate Bill 11 addresses how we fund school safety, establishes the Office of School Safety and Security at TEA, further delineates responsibility between the Texas School Safety Center and TEA, the creation and responsibilities of school safety review teams, truancy, and discipline. One of the main changes is to the school safety allotment.

Currently, districts receive $9.72 per student in the district for school safety. That is insufficient. It became apparent that to adequately fund school safety, it should be done on a per campus basis. Many school safety costs are fixed no matter how many students attend the school. The Senate also included $600 million in appropriations for school safety grants to help schools become more secure.

2. Package of grid reliability bills passes the Senate

This week the Senate passed Senate Bills 6, 7, 1287, 2012, and 2015 which all focus on grid reliability and grid reform. This bills, authored by Senate Charles Schwertner and Senator Phil King, will improve the Texas grid and add new dispatchable power as a backstop in times of critical need. Senate Bill 2012 builds on the performance credit mechanism and adds guiderails to ensure rates are manageable for Texans and that any rate increase goes directly to improve reliability. Winter Storm Uri in February of 2021 revealed failures in our electric market and since then it has been the mission of the legislature to improve reliability. It is my belief that this package of bills makes important, meaningful improvements to our system.

3. Bill criminalizing catalytic converter theft passes the Senate

Senate Bill 224 by Senate Carol Alvarado passed the Senate unanimously this week. This bill increases penalties on individuals who are found in possession of a catalytic converter. There are also provisions in the bill that enable prosecutors to go after criminal rings. It also allows prosecutors to further increase penalties if they are in possession of a firearm during the commission of the offense.

Senate Bill 224 is named in honor of Harris County Deputy Darren Almendarez, who was shot and killed last year when he confronted three suspects attempting to steal the catalytic converter from his personal vehicle while he was in the grocery store with his family. The family of Deputy Almendarez was honored on the floor of the Senate the same day.

4. Senate Bill 29 passes

Senate

Senate Bill 29 by Senator Brian Birdwell passed the Senate this week. The bill would prohibit a governmental entity from enforcing a vaccine mandate, mask requirement, or business or school closures due to COVID-19. Now that we are years into living with COVID-19 and the science has developed to help us understand the virus, it is unnecessary for any local government to enforce mandates relating to COVID-19. This bill protects Texans from burdensome regulation that some local governments try to enforce. I was proud to support this legislation.

5. Texas Armed Services Scholarship Programopening soon

It is almost time for the Texas Armed Services Scholarship Program to reopen. Recipients will receive up to $10,000 toward the cost of attendance. To be eligible for the scholarship, students must meet two of the following four criteria: on track to graduate high school with the Distinguished Achievement Program, higher school GPA of 3.0 or higher, college readiness score on SAT of 1070 or ACT of 23, or ranked in the top one-third of their senior class. Scholarship applicants must: submit an essay explaining why he/she believes military service is important, how he/she would fulfill the requirements of the scholarship and which university he/she would like to attend; submit a résumé, which must include his/her contact information, including his/her full name, mailing and physical addresses, Social Security number, phone number and email address. Please submit up to five recommendation letters. Senator Nichols is accepting applications from May 15 to July 15, 2023. He/she may send his/her application packet via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Budget passes House

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Trent AshbyBy Rep. Trent Ashby
Representing District 9

After another long and productive week in Austin, I was delighted to head home for a long weekend with family to celebrate the Easter holiday.

Easter is one of my favorite holidays, a celebration the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, I hope we take time to reflect on what the Easter holiday represents — the grace of an awesome God who loves us so deeply that He gave us his only Son so that we might be forgiven of our sins and granted everlasting life.

He is risen.

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

After 12 hours of debate on the House floor, the Texas House approved House Bill 1, which represents the House’s proposal on how the state should allocate our taxpayer dollars for the next biennium. Throughout the budget debate, lawmakers proposed amendments to the budget, suggesting changes that range from small adjustments to funding formulas to major overhauls of statewide programs.

While crafting the state budget is a long and arduous process, I believe the budget the Texas House approved late Thursday evening represents a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to addressing our state’s most pressing issues.

Perhaps the most notable provision included in House Bill 1 is the dedication of $17.3 billion to property tax relief, which represents the largest property tax cut in Texas History. This provision also includes a 25-cent tax compression of school district property taxes and a $6.8 billion reduction in recapture payments.

Property tax relief has been a top priority for me this session and I was proud to work with my House colleagues throughout the budget-writing process to dedicate a historic investment that will help reduce the property tax burden for all Texans.

House Bill 1 also prioritized our public-school students and teachers by dedicating $60.3 billion to fully fund school districts, which increased the state’s share of public education to over 50 percent for the first time in more than a decade.

The budget also includes $3.5 billion for a well-deserved cost-of-living adjustment for our retired educators. Some other highlights of House Bill 1 include $4.6 billion to maintain our commitment to border security efforts, $1.6 billion for school safety grants, and $629 million to support rural water projects and infrastructure upgrades.

Overall, House Bill 1 reflects a thoughtful and responsible approach to addressing our state’s most pressing needs. From property tax relief to border security, House Bill 1 prioritizes every Texan by dedicating dollars to a wide range of issues while also remaining well below the constitutional spending limit.

The mobile office is on the road again and we look forward to seeing you on the following dates, in the following locations: April 12 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., April 19 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 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/.

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

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Do you have one of thos paranormal pillows?

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Danny Tyree Column headBy Danny Tyree

Folks, “last one in is a rotten egg” applies to more than swimming pools.

If you share sleeping quarters with a spouse or Significant Other, I urge you to expedite the toothbrushing process, throw on your PJs or nightie with breakneck speed and be the first person under the sheet.

Because the first one in bed apparently has dibs on The Paranormal Pillow.

I call it The Paranormal Pillow because it sounds classier than Memory Foam on Steroids. If one partner stays up late doing chores or checking social media, when they finally drag their weary carcass to bed, the pillow magically stimulates the early-to-bed partner to remember all sorts of Questions That They Should Have Thought of Earlier.

“Did you remember to put out the cat? Did you remember to lower the thermostat? Did you remember to plug my phone into the charger? Did you remember to pay the Visa bill before midnight? Did you remember to leave the flag up on the mailbox at our weekend cottage?”

If you don’t relish abruptly shifting your sleeping accommodations to the doghouse, you’d darned well better also remember the Alamo, the Maine and Pearl Harbor.

And at least try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh, so mellow.

If you are unsure of any of your answers, don’t expect to witness a sudden burst of volunteerism. It’s up to the late arrival to double-check and triple-check everything. This is the philosophy preached by today’s military thinktanks. (“I’m so nice and cozy in this foxhole. Since you’re already up, would you be a dear and go scouting for enemy combatants?”)

The deluxe model of The Paranormal Pillow is the gift that keeps on giving. The proud owner is suddenly “wired” with all sorts of additional urgent remembrances, none of which are as stimulating as traditional “pillow talk.”

(“Oh, I forgot to tell you that I ran into one of my old classmates whom you never met. I will describe in detail the photos of all their grandchildren/muscle cars/gastrointestinal abnormalities.”)

Alas, The Paranormal Pillow does not work equally well on all portions of the brain. (“Are you sure I snored last night? I don’t remember any such thing. Now go get the coffee maker ready for tomorrow and maybe when you get back, we can…ZZZZZZZZ…”)

I wish we knew if The Paranormal Pillow could help dementia patients, but research has been thwarted for years. Policymakers with vested interests are terrified of patients having their memories restored. (“Hey, I suddenly remember each and every one of the lying politicians who promised they were going to fix Social Security and Medicare!”)

Oh, here’s the perfect outside-the-home use of The Paranormal Pillow! We could mandate them for witnesses testifying before congressional committees.

You know, the hacks who always stammer, “I don’t recall. Not to my recollection. Doesn’t ring a bell” about everything from clandestine meetings to “How did you get here today?”

The Paranormal Pillow would soon have these jokers babbling, “Oh, the bribe? Yeah, Ben Franklin’s left eyebrow was slightly frayed on the 17th bill the 5-foot-9 guy with the slight North Dakota accent handed me at 9:14 that evening….”

Not that my musings would put you to sleep, but sweet dreams, everyone.

“Sweet dreams? Since you’re still up anyway, could you alphabetize my Patsy Cline collection?”

*Sigh*

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They aren't sick, we are sick

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Jim Opionin By Jim Powers
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

As gun violence continues to escalate in the U.S., politicians are again making a lot of noise about the gun problem in this country. Unfortunately, it’s only a magic trick, slight of hand. Most politicians, on the left or the right, have no interest in guns, or abortion, or transgender rights. Or anything else, for that matter. They don’t want to solve social problems. They want to amplify them, use them as a distraction to gain power and control.

It is not the guns that are sick, it is society that is sick. The members of a healthy society do not use guns to settle their differences. The idea that the solution to gun violence is to remove the gun is misguided at best. Just because you have a toddler in the house doesn’t mean you should throw out all your knives and scissors. At worse it is another tactic to deflect attention from our rush toward fascism. Our present national psychosis threatens our freedom.

Over the last 20 years our society has changed dramatically. I’m 72, and over most of my life the direction society moved was mostly progressive. The rights of individuals and groups were expanded, moving toward racial equality, gender equality, and tolerance for those with different beliefs and lifestyles. Toward letting ourselves and others live as we choose, without the heavy hand of government dictating what we believed, who we loved, how we identified. If your choices don’t directly affect me, live however you please.

Presently, however, our government, state and federal, have engaged in building a wall of laws around us, reaching into our personal lives in ways that are unprecedented in our history. While many claim to want less government, they claim selectively. They really want laws to constrain others, not themselves. But every one of these laws we nod approvingly at lay another brick in wall of the prison that will eventually enslave us.

How do you enslave a people? Incrementally, within the noise of social conflict. Convince the people that class and racial conflict are out of control, convince the people that that those not like themselves are evil and must be marginalized, even destroyed at any cost. Convince the people that crime is the worst it has ever been (it’s the lowest in the last 50 years) and that only by restricting their rights can the government fix the problem. Provoke people to hate and distrust each other and all our institutions.

All the social issues that have been amplified over the last 10 years are the distraction that allows those in power to become more powerful.

Leave people alone to live their lives and live your own life the way you want. LGBT, those seeking abortions, those of different races and genders and religions are no threat to you personally. But the government that is passing laws seeking to punish these people are a grave threat to you personally, because if they succeed in destroying them with laws, they will eventually come after you.

Ignore the noise, look at the real threat.

 

Jim Powers writes opinion pieces. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication

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Land Sales Continue Booming!

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Horace McQueen ColumnBy Horace McQueen

East Texas land sales continue highs. Go back a couple years and look at land sales. This whole thing today is crazy—some land is actually selling for $10,000 an acre or more. And lots of the land sales are done by internet—with the buyer never seeing the property until the deal is closed. And we are welcoming folks who will have to make serious adjustments to their lifestyle with their move to rural East Texas. No longer calling Uber to deliver the grocery orders—and Target is “only” 30 miles away. Even a loaf of bread may be 10-miles distant. Boy howdy, for those recent transplants to our area it will be an experience to remember. I figure most of the new arrivals will hunker down and within a short time will have adjusted to their new surroundings.

The calf market is on a high—and hopefully our cow folks will have a calf crop to sell later this year. One thing for sure figure out a way to get some hay in the bale as early as possible. There is very little carryover hay from 2022—and much of that is pure junk. Like most others in our area running cows, our expenses over the last year have been mind boggling. With some folks feeding $100 a bale grass and protein feeds close to double that of last year, even calves selling at $2.50 a pound for 500-pounders is still not a profit maker.

By the time farmers and ranchers buy diesel fuel, pay vehicle expenses, feed bills and the rest of the out-of-pocket costs to operate a farm it’s not all the joy it’s cracked to be! Anyway, for those of us in the world of agriculture, I reckon we will keep on keeping on till the cows come home!  That’s –30—This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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