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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas
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The extended daylight granted on Sunday has given all of us the opportunity to see the state of things, and in particular, at least for me, the state of my “brethren” in the national media.

Recently, it’s been coming to light (see what I did there?) that all of the measures taken during the COVID crisis, which were perpetuated by our Clown Criers in the mainstream media, were in reality ineffective.

Also, more and more doctors are fessing up to the fact that vaccinations are not the panacea they were touted to be, masks, particularly designer and fashion masks made of cloth, did less than nothing, and the government mandates, which were largely responsible for the national economic meltdown.

Along those same lines, the “inflation” bill, the $3 trillion boondoggle which was supposed to right the economic ship and instead caused it to founder even more, was gushed over by anchors and pundits and not, as any good journalist should, researched well and written with quotes from both sides of the debate.

Let’s not forget the hyper-ridiculous special committee seeking the “full and unadulterated” truth about what happened in the Jan. 6 “insurrection to end all insurrections” at the nation’s capitol and the subsequent referral of President Donald Trump for criminal prosecutions.

Those referrals, by the way, were made even though the “select” committee did not watch the video evidence. Didn’t stop them, nor their willing cohorts in the press, from lighting torches and grabbing pitchforks.

Speaking of prosecutions, more and more there are stories touting the blatant partisanship of the U.S. Justice Department and its armed investigative group the FBI. We heard countless tales of the evil pastor who “assaulted” a woman outside of an abortion clinic, but not really a peep about Hunter Biden and his Laptop of Destiny being actually real and actually full of information, some of which could be prosecutable.

We’re not really hearing this from the Alphabet networks, the CNN-MSNBC cabal or the New York Times or Washington Post. Nor are we hearing anything remotely as ownership of the terrible reporting and propaganda cheerleading that was done.

Water under the bridge of truth, I guess.

It’s because of these kinds of things that I never wanted to rise up the ladder of journalism, opting for the sense and enjoyment given by local, community-driven journalism. Taking pride in the accomplishments of people who you have known for generations, watching as the latest crop of students become amazing adults, and seeing into the future through the eyes of the people elected to keep the faith for small towns and counties.

All of the newspapers in the Polk County Publishing family follow this same premise — local news, local facts, and no slant or bias around. And if you feel something like this exists, let us know, and we’ll fix it.

And that, of course, is the truth.

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Did you set your clocks forward?

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My Five CentsIt’s time to spring forward! Daylight Saving Time began this weekend. I hope you remembered to set your clocks forward Saturday night.

Here are five things happening around your state:

Bill filing deadline

Friday marked the end of the bill filing period for the 88th Legislature. No more general law bills can be filed. There are exceptions for local bills. After the deadline, the legislature and the public will have a good idea about the total number of bills filed and what they do. Then, the real work begins. More bills will be voted out of committee and begin to make their way through the process. From now until May 29, we’ll be hearing and voting on legislation at a rapid pace.

Senate school safety legislation filed, referred to committee

Last week, I filed Senate Bill 11 which builds on the work of previous legislatures on school safety. The bill is based on the work of the Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans,which I chaired. There are six main components of this legislation: increasing the school safety allotment by creating a per campus funding formula, establishing the Office of School Safety and Security, delineating responsibility between TEA and the Texas School Safety Center, creating School Safety Review Teams, enhancing truancy prevention tactics, and allowing districts to share discipline records for students who transfer schools. During our committee hearings, we heard from school districts that the current school safety allotment rate of $9.72 per student per year was insufficient to meet their needs. For districts that get little funding, maintaining a high standard of safety and security depletes already limited funding for their classrooms. In the bill as filed, each district would receive $15,000 per campus in their district. On top of that, districts would receive $10 per student per year for school safety. The creation of School Safety Review teams is another essential piece to school safety. The team would work with districts on school safety and physically go to each campus and evaluate the school’s safety and security. These important reforms will help enhance our children’s safety at school.

Supplemental budget bill heard in committee

This past week, the Senate Finance Committee heard Senate Bill 30, the supplemental appropriations bill. The supplemental appropriations bill is used to close out the previous biennium budget process and appropriate any leftover funds. Included in the supplemental appropriations bill is $3.8 billion to pay customer rate relief charges associated with Winter Storm Uri, $2.3 billion to expand inpatient mental health care capacity, $600 million for school safety and security grants, and $1 billion for a benefit enhancement for retired teachers, among other things. The funds come from a mix of federal and state dollars. The bill was voted out of committee and will go to the floor soon.

First bills voted out of Senate

This past week Senate Bill 372 and Senate Bill 728, both by Sen. Joan Huffman, were voted on the Senate Floor and sent to the House this week. This marks an important milestone in the legislative session. Senate Bill 372 creates a criminal offense for the unauthorized disclosure of non-public judicial opinions and judicial work product. In the summer of 2021, someone working at the U.S. Supreme Court leaked a draft of the majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, an opinion which overturned Roe v. Wade. This bill would protect Texas judicial opinions from being leaked. The other bill, Senate Bill 728, brings the state in line with the federal Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. This bill would require clerks to report certain information related to juvenile mental health records to the Department of Public Safety, which reports information to the National Interstate Criminal Background Check System (NICS). These records will be part of the background check conducted when a person buys a firearm from a Federal Firearms Licensee.

THECB offers newlow-interest loan option

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is now offering a new low-interest loan option for Texas students. The Future Occupations and Reskilling Workforce Advancement to Reach Demand (FORWARD) Loan Program is designed to help students who are seeking to obtain a high-value credential in a high-demand occupation. The loan should help reduce the debt burden on students by allowing students to repay the loan over 10 years. The loans are open to students that will be able to complete their program in two years or less and are in high-demand programs like technology, nursing, teaching, supply chain/transportation and logistics and energy.

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

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Spring is arriving in East Texas

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Trent AshbyBy Rep. Trent Ashby
Representing District 9

The early return of warmer temperatures means Spring is just around the corner.  Driving back to East Texas each week from Austin, I can’t help but to admire the true natural beauty of our region. From the native flowers that dot the landscape to the dogwood blooms that are putting on a show, it’s a great time to be outdoors. It’s also county fair season for many of our communities. As a proud supporter of our youth involved in FFA, 4-H and FCCLA, I hope you will make every effort to get out and support these students who will be showcasing their projects in the coming weeks. Always remember that investing in our youth is investing in our community’s success. I hope to see you at the fair.

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

This past week, the speaker unveiled a number of bills that will be a priority for the Texas House this session. Among the recent list of priorities is a bill I filed, House Bill 9, which would make a historic investment in the expansion and development of broadband infrastructure throughout the State of Texas. This bill will be paired with a joint resolution, HJR 125, which establishes the Broadband Infrastructure Fund as a fund outside the state treasury for the sole purpose of increasing connectivity in Texas. Together, HB 9 and HJR 125 would distinguish the State of Texas with a bold and ambitious investment in broadband infrastructure funding to increase access and affordability, support critical programs like 911 services and school safety initiatives, eliminate costly fees on customers, and foster greater economic prosperity through a more connected Texas.

Another House priority this session will be on improving our state’s water infrastructure. The legislation, House Bill 10, would create the Texas Water Fund to provide greater financial assistance for rural and underserved communities to enhance water infrastructure. Similar to HB 9, HB 10 will be paired with a joint resolution, HJR 130, to establish the fund. I applaud the speaker for making water infrastructure a priority, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to make strides toward enhancing our water infrastructure throughout the state.

Another priority, House Bill 15 would establish the Mental Health and Brain Research Institute of Texas. Under HB 15, the state would dedicate funding to improving brain health research, preventative care, and treatment centers to address our state’s mental health needs. The bill is paired with HJR 135, which establishes the Mental Health and Brain Research Institute of Texas.

The mobile office is on the road again and we look forward to seeing you on the following dates, in the following locations: March 15 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., April 5 at the San Augustine County Courthouse from 9-11 a.m., April 12 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. 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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Cheers and jeers: a trip through last week’s news

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Chris MetitationsBy Chris Edwards
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Many years ago, that ever-present household tome TV Guide had a weekly section titled “Cheers and Jeers,” in which the staff issued, you guessed it, praise or mocking tones of derision, to movers and shakers in the entertainment industry.

Now I do not know if TV Guide still exercises such a practice. Heck, I do not know if TV Guide even still exists in print. It’s been years since I’ve thumbed through one, much less bought an issue. Anyhow, for this week’s column I’m knuckling in on their shtick and serving up a “cheers and jeers” survey on newsmakers – from topics and folks here in Tyler County to the statewide level, and beyond – it’s all fair game.

Consider this the son of the return of my bite-sized commentaries. Experimentation is fun, y’all! So here goes:

Cheers (a big cheer section) to the dawning of spring. Although the official start of the Spring Equinox is still a few weeks away (March 20, for those interested) the season has, as they say, sprung in our neck of the woods. Looming verdancy, warmer temperatures and longer days have a most beneficial effect on everything breathing oxygen around these parts.

Jeers to all the pollen. One of the drawbacks of dwelling among so many beautiful, towering pine trees is the plentiful pollen, which blankets our vehicles, lawn furniture and everything else in its path. This writer is still exhausted from several epic sneezing sessions last week.

This is, of course, the contrast to the beauty of the burgeoning spring. As that vaunted philosopher Beavis (or maybe it was Butthead, I cannot exactly recall) once said, “In order to have something cool, you also have to have something that sucks.”

Cheers to Woodville’s municipal judge Judith Haney on her retirement. From her long career in education to her vision for promoting artistic endeavors in our corner of the world to city leadership, Judge Judy is a consummate servant of the people and of her city and county, and we wish her well on her retirement.

Cheers to Whataburger, our beloved orange-and-white Texas original for offering up the country’s healthiest cheeseburgers. As Texans have known for years, Whataburger can boast some of the tastiest burgers commonly available, statewide, but according to a recent study of fast-food brands in America, Whataburger received the highest overall health rating score.

These scores were derived from four metrics, broken down as to how much of each the burger had: sugar, fat, sodium and caloric content. The result was that Whataburger’s cheeseburger came in at an overall 8.4 rating, thus topping the survey.

So, here’s to eating better (and healthier) fare from the drive-thru window, and another blow to the incessant and pointless “In-N-Out vs. Whataburger” debate.

Jeers to Florida state senator Jason Brodeur who proposed a bill last week, S.B. 1316, which would, if passed, require any blogger in the Sunshine State writing about elected officials to register with the state. Brodeur might not be a card-carrying commie (as far as we know), but this proposal sure smacks of the Marxist playbook, as well as stinking to high heaven.

Cheers, and a tip of the Stetson, go out to Tommy Prine, the son of the late, great music legend John Prine. Prine announced last week he will be following in his father’s footsteps, with the release of his debut album This Far South on June 23. The elder Prine might’ve been a legend of country music, but he transcended the genre tags of “country” and “folk” due to the strength of his universally great, timeless songs, and Tommy, a chip off the great, ol’ block, looks to be heading down the same path based on the first song available, which I can’t get out of my cranium.

The debut single from the album “Ships in the Harbor” is a universal, great song about savoring life’s sweet moments, and should be heard by anyone who gets what it’s all about.

Jeers to state Rep. Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City) for rolling out House Bill 2889. A good bill, in theory, the bill helps to ease the property tax burden to the electorate. What makes it a bad bill is that, as worded, it would supply a homestead tax credit only to “certain married couples” in Texas. Qualifying couples under the bill, if passed, would see tax relief correspond to the size of their family; with four children equal to up to a 40% reduction in their tax levy. The way the bill is worded, a couple with 10 children would pay no property tax at all.

The bill would not allow for couples with at least one partner who has been divorced to be eligible, or couples with children adopted prior to their union or for LGBTQ couples. The property tax burden affects us all, and there are all sorts of families comprising this great state and faced with skyrocketing taxes.

Last, but definitely not least, cheers and a toast (of Coors Light, of course) to the late, great Herb Branch. The longtime Woodville resident passed recently and left a big void in the city.

Many benefitted from Herb’s leadership, words of wisdom, his humor, fun-loving spirit and the embodiment of “service above self” he represented. Slainte, sir!

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Solar Projects – not all are welcome!

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Horace McQueen ColumnBy Horace McQueen

Saddling our taxpayers with tax abatements and other giveaways for new energy producing installations is being played out all over Texas. The common refrain from the fast-talkers is that if county commissioners, school board members and city councils don’t cooperate, the projects will end up somewhere else. So be it! And it’s not just tax abatements! Taking large farms out of food production is also to be considered.

Several big—and I mean multi-million dollar—solar farms may be headed for Houston County. It would take thousands of productive acres to house the solar farms. The most talked about solar farm on the drawing board is on FM 2022—located about four miles from Crockett, just to the north of Hurricane Bayou. The property is a part of Stalwart Ranch—Attebury Division. Stalwart has several thousand acres in this ranch. The property has frontage on both sides of the highway and extends past the “Egg and Butter Road” on the west side.

Ask questions of our “leadership” and push for information about solar projects being planned. Any member of the local school board, city council or commissioners’ court should be freely sharing any and all information they have received. Several thoughts come to mind if a solar farm comes to our neck of the woods. One is the huge loss in local tax collections if the installation is not taxed at actual cost of construction.

Another big consideration is taxpayers are offered smoke and mirrors about the workers needed to build a solar farm. Granted the construction phase will bring in workers for a short time. After the project is complete, operating a large solar farm—covering hundreds of acres—will only employ four workers or fewer. Finally, there is ownership of the farm and equipment. By the time the farm is ready to produce electricity—and if it’s not cloudy or raining—the entire farm could well be owned by large corporations in Spain or other countries thousands of miles from the USA!

Several of our elected state officials want to restrict ownership of land in Texas by China. Frankly I would rather a Chinese farmer own a corn farm down the road from our farm rather than a massive solar farm that could be sabotaged, cutting off power to thousands of homes, hospitals and businesses.  If we are finally going to stand up for America, let’s keep ownership of our energy producers in the hands of our own citizens!  That’s –30—This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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