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Inflation reduction a laughable name for an act

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FromEditorsDesk TonyOn any given day, I’ll get up in the morning, put on coffee that I bought at the store (paying sales tax, of course, as well as corporate taxes and tariffs built into the price). As I putter around the house (the property which is taxed on state and local levels) getting ready, showering (fees and taxes apply on water, sewer and electricity), using numerous items taxed at sale and elsewhere, I’m finally done.

I’ll hop into the car (which I pay taxes on yearly, as well taxes and surcharges as at the sale) and drive (only if I’ve paid the license fee) to the gas station to fill up (paying federal, state and local gasoline taxes, possibly luxury and gas-guzzler taxes, fuel gross receipts tax, and oil and gas assessment taxes).

Depending on the roadwork in the area, I could be paying special assessments for road repairs or taxes for waste management, bridge toll charges, road toll charges, or bike license fees.

When I head to a business, either mine or someone else’s, the taxes could include individual and small business surtaxes, penalties for underpayment of estimated income tax, an alternative minimum tax on income, business taxes and licensing fees, and federal and state corporate income taxes.

Of course, if it’s my business, I’m passing those costs along to the consumer, or if it’s not, the owners are passing that along, so pretty much every tax faced by a business is paid by everybody that makes use of that business.

My paycheck will have federal income tax (sometimes state and local, depending on location), Social Security tax and Medicare tax

If someone from out of state purchases something, they’ll likely pay use taxes.

If I want to take a vacation, I could face paying recreational vehicle taxes, passport fees, air transportation taxes, hotel stay taxes, hunting or fishing license fees, state park permits, watercraft registration and license fees, nature trail permit fees or even yacht and luxury boat taxes.

If I get hurt on vacation, there’s the possibility that on top of medical bills, there’s plastic surgery surcharges or taxes on non-qualified health saving account distributions.

Pets, particularly dogs, require permits and licenses. Jewelry has specific taxes; so do cigarettes (taxed through the roof), alcohol and gifts. Have to pay fees to get married, or if you’re in an area with a pro sports team, stadium taxes (don’t get the large soda and devil dog, or pay taxes on fatty foods and pop).

To own a phone, there’s 911 service taxes, service fees, minimum usage fees, federal, state and local taxes, and usage surcharges.

If I pass away, anything my family inherits is subject to taxes. Lots of taxes.

The Inflation Reduction Act recently passed by the Senate includes more taxes on corporations, “investments” in energy security and climate change, an extension of the subsidies for the Affordable Care Act, and, just for that little bit of icing, 87,000 new IRS agents (with all the trimmings). That all comes from new and better taxes.

On any given day, the average citizen of the country pays more than 100 different types of taxes, and the trend is that the government always needs more.

One of my favorite TV shows in the past decade was “Sleepy Hollow,” dealing with a man from the Revolutionary War being drug into the current era. It was about supernatural events, but hidden there was social commentary.

One quote that had stuck with me was (after the main character bought a cup of coffee and a doughnut), “What’s insane is a 10 percent levy on baked goods. You do realize the Revolutionary War began on less than 2 percent? How is the public not flocking to the streets in outrage? We must do something.”

I appreciate that, because I’ve always wondered what the Founding Fathers would say if they were alive at this time.

There are solutions, most of which are at the ballot box, but my guess is that we are the frogs in the old adage, and the pot is boiling. We just don’t notice because the heat was turned up very slow.

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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The ship of liberty has foundered

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

Pardon my dour tone this week. I’m struggling with the fable of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and wondering if and when a swing in the pendulum is coming.

Lots of euphemisms there, I know. But I was a touch gobsmacked about something I heard on the TV show “On Patrol” the other day.

Seems that there was a fire alarm going off at a business in Florida, and no one could reach the owner. There was no fire, but officials wanted to check the building. So, the Police Department contacted the Fire Department, and got a key to the building.

Apparently, in Florida, it’s a law that businesses must keep a lockbox with access to a building, and that the Fire Department must have access to the lockbox.

This is not just a Florida thing; many cities in Texas have passed ordinances requiring the same thing.

That put me in mind of an incident in my past, one that is indicative of the same issue. I was driving home from my parents’ house in New Mexico to my home in Texas, and was pulled over by a DPS trooper.

I was not speeding, nor weaving, or had anything major wrong with my truck, so I was wondering why I was pulled over. I soon found out, and was equally gobsmacked: the trooper, nice as he was, issued me a warning because my license plate light was out.

Yes, you read that right. The light on my license plate.

This had to have been brought up by someone, which then made it to the ear of some politician, and now enshrined in Texas Traffic Laws is a bit saying that if someone can’t see my license plate because the light is out, I’m breaking the law.

The idea that politicians must react to perceived threats to the commonwealth with ridiculous laws is not a new one, but that reaction has increasingly encroached on our liberty, and in my more somber moments, I wonder why we still think we’re in the land of the free.

For me, some of the most insidious phrases ever uttered are, “If it saves just one life, isn’t it worth it?” or “Think of the children!” or even “We must keep this from becoming worse.” All of those have been uttered as reasons for politicians to chip away at freedom … for our own good.

On Sunday afternoon, the U.S. Senate passed legislation that will “kickstart the era of affordable clean energy in America” by dumping $300 billion into climate change and clean energy programs, of course saving us from our environment-damaging selves. 

Additionally, the bill extends subsidies for Obamacare through 2024, saving us from our non-insurance-having, victims-of-evil-medical-and-insurance-companies selves.

Setting aside the increase in corporate taxes (hey, waddaya want for nothing?), the new tax on stock buybacks, and the as-yet-understood increase in IRS enforcement, please understand that this is being done four our own collective good.

My problem here is not that people (read: politicians) claim they want to help; that’s just the sheep’s clothing. The wolf underneath is that government on every level is putting itself in charge of every aspect of life in the United States, and aside from costing us dearly in the way of taxes, taxes, and taxes on taxes, it’s costing us freedom.

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Reports released on Uvalde tragedy

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081122 robert nicholsThe Advance Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center and the House Investigative Committee on the Robb Elementary Shooting released reports on their assessment of the tragic shooting in Uvalde.

By Sen. Robert Nichols

Sixty-four years ago this month, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, which established NASA and emphasized our commitment to space exploration and manned space flight. NASA later elected to build a new flight-control center outside of Houston, making Texas an essential piece of the space race.

Here are five things happening around your state:

ALERRT and House Committee release reports on shooting in Uvalde

This month, both the Advance Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center and the House Investigative Committee on the Robb Elementary Shooting released reports on their assessment of the tragic shooting in Uvalde.

Each report highlighted different parts of the overall response. The ALERRT center covered the timeline, a physical assessment, and a tactical assessment. The tactical assessment spoke to their expertise on strategies used during the shooting and different strategies that could have been used in this situation. Their expertise lies in responder training and their report reflected deficiencies in training and execution of that training. To read the report, visit https://alerrt.org/.

The House Investigative Committee on the Robb Elementary Shooting released their report a few weeks after the ALERRT Center’s report. The House report detailed an extensive timeline of the events leading up to the shooting, during the shooting, and after the shooting. They delved into the attacker’s family life and background, the school’s security and facilities, the law enforcement response, and drew several factual conclusions. I commend my colleagues for their important work on this issue and look forward to working with other House and Senate members to develop recommendations moving forward. To read the full report, go to https://house.texas.gov/_media/pdf/committees/reports/87interim/Robb-Elementary-Investigative-Committee-Report.pdf.

Suicide hotline number changes to 988

This month, the Federal Communications Commission implemented a change to the national suicide hotline number. Instead of the old 11-digit number, the new number is just three digits and easier to remember. Now, calling 988 will give you resources for immediate mental health emergencies, such as people at risk of suicide and other crises. The hope is that calling 988 for a mental health crisis will become just as instinctive as calling 911 in an emergency.

Those who call the hotline will connect directly with a crisis center staffed by trained professionals that offer free and immediate help at any time. The line offers communication options in several languages and is now available. People in distress can also chat with a trained counselor by visiting www.988lifeline.org.

Universal Service Fund rates will increase on some phone lines

Beginning August 1, telephone customers will see an increase in monthly bills due to a court ruling that state regulators must fully fund the Universal Service Fund (USF). The USF was created to ensure that Texans in rural areas have access to phone services, which is legally a public necessity. Each telephone customer’s bill has a line item for the USF which has charged a 3.3 percent fee of the cost for intrastate voice service. That percentage is now going up to 24 percent. For many single-line customers, that charge was as low as 30 cents a month.

That cost could rise to about $2 per month or more. This change comes after the Public Utility Commission, which oversees the USF, rejected a more modest increase in 2020, which would’ve brought the assessment to 6.4 percent. In 2021, Governor Abbott vetoed a measure aimed at addressing the issue, as well.

Tax free weekend for back-to-school

This year’s sales tax holiday weekend for back-to-school took place Friday, August 5 through Sunday, August 7.
Texans saved money on tax-free purchases of most clothing, footwear, school supplies, and backpacks during the annual Tax-Free weekend.
Qualifying items can be purchased in-store or online. The exemption applies to each eligible item sold for less than $100 and there is no limit to the number of qualifying items Texans can buy.

Texas Parks and Wildlife accepting drawn hunt permit applications

Texas Parks and Wildlife opened applications for drawn hunt permits for the 2022-2023 hunting season in July.
There are almost 10,000 permits in 62 hunt categories. The permits allow drawn hunts on public and private land, including hunts for white-tailed and mule deer, pronghorn, turkey, alligator, dove, and some exotic species. An online interactive map shows all drawn hunt opportunities by category or area.

All applications, fees, and permit issuances are handled online. Permits are open to resident and non-resident hunters. The first application deadlines are in August. For more information, visit https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/public/public_hunt_drawing/.

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Helping counties help themselves

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081122 trent ashbyThe House Committee on County Affairs is a nine-member committee that has jurisdiction over the organization, creation, governance, and finances that apply to Texas counties.

By Rep. Trent Ashby
District 57

As we enter August and what is typically the hottest month of the year, we are experiencing severe drought and dangerous wildfire conditions across every region of Texas. Please do your part by observing any county burn bans that might be in effect and be on the lookout for any grass fires that might pop up.

I also think it’s highly appropriate and timely to take a moment to thank our firefighters, most of which are volunteers, that are working in these extreme conditions to protect our property and communities from fire devastation. We owe them a debt of gratitude, and I hope you’ll join me in praying for the safety of our firefighters and first responders.

For more information about the current wildfire situation and how you can protect your property, please visit: https://tfsweb.tamu.edu/CurrentSituation/.

With that, we’ll dive back into our examination of House interim charges.

The next interim committee we’ll explore is the House Committee on County Affairs. This nine-member committee has jurisdiction over the organization, creation, governance, and finances that apply to Texas counties. Additionally, the committee oversees regional councils of government and the cooperation between local units of government and their respective counties.

This committee also has purview over the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, which is responsible for our county correctional facilities’ construction, maintenance, and operations.

During the interim, members of this committee will actively oversee three pieces of legislation to ensure the language and provisions are working as intended. The first, HB 1545, continues the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) for an additional 12 years.

In the most recent session, TCJS underwent the Sunset Review process. The Sunset process provides the Legislature with the opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of each agency and decide whether the agency should be abolished or whether improvements can be made to help the agency to better fulfill its mission. One such improvement in HB 1545 is a revision to the requirements for enforcement actions, minimum standards, and the reinspection of jails found to be out of compliance with minimum standards.

This committee also will monitor the implementation of HB 1906, which establishes a grant program to reimburse counties for the cost of cases involving family violence.

Another bill being monitored is HB 2073, legislation to ensure emergency personnel and first responders receive paid leave for any time spent in quarantine due to COVID exposure.

The House Committee on County Affairs has also been tasked with an issue that I’ve heard a lot about across our House District, which is reviewing the availability of behavioral health services within our county jails and Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities.

Finally, the Committee will hold a joint charge with the Committee on Corrections to determine best practice recommendations to increase access to treatment for individuals experiencing withdrawals from drug or alcohol abuse.

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 be posting regular updates on what’s happening in your State Capitol and sharing information that could be useful to you and your family:

https://www.facebook.com/RepTrentAshby/.

Rep. Trent Ashby represents District 57, soon to be District 9, which includes Trinity County, in the Texas Legislature.

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The ship of liberty has foundered

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FromEditorsDesk TonyBy Tony Farkas
tony@polkcounty
publishing.com

Pardon my dour tone this week. I’m struggling with the fable of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and wondering if and when a swing in the pendulum is coming.

Lots of euphemisms there, I know. But I was a touch gobsmacked about something I heard on the TV show “On Patrol” the other day.

Seems that there was a fire alarm going off at a business in Florida, and no one could reach the owner. There was no fire, but officials wanted to check the building. So, the Police Department contacted the Fire Department, and got a key to the building.

Apparently, in Florida, it’s a law that businesses must keep a lockbox with access to a building, and that the Fire Department must have access to the lockbox.

This is not just a Florida thing; many cities in Texas have passed ordinances requiring the same thing.

That put me in mind of an incident in my past, one that is indicative of the same issue. I was driving home from my parents’ house in New

Mexico to my home in Texas, and was pulled over by a DPS trooper.

I was not speeding, nor weaving, or had anything major wrong with my truck, so I was wondering why I was pulled over. I soon found out, and was equally gobsmacked: the trooper, nice as he was, issued me a warning because my license plate light was out.

Yes, you read that right. The light on my license plate.

This had to have been brought up by someone, which then made it to the ear of some politician, and now enshrined in Texas Traffic Laws is a bit saying that if someone can’t see my license plate because the light is out, I’m breaking the law.

The idea that politicians must react to perceived threats to the commonwealth with ridiculous laws is not a new one, but that reaction has increasingly encroached on our liberty, and in my more somber moments, I wonder why we still think we’re in the land of the free.

For me, some of the most insidious phrases ever uttered are, “If it saves just one life, isn’t it worth it?” or “Think of the children!” or even “We must keep this from becoming worse.” All of those have been uttered as reasons for politicians to chip away at freedom … for our own good.

On Sunday afternoon, the U.S. Senate passed legislation that will “kickstart the era of affordable clean energy in America” by dumping $300 billion into climate change and clean energy programs, of course saving us from our environment-damaging selves.

Additionally, the bill extends subsidies for Obamacare through 2024, saving us from our non-insurance-having, victims-of-evil-medical-and-insurance-companies selves.

Setting aside the increase in corporate taxes (hey, waddaya want for nothing?), the new tax on stock buybacks, and the as-yet-understood increase in IRS enforcement, please understand that this is being done four our own collective good.

My problem here is not that people (read: politicians) claim they want to help; that’s just the sheep’s clothing. The wolf underneath is that government on every level is putting itself in charge of every aspect of life in the United States, and aside from costing us dearly in the way of taxes, taxes, and taxes on taxes, it’s costing us freedom.

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