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A disturbance in the Matrix

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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While several midterm races remain too close to call at the time I’m writing this column, and a runoff looms in December in the Warnock/Walker Senatorial race, there are a few general observations about the midterm elections that seem safe to speculate about. What should have been a Republican earthquake turned into a mere disturbance in the Matrix, and those of us who are news junkies all have an opinion of why.

Numerous Republican politicians and Right-Wing Media celebrities were quick to address the gorilla in the corner during the lead up to the midterms, the former President’s influence on the election outcomes. The sharp knives came out almost immediately, and most were aimed straight at Donald Trump. It’s hard to reach any other conclusion than that inserting himself into the campaigns was a drag on many of the candidates, for a couple of reasons.

Many agree that the quality of the candidates, or lack thereof, was one factor. Trump backed several candidates who clearly under performed in elections they should have won easily. And those still locked in close races. Trump, of course, is blaming others, including his wife, for steering him toward endorsing unelectable candidates. While he takes credit for over 200 winning candidates, these were primarily candidates in safe races who would have won regardless of his endorsement. The losses tended to be in consequential races. Races that should not been close for the out of power party in a midterm election.

Other Republicans have pointed out that voters other than the MAGA faithful have moved past relitigating the 2020 election and Trump’s grievance driven rehashing of old, now irrelevant feuds. His unending rallies supposedly held to support Republican candidates focused primarily on himself and raised money that mostly went into his own pocket, not those of the candidates.

But Trump was only one factor in the disappointing for Republicans midterms. Several court decisions restricting personal liberties drove many Democrat voters to the polls. The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, throwing decisions about abortion back to state legislators, was an earthquake among Democrats and Progressives. Realizing that the SC was willing to undo 50-year-old decisions on a whim convinced a lot of folks that Democracy itself iis under threat. The efforts by Republican state legislators to restrict voting rights also set off alarm bells. Attacks against LGBTQ+ individuals also raised the perceived threat level to democracy.

Voters seem to have tired in general of the politics of hate and division, voting for more rational candidates who at least pretended to want to move the country forward, rather than burn it down.

I hope that we’ve turned a corner and will move beyond the us against them politics of the Trump era. Trump’s star seems to be descending. Perhaps that’s a good sign. 

We are probably heading for at least a couple of years of gridlock. I had a good friend that frequently said that gridlock in government is a good thing, because maybe they won’t be able to steal from us for a while! I hope that will not be the result of all of this. We face too many serious problems in this country to do nothing for the next two years.

If you voted, thank you, thank you, thank you. Maintain your vigilance. The threat to democracy is real. 

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House committee charged with criminal jurisprudence

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Trent AshbyAs the month of October has come to a close, sportsmen and women across the state are counting down the days until the upcoming hunting season. With white-tailed deer and duck season just around the corner, I want to remind all of my fellow hunters to make sure you’ve purchased your hunting license and federal duck stamp before heading to the field. I’d also like to encourage you to consider downloading the Texas Outdoor Annual App, where you can access information about hunting season dates and bag limits for your county, find public hunting lands nearby, and review various hunting regulations, even without internet service. You can also access your hunting and fishing license on your device and even purchase your hunting license through the app. For more information, visit www.tpwd.texas.gov.

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

House Interim Charge: Criminal Jurisprudence

The next stop on our tour of House Committees is the Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence. With nine members, the Committee has legislative jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to criminal law, penalties, criminal procedure in the courts of Texas, and revisions or amendments to the penal code. The Committee also oversees two state agencies, the Office of State Prosecuting Attorney and the Texas State Council for Interstate Adult Offender Supervision.

During the interim, the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will monitor the implementation of policies enacted during the 87th Legislative Session and ensure the measures and outcomes are working as intended. For instance, HB 1540 made much-needed changes to human trafficking laws by strengthening protections for victims and adding additional investigatory resources for prosecutors. While the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force has made significant progress in combatting human trafficking offenders, this bill serves to bolster our efforts by providing additional resources to the ongoing fight against human trafficking.

The Committee will also study reentry and integration programs and make recommendations for reducing employment barriers for certain people with a criminal record. Reentry programs are designed to assist returning citizens who have served their time and are motivated to “reenter” society by competing for a job, attaining stable housing, supporting their families, and contributing to their communities. The study also reviews the length of time certain criminal offenses remain on a defendant’s record and considers the impact of expanding the offenses that qualify for an order of non-disclosure.

The House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will also study the availability of victim services, including community-based trauma recovery, housing and relocation assistance, employment protections, and other services that enhance recovery and safety for victims of violent crimes. Additionally, committee members are charged with making recommendations for streamlining the grant administration process and improving access to community-based services in neighborhoods with the highest crime rates and for victims of violent crimes.

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/.

 

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Hug a veteran

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas
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Way back in the day, something along the lines of 30-ish years ago, I was a pup learning the editor trade at a small Eastern New Mexico daily.

After a meeting with my boss one day, he tasks me to write an editorial about Veterans Day. Since I had never written such a thing before, I countered with my best puzzled/frightened look.

My editor saw this and offered a bit of advice: “If it helps, we’re for it.”

It didn’t help, mostly because I already was for it. I plugged away and was able to toss out a respectable piece, and that ended up running in the three newspapers that were part of the group.

Flash-forward 30-some-odd years, and I’m still for it, and I’m betting most if not all of you are as well.

My father, who still lives in Eastern New Mexico, is a veteran, having served 20 years in the Air Force. His brother served in the Navy, and currently is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

My mother worked in numerous capacities with the military, and even became the first civilian leader of a Social Actions office at the air base. Myself, I was 17 years a dependent, meaning I followed a lot of the same rules (I actually told my dad that because of that, I already served, and didn’t want to enlist. There were other reasons, but that’s not important right now).

One of the things our government mostly gets right is creating a military to protect us from enemies. I say mostly, since one of the government’s enumerated powers is to raise and maintain a military force, but most would agree that not every one of their uses in the last 246 years has been sensible (again, an argument for another time).

The making of the military as one that is for the most part all voluntary is an exceptional development, and even though when the need arose, our fearless leaders (RE**s, as the lingo was) instituted a draft, and to this day, 18-year-old males still are required to register with Selective Service.

But that is for dire circumstances. The volunteers, and even those who were drafted, that served our nation right or wrong deserve all respect.

Imagine the dedication and even love of family and country that was necessary to enter military service. While the idea of free or mostly free food, lodging and later education, retirement, life insurance and medical care may have been the motivating factor, it was a decision born of love, since at any time the military will be called in to conflict.

Even today, deployments overseas into Asia, the Middle East, and Europe have these heroes away from family and country, serving the country despite the risks — death, pain, maiming, PTSD, all manner of maladies notwithstanding.

I have been enchanted to see that in the last few years appreciation for the military has grown, given that after Vietnam, the military was vilified. Even then, though, they served.

Now that they’re home, they continue to serve their communities through charitable endeavors. So on Friday, raise a flag, salute your friends who served, and be thankful they sacrificed to keep our way of life safe.

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House Committee focuses on legal matters

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Trent AshbyAs the month of October comes to a close, sportsmen and women across the state are counting down the days until the upcoming hunting season.

With white-tailed deer and duck season just around the corner, I want to remind all of my fellow hunters to make sure you’ve purchased your hunting license and federal duck stamp before heading to the field.

I’d also like to encourage you to consider downloading the Texas Outdoor Annual App, where you can access information about hunting season dates and bag limits for your county, find public hunting lands nearby, and review various hunting regulations, even without internet service.

You can also access your hunting and fishing license on your device and even purchase your hunting license through the app. For more information, visit www.tpwd.texas.gov.

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

The next stop on our tour of House Committees is the Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence. With nine members, the Committee has legislative jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to criminal law, penalties, criminal procedure in the courts of Texas, and revisions or amendments to the penal code. The Committee also oversees two state agencies, the Office of State Prosecuting Attorney and the Texas State Council for Interstate Adult Offender Supervision.

During the interim, the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will monitor the implementation of policies enacted during the 87th Legislative Session and ensure the measures and outcomes are working as intended.

For instance, HB 1540 made much-needed changes to human trafficking laws by strengthening protections for victims and adding additional investigatory resources for prosecutors. While the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force has made significant progress in combatting human trafficking offenders, this bill serves to bolster our efforts by providing additional resources to the ongoing fight against human trafficking.

The Committee will also study reentry and integration programs and make recommendations for reducing employment barriers for certain people with a criminal record. Reentry programs are designed to assist returning citizens who have served their time and are motivated to “reenter” society by competing for a job, attaining stable housing, supporting their families, and contributing to their communities.

The study also reviews the length of time certain criminal offenses remain on a defendant’s record and considers the impact of expanding the offenses that qualify for an order of non-disclosure.

The House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will also study the availability of victim services, including community-based trauma recovery, housing and relocation assistance, employment protections, and other services that enhance recovery and safety for victims of violent crimes.

Additionally, committee members are charged with making recommendations for streamlining the grant administration process and improving access to community-based services in neighborhoods with the highest crime rates and for victims of violent crimes.

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

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Fake Meats Are A Bust!

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Horace McQueen ColumnBy Horace McQueen

After spending millions of dollars trying to convince folks that fake meats are the way to go, those efforts have come to naught. Not long ago the burger chains got into the action with all sorts of plant-based burger look-a-likes. Their efforts failed to convince beef lovers their product makes a real burger.  That’s good news for beef producers!

Those East Texans raising pine timber as a source of income are still awaiting a bonanza. The housing boom is proving a bust and the interest rates are running many would-be homeowners to cover. With interest rates at 6%--and probably more soon—the price of home ownership is just too risky for some. Also some timberland owners are disappointed with the glowing returns they thought to achieve when planting pine seedling 15-20 years ago. That never came to pass and in our area, timber offers little in the way of a decent return on the investment. Rob Hughes, Lufkin-based head of the Texas Forestry Assn. says we have an oversupply of timber and landowners are questioning their future plans. He said some timber owners are converting their timber tracts into pasture and hay meadows.

Though times look bleak for the next few years, timber production still is an amazing dollar generator in east Texas. Bill Oates, Associate Director of the Texas Forest Service, says last year the Texas forestry sector had a total economic impact of $41.6 billion while supporting 170,000 jobs. The forest-based industry was one of the top ten manufacturing sectors in Texas and timber ranked seventh among our agricultural commodities.

Combine Texas beef with Texas wines and you have a winner. This Friday, October 28th it’s a beef and wine tasting program coming to Flint (South of Tyler). Dr. Davey Griffin, professor and Extension Meat Specialist at Texas A & M will discuss grilling of different beef cuts. Plenty of wine will be available, from the nearby Kiepersol Winery. And for those interested in starting a winery—the what, how and how much--Fran Pontasch, vitriculture program specialist, will answer those, and other questions. It all takes place at Kims #47 in Flint. The program takes place from 2-4 p.m. and all are invited!  That’s –30—This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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