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Preserving the past can enhance the future

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From The Editors Desk Emily WootenSummers seemed to last forever as a child. And when it was time for school to resume, I was usually ready, if for no other reason than to see my friends and talk about what we did all summer. As an adult, summer seems to fly by in the blink of an eye. We’ve barely bought the daughter a new swimsuit and then it’s already time to go back-to-school shopping for supplies and clothes.

We typically take numerous small trips throughout the year. We’ve found that this helps keep our batteries charged so to speak and avoid burnout from work, school and other obligations. We’re talking about going on a family vacation this summer, one where we actually take a whole week off from work and go somewhere out of state. We don’t have many summers left with our daughter so it seems all the more crucial.

All this talk of traveling and the various things to see and do when traveling has me reminiscing about some of the really neat, funky refurbished downtown squares we’ve seen in our travels throughout the state – Denton, Georgetown, McKinney, Bastrop, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Taylor. And then I realized they shared a common denominator. All of these towns are designated Main Street Communities.

Not familiar with Main Street Communities? Under the umbrella of the Texas Historical Commission, the Texas Main Street Program was born of the belief that downtown revitalization is a crucial tool for enhancing the economic and social health of a community. In addition to being the most visible indicator of community pride and economic health, the historic downtown is also the foundation of the unique heritage of a community. The historic buildings in a downtown are prime locations for the establishment of unique entrepreneurial businesses and can also be tourism attractors, all of which add to the community’s sales tax collections and property values.

A community’s unique historic resources are valuable and the appropriate preservation of these resources contributes to the community’s overall economic, social and cultural vitality. And these are just a few of the reasons why preservation is so important.

The Texas Historical Commission annually designates the month of May as Preservation Month. Preservation Month acknowledges the mission across the country to cultivate a love of historic places, to help others understand the importance of saving history and to demonstrate the importance of saving real places that tell real stories.

During the month of May, members of the Polk County Historical Commission placed “Preservation Matters” signs throughout the county where buildings or homes have been preserved, including structures that are in the process of being restored or needing restoration.

I can’t help but chuckle about the fact that our daughter was well into her teens before she realized that not everyone went to museums and historic sites on their vacations. Following that revelation, the outings she had enjoyed immensely over the course of her childhood now seemed like drudgery. But that’s okay. We’ve seen her love of history, and appreciation for it, blossom considerably in recent years. And I can’t help but think that part of that is due to her visits to the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, the Texas Capitol, the Alamo, San Marcos Springs and The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown, Texas Sports Hall of Fame in Waco, the Mob Museum in Las Vegas, NASA, the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Kerrville Arts & Cultural Center, San Antonio Center for Art, the Marfa & Presidio County Museum, the Sue & Frank Mayborn Natural Science and Cultural History Museum Complex in Waco, the Fort Worth Stockyards, the Institute of Texas Cultures in San Antonio, the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis and several forts in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

So when you plan your summer vacation, think about visiting historic sites, museums and courthouses. Stroll down main streets and support businesses that invest in the historic fabric of their towns.

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House lawmakers defy Abbott on vouchers

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State Capital HighlightsA key House education committee adjourned last week without voting on a school voucher bill that is Gov. Greg Abbott’s top priority this session, the Houston Chronicle reported. Barring some unforeseen maneuver in the last week of the regular legislative session, the bill is effectively dead for now.

The Senate had approved a bill that would provide Texas families $8,000 in taxpayer money to fund private or charter school tuition. The House narrowed the scope so that it would only apply to students with disabilities or those attending schools with a failing grade issued by the Texas Education Agency – an estimated 800,000 students. The Senate bill would make vouchers available to 5.5 million Texas students.

State Rep. Brad Buckley, R-Killeen, chair of the House Public Education Committee, said he doesn’t plan to call a vote on the measure. Abbott has threatened to veto the House version or call a special session if the House does not approve the Senate version.

Opponents of the voucher system say it would take money away from public education.

“These voucher proposals have been brought before — in 1957. A  tuition grant bill was passed through the House. It failed ultimately, but it was to allow kids to leave integrated schools and join white-only schools,” state Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, said.

Bills favoring natural gas power plants advance

A Texas House committee voted Thursday to send to the House floor a Senate bill providing  $10 billion in taxpayer money for low-interest loans to build natural gas-powered electrical generating plants. The plan is still subject to change in the waning days of the legislative session, however.

The Dallas Morning News reported the call for plant expansions stem from the near collapse of the power grid during the devastating winter storm in 2021. Hundreds of Texans died during that blackout.

State Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, and chair of the House State Affairs Committee that is considering the bills, said the $10 billion loan fund and other power generation measures remain “works in progress.” The legislative session ends May 29.

House, Senate closer on tax relief plan

The Texas House and Senate appear to be nearing a deal that would deliver billions of dollars in property tax relief, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The proposal combines House Speaker Dade Phelan’s preference for cutting appraisal caps by half with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s preference for increasing homestead exemptions.

The Legislature was under a mandate from Abbott and Patrick to return nearly half of the state’s $33 billion budget surplus to taxpayers. The latest measure would lower the appraised value cap from 10% to 5% for all properties. The House version would also raise the state’s homestead exemption from $40,000 to $100,000, with an added $10,000 exemption for seniors and disabled homeowners. Patrick’s original proposal was to raise the exemption to $70,000.

Draft budget bars tax dollars for Paxton settlement

House and Senate budget negotiators plan to bar using state funds to pay the $3.3 million whistleblower settlement negotiated by Attorney General Ken Paxton and his former aides, the Statesman reported.

The settlement was reached in February after four former employees of the AG’s office sued Paxton, accusing him of bribery and abusing his office. Since that time the four aides were fired or have resigned. Paxton denied their allegations, but as part of the settlement apologized for calling them “rogue employees.”

Paxton said when the settlement was reached that it would save taxpayer money in the long run by avoiding an expensive court battle.

“I have chosen this path to save taxpayer dollars and ensure my third term as Attorney General is unburdened by unnecessary distractions,” Paxton said in a statement at the time. “This settlement achieves these goals.”

Suspected fungal infections linked to Matamoros surgeries

The Texas Department of State Health Services is sounding the alarm to the public and doctors about suspected cases of fungal meningitis among Texas residents receiving surgery in Matamoros, Mexico – across the border from Brownsville. So far, the investigation has found at least five affected patients, four of whom are now hospitalized and one who died.

The patients traveled from Texas to Matamoros for surgical procedures that involved an epidural anesthetic, which is injected around the spinal column. One of the possible elective procedures conducted under an epidural is liposuction.

“It is very important that people who have recently had medical procedures in Mexico monitor themselves for symptoms of meningitis,” said DSHS Commissioner Jennifer Shuford. “Meningitis, especially when caused by bacteria or fungus, can be a life-threatening illness unless treated promptly.”

Anyone who had surgery involving an epidural in Matamoros this year is advised to contact a doctor, DSHS said in its news release.

More than $9 million in EMS student scholarships

The state is funding more than $9 million for 1,500 emergency medical services scholarships. The goal is to expand the state’s EMS workforce, especially in underserved and rural areas. The funding comes from legislation passed during the 2021 legislative session.

“This funding to support EMS education opportunities and to increase the workforce will ensure a strong EMS system in Texas,” said Joe Schmider of DSHS. “These scholarships are impacting the current and future emergency care throughout all of Texas.”

Potential EMS students can learn more by going here: dshs.texas.gov/emstexas.

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches and Cedar Park. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Burning both ends of the candle to light the middle

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

In my daily travels through the bizarreness that passes for news stories, I constantly come across examples of projection and denial of epic proportions, particularly when it comes to politics.

Those currently in power, regardless of stripes, will lambaste certain groups with accusations of division and hate while exhibiting those very same qualities.

It’s like one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” where two last members of the planet Cheron were locked in a never-ending deathmatch over something as simple as color.

For the uninformed, the antagonists/protagonists were half black, half white, but with a difference: one was black on the left, the other on the right.

It plays out as a perfect analogy for the current political situation — left vs. right — with acid dripping from both sides.

One of the most heinous examples of this is the battle over inclusion and diversity, in particular the hatred coming from liberals, who blame conservatives for keeping minorities and disenfranchised subsets of society down.

Funny thing is, though, is that in order to stifle any argument, the left will lob Molotov divisions, such as white privilege or evil Christianity or rich people hatin’ on the poor by not paying their fair share of taxes for whatever hairbrained scheme that comes up next.

It’s not just limited to the government, either, since public groups existing in the name of social justice have to have demons to prop up their existence, and these things are even now creeping into the private business world in the form of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion scores.

All that being said, it’s a pretty easy leap to figure out what portion of society is demonized for all of the country’s evils: white folks and Christians.

I’m sure you’ve heard the arguments: Christians, supposedly proselytizing love and acceptance, have too much influence in this country, forcing groups like transphibians, the alphabet corps and minorities into hiding because of their narrow-mindedness and inability to love unconditionally.

Of course, you never hear about Muslims, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Shintos, Buddhists or any other religion being roasted on the coals of public discourse for a variety of reasons; my belief is that the perception of Christianity being mostly white having something to do with that.

By using these kinds of tactics, though, it evokes the pure, unadulterated hatred that led to the rise of the Sturmabteilung (German brownshirts), who started with simple rhetoric but escalated to violence and ultimately the Night of the Long Knives.

While we may simply put hateful and purposefully divisive speech off as grandstanding, it’s the one side of the candle being lit; the hypocrisy on the part of the speakers, and the use of government as the hammer to the anvil is the other side. When the flames meet in the middle, someone or something is going to get hurt or worse.

It happened in czarist Russia; it happened in Germany; it happened in Cambodia; it happens in Israel; it even happened in the U.S. during World War II and the interment caps for Japanese people.

If something like open and honest dialogue were ever to occur, we could maybe find a way to get beyond such pettiness before it gets out of hand. Historically, though, it probably won’t happen, at least not until acceptance is practiced on all sides.

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


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Peace Officer Memorial Day stands as reminder

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Trent AshbyBy Rep. Trent Ashby
Representing District 9

As we reflect on the recent observance of Peace Officer Memorial Day, I am filled with deep reverence and gratitude for the courageous men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. This solemn occasion reminds us of the profound impact these selfless individuals have had on our lives, as they dedicated themselves to protecting and serving our communities. Peace Officer Memorial Day stands as a poignant reminder that the safety and security we enjoy should never be taken for granted. It is a time for us to come together, to honor their memory, and to recognize the sacrifices made by these brave officers.

Let us express our heartfelt appreciation for their unwavering commitment to upholding peace and justice, and may we be inspired to create a society that cherishes these values and supports those who dedicate their lives to our collective well-being.

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

This past week, my House Bill 1846, reached a critical milestone as it landed on the governor’s desk. As the demand for transportation services continues to surge, the deficit of CDL drivers has hindered our state’s ability to move goods and freight efficiently. The repercussions have been evident, with soaring transportation costs, persistent delivery delays, and an overall decline in the trucking industry’s productivity. As mentioned in a previous column, HB 1846 mandates that the Department of Public Safety (DPS) must facilitate CDL testing for out-of-state applicants who have successfully cleared the written segment of the CDL test in their respective home states. With the governor’s signature on this bill, I am optimistic we will see a measurable increase of CDL drivers within Texas over the next few years.

House Bill 1772, which I authored, has also successfully navigated the legislative process and has landed on the governor’s desk. This bill was a top priority of the Texas Forestry Association and will go a long way to addressing the increase we’ve seen in timber theft over the last few years. By strengthening the penalties for failing to provide necessary documentation or engaging in fraudulent activities related to timber transactions, this legislation should better protect the interests of both buyers and sellers. It has been extremely rewarding to champion this bill on behalf of private landowners and the forest and wood products sector that serves as an economic engine for our regional economy.

The mobile office is on the road again and our district director will look forward to seeing you on the following dates in the following locations: June 7 at the San Augustine County Courthouse from 9-11 a.m., June 14 at the Polk County Commissioner’s Courtroom in Livingston from 9-11 a.m. or at the Tyler County Courthouse in Woodville 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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Battleship Texas is last surviving dreadnought

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My Five CentsOn May 18, 1912, the USS Texas, also known as Battleship Texas, launched and quickly became one of the most powerful weapons in the world. It is credited with the introduction and innovation of advances in gunnery, aviation and radar. She is the last surviving Dreadnought and the only battleship in existence today that fought in both World War I and World War II.

Here are five things happening around your state:

New fund to support creation of more state parks passes House

Senate Bill 1648 and Senate Joint Resolution 74, authored by Sen. Tan Parker and sponsored by Rep. Armando Walle, both passed the Texas House this week and are on their way to the governor for his signature. With voter approval, the bills together would create a Centennial Parks Conservation Fund and invest $1 billion to buy more land to create new state parks and maintain existing parks. The fund will grow with interest over time to continue growing the park system. Texas Parks and Wildlife is celebrating 100 years of state parks this year, a fitting time to dedicate this fund. This November, voters in Texas will have the opportunity to approve the new constitutionally dedicated fund.

Name, image andlikeness update bill passes Senate

This week the Senate passed House Bill 2804, authored by Rep. John Kuempel and sponsored by Sen. Brandon Creighton. This bill continues the work from last session when the legislature established a name, image and likeness law in Texas. HB 2804 keeps Texas competitive in the NIL space by allowing college athletes to profit using the school’s trademark if the school approves and charges a market rate for its use. Additionally, the bill allows universities to help student athletes entering NIL contracts and maintains confidentiality of related information. As the NIL space continues to evolve and develop, it is imperative that Texas universities continue to be competitive and create a welcome environment for student athletes to thrive.

Senate Bill 15 passes House, goes to governor’s desk

The Texas House passed Senate Bill 15 this week, sending it to the governor for final approval. The bill, authored by Sen. Mayes Middleton and sponsored by Rep. Valoree Swanson, protects women’s sports at the collegiate level by requiring athletes to compete in competitions based on biological sex. In recent years, concern over biological males competing against biological females in interscholastic events have been highlighted in various instances, particularly at the NCAA women’s swimming championship. Allowing men to compete against women is unfair to women and takes opportunities away from deserving women who otherwise could have competed at that level. The bill does have allowances for women to participate in athletic programs for men that do not have a corresponding team available to them, such as football. During the third called special session of the 87th Legislature, the Texas Legislature passed a bill protecting women’s sports at the elementary and high school levels. This year, we continue that work to protect women’s sports at the collegiate level.

Senate passes sales tax exemption for certain family care items

Sen. Joan Huffman authored Senate Bill 379, which passed the Senate this week. The bill would give a sales tax exemption for wound care dressings, adult or children’s diapers, baby wipes, feminine hygiene products, maternity clothing, baby bottles and breast milk pumping products. These items are all essential for women and families – whether welcoming new family members or caring for elderly family members. Giving a tax break for essential items alleviates what some have deemed “the pink tax.” The measure would save taxpayers over $100 million a year.

T.L.L. Temple Foundation invests in CDL program at Lamar State College Port Arthur

This year, Lamar State College Port Arthur sought to significantly expand their commercial driver’s academy and examination facilities. LSCPA secured a grant from the Economic Development Administration, acquired land in Jefferson County, and funds from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief program to expand the program. However, last minute costs required an infusion of funds and the Temple Foundation stepped in. The program was able to increase enrollment from 185 to 230 enrollees and will surpass 300 in coming years. Hundred of Texans will graduate from this program and immediately start careers as drivers with well-paying income.

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

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