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Nichols appointed to Special Committee to Protect All Texans

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071022 robert nichols

By Sen. Robert Nichols
District 3

This weekend our nation will celebrate the Fourth of July, commemorating the passage of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress in 1776. Have a safe and fun Fourth of July.
Here are five things happening around your state:

Committee to Protect All Texans hearing

This month, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick appointed me chair of the Special Committee to Protect All Texans. The committee was formed in response to the tragic shooting at Robb Elementary School. We were charged with examining school safety, mental health, social media, police training, and firearm safety.

We held two hearings on back-to-back days. We heard testimony from the Texas Department of Public Safety walking through the timeline of events in Uvalde. We then heard from various law enforcement agencies including the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center, the Texas Police Chiefs Association, and others who all spoke on the state of police training in Texas and school-based law enforcement programs.
We also heard from the Texas Education Agency, the Texas School Safety Center, and the Texas Association of School

Administrators regarding school safety and recommendations they had to improve school safety.

The second day was focused on mental health and firearm safety. We heard extensive testimony from the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium, Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Council of Community Centers, and others about improvements that need to be made to Texas’ mental health system.

We also heard from Texas Gun Sense and Sandy Hook Promise regarding policy changes that could be made to improve firearm safety in Texas. Now that we’ve heard testimony from a wide array of voices, the committee will develop recommendations for the Legislature to consider in the upcoming session.

Supreme Court upholds football coach’s right to pray

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a former Washington state high school football coach has the right to pray on the field following games.

The court held that the school violated the free exercise of religion and free speech clauses of the First Amendment by telling him he could not pray so publicly on the 50-yard line after the games.

The coach was put on administrative leave and suspended from the program after players began to join him on the field to pray. He filed suit the next year.

This is a victory for free speech and freedom of expression. It guarantees that public employees are not limited in their private religious expression.

Business and Commerce, Finance committees hold hearings

The Senate was busy with several hearings in Austin. The Senate Finance Committee met to hear testimony on the mental health delivery system. The Committee discussed the state’s Comprehensive Plan for State-Funded Inpatient Mental Health Services and the Statewide Behavioral Health Strategic Plan. We also examined current state investments in mental health and how to reduce waitlist for state services.

The Senate Business and Commerce Committee also met this week to conduct oversight of the implementation of House Bill 5, also known as the Broadband Office Bill, and discuss anticipated federal funds for broadband initiatives.

In the last special session, the Legislature appropriated $500 million in Federal funds to the Broadband Development Office to assist with broadband deployment. We anticipate Texas could receive between $1 billion and $4 billion in additional federal funds over the next year to help close the digital divide.

Severe drought forecast across Texas

The U.S. Drought Monitor indicated this week that nearly 65 percent of Texas is under severe drought conditions. Burn bans have been implemented in many counties across the state to mitigate wildfire risks.

Much of East Texas is only considered to be in moderate drought, but many East Texas counties have put burn bans in place. Those counties in Senate District 3 include Anderson, Angelina, Cherokee, Henderson, Houston, Liberty, Orange, Polk, Sabine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity and Tyler.

Continued progress on Battleship Texas project

Earlier this month, the new dry dock from Gulf Copper arrived in Galveston. This dry dock will be used to repair Battleship Texas later this summer. The Battleship Texas Foundation anticipates the ship will depart using the dry dock in mid-August.

This is a huge step forward in repairing and restoring the Battleship. To read more about the Battleship restoration project and see photos of the progress, please visit www.battleshiptexas.org.

Sen. Robert Nichols represents District 3, which includes San Jacinto County, in the Texas Legislature.

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John Philip Sousa: Composer and baseball pitching ‘ace’

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071022 opinon piece

In the mid-19th century, composer John Philip Sousa was one of America’s biggest “base ball bugs,” as fans were then called.

In his autobiography, “Marching Along,” Sousa, born in 1854, described the joy base ball (as newspapers dubbed tzcisive Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

Throughout the war, when soldiers on either side weren’t marching or engaged in battle, they played baseball to break up camp life’s monotony. Commanders and army doctors encouraged baseball believing that it kept the soldiers fit, healthy and out of trouble. While soldiers frequently took part in foot races, wrestling and boxing matches, and occasionally even cricket or football, baseball was the most popular of all competitive sports in both army camps. Historians noted that baseball came of age during the Civil War, and entered mainstream American culture during those years.

As a Washington, D.C. youth, Sousa watched the game evolve from its earliest days through the Dead Ball era that showcased baseball’s first inductees: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Honus Wagner. Starting in 1857, the 21-run endpoint was eliminated, with games instead ending after nine innings.

Foreshadowing modern-day baseball, other rule changes were introduced, including called strikes — previously, strikes were only the result of missed swings. Also, cricket-style flat bats were banned, and a white line marked the boundary between fair and foul territory; the umpire no longer had to guess where the ball landed.

Sousa was more than a fan. Through his years as a bandmaster, Sousa often pitched in games which pitted his band members against local nines. Eventually, his band grew large enough that intra-squad games between the brass and woodwind sections were played. Whenever the opportunity arose to promote the band in front of a large audience, Sousa, often called “The American March King,” would pitch an inning or two. His band members referred to Sousa as “Ace,” and he pitched until age 62.

In the February 1909 issue of “Baseball Magazine,” Sousa, in his essay titled “The Greatest Game in the World,” wrote effusively about playing the American Guards on Independence Day, 1900 at the Paris, France, Exposition Universelle, the World’s Fair. “What,” asked Sousa, “could have been more appropriate for two American organizations in a foreign land to do on the glorious Fourth?” The All-American game that Sousa loved was one of the first baseball games played in Europe.

At the behest of Baseball Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, and to celebrate the National League’s 50th anniversary, Sousa in 1925 wrote “The National Game” that combined his two greatest passions, baseball and marches. The original performances featured four baseball bat solos.

As rousing as “The National Game” march is, Sousa’s classic, “Stars and Stripes Forever,” is more uplifting. Written in 1896, and congressionally approved as the nation’s official march in 1987, Sousa’s lyrics have inspired patriotism in generations of Americans:

“Red and white and starry blue
Is freedom’s shield and home.

“Other nations may deem their flags the best
And cheer them with fervid elation
“But the flag of the North and South and West
Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom’s nation.

“Hurrah for the flag of the free!

May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.”

Copyright 2022 Joe Guzzardi, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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There be monsters among us

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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Men In Black was a movie released in 1997 starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones (among others) which chronicled the work of a secret organization policing extraterrestrials living on earth disguised as humans, animals, and insects. To the average human, they looked like anyone else. The Men in Black, though, who knew the truth that there were tens of thousands of space aliens living on earth, were the only ones who could recognize them for what they were. The film (and its sequel, Men in Black 2) has become a cult classic, despite its ridiculous premise. Surely it would be obvious of monsters walked among us.

Three days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe V Wade in the Dobbs decision, we learned of a 10-year-old in Ohio, a rape victim, who was six weeks pregnant, and was denied an abortion in her state of Ohio, after Ohio’s six-week trigger ban on abortion went into effect.

The girl was forced to travel to Indiana, where abortion hasn’t yet been restricted (but will be after the next legislative session there) to get the abortion.

Let me be blunt. Anyone who would deny an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim is a monster. That denial shows a complete lack of humanity, empathy, and compassion. No Christian should support such an atrocity. I shouldn’t even have to list the reasons why; but here we are.

A child’s body is not mature, it is using its resources to sustain the child as it grows and matures. Under the best of circumstances gestation and childbirth put enormous strain on an adult woman’s body. There are hormonal and physical changes that occur as the pregnancy progresses that sometimes result in lasting consequences, including gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. Hormonal changes cause psychological problems for many women.

A 10-year-old is unlikely to deliver a baby vaginally, so there will probably be a caesarian performed when the pregnancy doesn’t go to term. And then a recovery, all the time the 10-year-old child does not completely understand what is happening to them.

And then the child has the baby of their rapist to…what? Raise a baby? Children raising children? Who’s going to financially support the child and her child? Well, just put the baby up for adoption. And then you are left with a physically and psychologically damaged child. You’ve destroyed a living person’s life to save a group of cells.

South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem, asked if the child should have the baby, seemed to have no problem with the idea. She said that “every single life is – every single life is precious. This tragedy is horrific. But, in South Dakota, the law today is that the abortions are illegal, except to save the life of the mother.” It seems to me that Noem doesn’t really think the 10-year-olds life is precious. She is willing to destroy that child’s future to save a six-week-old group of cells.

This is the kind of atrocity we are going to see over and over now that Roe is overturned. Those who overturned Roe are monsters and those who support these state laws void of compassion and empathy are monsters. It seems to be that cruelty has become, not a side effect of the Christian Right's zealotry, but the point of it. 

What kind of country tolerates 10-year-old children being abused like this in pursuit of Christian theocracy?

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Not sure a court case was even necessary

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FromEditorsDesk TonyBy Tony Farkas
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Among the other cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court recently, one that was central to Maine could have far-reaching effects in all other states.

In a nutshell, the court decided that Maine must make public funds available for religious schools. The state had a program by which money from a tuition program could be used for private education in towns without public education.

However, their law excluded Christian organizations, because of some nonsense about excluding the gender-fluid or homosexual students or staff, and promoting one religion. The program offers up to $12,000 per student in tuition.

The question then becomes this: Why was it necessary to take this through the court system for years?

From the state’s point of view, it was maintaining the separation of church and state that codified into the Constitution; that’s not what the First Amendment says, though.

Aside from that, I’m thinking that there’s a misguided need for the state, and by extension the feds, to keep its iron grip on schools. You know, control.

I’ve touched on it before, in that the way I read the First Amendment, it says Congress shall make no law creating a national religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof …, which to me is pretty clear. Congress wasn’t involved with this, but it seems to me that excluding Christian schools from benefitting from government largesse because of their beliefs is exclusionary.

More often than not, states defer to the federal government, particularly taking its marching orders from Washington, D.C., with respect to education. That also factors into this, and that’s even more puzzling than the stance regarding religion.

There isn’t any codicil in the Constitution that has anything to do with education. It wasn’t until the Carter administration that the Department of Education was a thing. President Carter elevated it to Cabinet status.

So then here’s even more questions: What does the federal government have to do with teaching? Why is it necessary for them to be involved at all? Having states involved is acceptable in that the way our government is set up, states are supposed to have the most power, but the question is apropos for them as well. Why does there need to be so many layers of administration and meddling with education funds?

Does all this state and federal meddling make local school boards unnecessary, since they have to dance to the tunes of the politicians in order to receive the necessary funding to educate their charges?

Government aside, what was the point of dictating how money is to be spent, to the point of forcing children into schools that are unacceptable to the parents? Because anyone that feels that a state’s right to dictate how tax funds is more important than the proper education of a child has some flaws in their logic.

See, those parents are the ones who are paying the tax funds for education, and ultimately, the state, the feds, even the county boards need to defer to the wishes of the parent on what is best for their children, especially in the realm of education.
The students are the reason, the only reason, for any of this, and trading away their future to meet arbitrary rules is never an option.

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They want you to lose hope

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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I was looking today at polling indicating that young adults in the U.S. are losing hope. They are losing hope politically, economically, and culturally. They are watching their rights being taken away and their country being torn apart by old white men, incredibly rich men and corporations, and religious zealots who have gamed the system to usurp control of our government and courts. And are concluding that they have no power to change things.

The fact is, though, that you young adults are the only hope this country has. And that scares those now clinging to power at any cost. 

You need to understand that the object of their actions is to make you lose hope. They fear that you will come to understand your real power and take control away from them. They are lying to you, manipulating the government, the economic system, and society, deliberately adding gasoline to a culture war of their own making to distract you from what they are about.

Let’s talk about a few of those lies.

Shocked that the Supreme Court struck down Roe v Wade, thus allowing numerous state trigger laws outlawing abortion to go into effect in those states?  Well, as Justice Thomas pointed out in his concurring opinion, you ain’t seen nothing yet. He noted that protections for gay marriage, contraception, and same-sex consensual relations should also be struck down because they established rights by the same rationale as Roe. Oddly absent from his opinion is the right to interracial marriage, also created by that same rationale. Perhaps because he is in an interracial marriage. Hypocrisy seems to be o.k. with him.

The majority in the Supreme Court insist they are deciding these things as they are because they are originalists, that the words of the constitution as it was created by the founding fathers is the do all and end all its meaning. That the constitution must be interpreted based on the original understanding “at the time it was adopted.” You will often hear the argument from anti-abortion advocates that the word “abortion” is not in the constitution, so Roe v Wade should never have been considered by the court.

I don’t think I have to explain that there are many words that are not in the constitution, which is why it is the Supreme Courts job to interpret the constitution. Roe, for example, was derived from the right to privacy granted in the constitution. The Fourth Amendment states, [t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Clearly that would include medical privacy and autonomy over your own body.

Many people have the idea from drawings in high school textbooks that the founding fathers were a bunch of old, incredibly wise men wearing white wigs, who in the constitution created a perfect document that they intended to be the beginning and end of the basis for our country forever. That is not true. 

When the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, most of the Founding Fathers were under the age of 40. Many were teenagers and young adults. James Madison was 18 years old; John Marshall was 20 years old, Alexander Hamilton 21 years old and James Madison 25 years old. Thomas Jefferson was only 33 years old.

These weren’t old men with wisdom gained from decades of life. They certainly didn’t always agree with each other and, in fact, varied greatly among their opinions. They were acutely aware that they were not creating founding documents that would hold up over all time (many weren’t, in fact, convinced the U.S. could survive at all). They were simply hashing out documents that they understood would have to evolve and change over time.

I’m an old man. Our government institutions are filled with old men. Most of us haven’t gained much wisdom because of living a long time. Many old men in government have been corrupted by conflicts of interest, by the wealth accumulated from voting for the interests of multi-billion-dollar corporations and special interests over decades of serving in office. Many others have theocratic and white nationalist agendas. 

We don’t need old men in government who count their wealth while looking back longingly to 100 years ago when white male privilege pampered their feelings of superiority. We need young men and women of vision, and a desire for true freedom. The old men know that. And they are doing everything in their power to make you lose hope, to convince you to give up the fight for a better future and accept defeat.

I can write these columns every day for whatever time a 71-year-old man has left, but I have no stake in the future. You are our only hope for creating a progressive, inclusive country. Don’t listen to the lies. Get involved in government, vote for the future, not the past. Create the country you want to live in. I lived in the middle of the 20th century. You do not want to go back there.

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