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Make an effort to volunteer this holiday season

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Trent AshbyWith decorated trees and nativity scenes going up and temperatures starting to fall, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Texas. While many folks think of the holiday season as “the most wonderful time of the year,” it’s important to remember that there are many of our fellow Texans who are less fortunate and struggle every day to provide for themselves and their families.

This holiday season, I want to encourage you to work with your church, a local food bank, a shelter, or any other service organization making an effort to provide food, clothing, and other basic necessities to those in need. If you need help finding a local program or charity, please don’t hesitate to contact our of-fice and we will be happy to assist you.

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

House Interim Charge: Corrections

As we continue our overview of House Interim Charges, the next committee on our stop is the House Committee on Corrections. With nine sitting members, the Corrections Committee oversees all matters pertaining to incarceration at the state level, programs to provide alternatives to incarceration, and has purview over the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). As many of you know, TDCJ has a strong presence in East Texas and many employees of the department live in our district; as such, this office mon-itors the policies discussed in this committee very closely.

Like most committees, House Corrections will conduct active oversight on relevant legislation passed in recent legislative sessions to ensure the policy language and measures are working as intended.

Much of the work includes legislation and studies on reducing recidivism to lower the rate of individuals released from prison and relapsing into criminal behavior.

For example, HB 30 provides a high school education program for inmates younger than 18 or younger than 22 for individuals with disabilities.

Providing education to young inmates has the potential to improve reentry rates once the individual has served their time and paid their debt to society.

Similarly, the Committee will examine HB 3130, passed in the 85th legislative session, which established a pilot program to provide educational and vocational training, employment, and reentry services to certain defendants.

Throughout the interim, the Committee will explore the availability of mental health services for individ-uals in county jails, TDCJ facilities, or on parole.

The study also included a joint charge with the Committee on County Affairs to make recommendations for treatment and recovery options and the best practices to address the needs of individuals experiencing withdrawal from drug or alcohol use.

The House Corrections Committee will also evaluate the benefits and potential savings associated with modernizing technology throughout the state’s correctional system and consider updating regulations related to cell phone monitoring, body cameras, and video surveillance systems. Additionally, the evalua-tion includes assessing current family visitation rooms and visitation-related practices, programs, and ser-vices to make visitation more family-friendly.

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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Electric vehicles come with big problems!

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Horace McQueen ColumnBy Horace McQueen

Politicians see lots of things in a different light than normal folks. And those who are living off taxpayers never seem to have enough. The touted stories about electric vehicles making internal combustion engines obsolete lack credibility. The sheer cost of providing batteries without harming the environment is not something our political misfits want to consider—or hear about the problems from ordinary citizens. Then there is the need for billions of hard-to-find dollars to build transmission lines to provide charging stations across the nation. Once these batteries reach their effective life as an electric vehicle where will it end up? At a landfill that will pollute the environment even more? As long as government bureaucracy keeps funding the EV racket, maybe the cost doesn’t deserve any consideration by those paying the bills!

If you are debating about selling—or buying—livestock before the end of this year, it’s time to make a plan. The last two weeks of 2022 will provide some time off for most of our sale barns since the buying outfits will be paring down their buying over the period. Over those last two weeks of the year many livestock trading outfits will be out of action till 2023.  Hopefully buyers will return next year with buyer instructions to raise their offerings for our livestock. That would make a great Christmas gift!

Lots of folks are questioning the rapid rise in the number of employees in our public school systems that are not teaching in the classroom. According to statistics from the U.S. Office of Education, from 2000 t0 2019, the number of students in our public schools increased 7.6%. In this same time frame, the number of classroom teachers increased 8.7%. But the number of school district administrators nearly doubled with an increase to 87%.  That should be food for thought for our elected school boards who were placed there to provide the best education possible for those kids in classrooms across the country. Oh well, it’s just money! That’s –30—This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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What a drag

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Cris Column graphicBy Chris Edwards

It wasn’t too awfully long ago that Tyler County had a little family friendly gender-bending fun on display for a good cause.

The Mr. Tyler County Pageants were a whale of a time for many folks, and generated funds toward the countywide Relay for Life efforts. Men from across the county strutted their stuff in evening gowns and wigs.

Pretty wholesome stuff, right?

Well, the pageants took place at the Eagle Summit, but had they taken place at a venue where alcohol was served, the events could, in the words of a ridiculous bill recently filed, be classified as a “sexually oriented business.”

Two weeks ago, Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) introduced HB 643, a bill that seeks to classify venues serving alcohol and hosting drag performances as “sexually oriented businesses.”

This time of the year, bills are being filed in the build-up to the gaveling in of the 88th legislature, and it should surprise absolutely no one that a bill like this is among the reams of potential legislation.

Patterson’s bill describes a drag performance as when “a performer exhibits a gender identity that is different than the performer’s assigned gender at birth, using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers and sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience for entertainment.”

There are several problems with Patterson’s bill, and while it does not stand much of a chance of passing, it represents a larger issue of legislators who are too blinded by bigotry to actually serve the people.

The state of Texas heavily regulates businesses that fall under the “sexually oriented” umbrella. Such businesses do not allow anyone under the age of 18 to enter, and the businesses must keep records of each customer who enters, etc., etc., etc.

While those may be understandable regulations for an adult bookstore, what about community theatre performances where performers often gender-bend onstage? Or what is to be made of rock concerts where a male performer might don a dress for the sake of the show?

Back in the ‘90s rock stars like Kurt Cobain and Shannon Hoon weren’t afraid to sport a dress onstage, and more recently, mega-star Post Malone does the same.

If a bill like Patterson’s were to pass, it would severely limit the performance opportunities of many in the state of Texas.

And of course, if passed, there’s also the legal repercussions for those businesses fitting the description. Sexually oriented businesses must register as such with the Secretary of State and pay a registration fee with an annual renewal and prohibit children at all times. Venue owners found in violation can be fined $4,000 and sentenced to up to a year in jail.

The bill’s author is described by some as a “legislative troll.” Some of his greatest hits include the idea of banning all minors from social media, and who could forget his book-banning fiasco?

Patterson wrote a letter last March asking school districts across the state to not buy books from distributors selling books that mention LGBTQ issues; singling out Maia Kobabe’s graphic novel memoir Gender Queer, which he labelled “obscene” and “pornographic.”

There’s nothing conservative about Patterson’s quixotic nonsense. For one, a bill such as HB 643 would add another heavy layer of regulatory sheen to many entrepreneurs’ overhead. On the other hand, trying to legislate such an issue that comes down to simple freedom of choice is just another way to try and tell people how to live their lives, and another mask to hide lack of meaningful legislation.

Wallowing in anti-gay bigotry does not make one’s views conservative, and the moral panic that the state’s GOP is trying to foment around trans people and drag queens spells lack of leadership, but the challenge to counter such nonsense is upon the ideological opposites of the state’s majority party (as well as more conventional conservative voices, which I guess identify as “moderate Republicans” nowadays).

Those who oppose such measures must engage and expose why such legislative folderol will not work in the long run.

There is a bushel full of issues that legislators could focus on that have nothing to do with drag queens. What about putting more support toward law enforcement; toward better training? Or how about tackling the sky-high property taxes?

Thousands of foster children are caught up in the system, and there are legions of Texans needed better healthcare; rural folks in need of hospitals and better infrastructure, but to ask Frisco’s own Jared Patterson, the real issues affecting Texans are the performances of drag queens and supposedly pornographic library books.

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There are some battles worth the fight

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas

Whatever happened to personal responsibility? Whatever happened to consequences, and whatever happened to the rule of law?

Recent events have me puzzled about what it actually means to the phrase actions have consequences.

Growing up, my dad gave me a pretty simple rule about my behavior, particularly as I grew older: Do what you want, just don’t get caught.

I didn’t take that as a challenge, mind you; I did have my moments, but when I did, I suffered the penalties.

Even when I didn’t do anything wrong, I suffered the penalties. Being as how I was the son of a cop, there were certain lessons I was taught that were meant to be object lessons. For instance, I was with some friends in a store, and one of them felt the need to shoplift. Since I was around, I was scooped up.

Although I insisted loudly and continually about my innocence, I was still given the full arrest treatment, and later told that it was for my own good. Turned out it might have been since I’m not a master thief.

News reports indicate that society today has tacked differently, offering leniency for crime, or outright refusing to prosecute for some misdemeanors (most if you live in California). In certain major cities, stores of major chains are being shuttered because shoplifters are not arrested or prosecuted.

The Securities and Exchange Commission cracks down on certain hedge fund managers for insider trading, but legislators in Washington, D.C., who make just over $200,000 a year, leave office as millionaires because of their inside knowledge, and no one makes a peep.

Brittney Griner, who was convicted for violating the laws of Russia and was sentenced to a Russian prison, was released last week in a prisoner swap for a Russian arms dealer who sells arms to terrorists. Seems our government bowed to pressure toward the swap, and a woman who violated the law has escaped serving her 9-year sentence.

Maybe it’s me, but I was under the impression that prisoner exchanges were done for high-dollar political reasons for high-profile prisoners. Maybe it’s also me, but it seems that a prison sentence is something to be served, not something to be bartered.

Certain prosecutors have been put in place that have vowed to ignore certain laws and events for budgetary and personnel reasons.

Celebrity status or political connections, a la Hunter Biden or Ghislaine Maxwell, leads to little or no prosecution.

All of these are symptoms leading to one fairly obvious conclusion, and that is we have a burgeoning problem in this country. For instance, look at the days of rage. Weeks of riots, property damage, looting and arson followed police shootings. People claiming injury over some slight took over private property to demand justice, then demanded they be given anything they need.

Bullying has become such a problem in schools. School violence itself has grown, and that includes shootings.

In short, these are consequences.

If you remove the moral center of laws, such as religion, and couple that with reduced or ignored penalties for criminal acts, it stands to reason that more and more heinous acts will follow. Plus, the sad byproduct of this is that good, law-abiding and decent people are forced to guard themselves.

That’s backwards, and could lead to collapse, so it’s time for us to face our own music.

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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SFASU to join University of Texas system

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My Five CentsI hope your Thanksgiving was filled with family, friends, and wonderful food. We all have much to be thankful for. Now, the holiday season is upon us!

Here are five things happening around your state:

1. Stephen F. Austin State University votes to joinUniversity of Texas System

During a special called Board of Regents meeting on Tuesday, November 29, the SFA Board of Regents voted to affiliate with the University of Texas System. The vote came after a months long process during which four university systems made proposals to SFA. Other systems that made offers included Texas A&M University System, Texas State University System, and Texas Tech University System. The system affiliation evaluation subcommittee met with each system, collected public comment, and reviewed written proposals from each system. The subcommittee focused on five areas while evaluating their options: SFA’s ability to remain autonomous, culture and fit, transition, financial impact, and intangibles. The UT System made a strong financial pitch, committing $80 million in Permanent University Fund (PUF) bond proceeds in year one to capital projects at SFA. UT System also committed to $1 million in annual student scholarship and $5.5 million to increase faculty salaries. Overall, UT System estimated it would provide $124 million in additional value over the first four years. One key aspect of affiliating with a system for SFA was maintaining their name, mascot, and colors. UT System has assured the Board of Regents that the university will maintain their identity, including the name, mascot, and colors.

2. TEA announces newfacilities requirements for school safety, $400M in safety grants

This month, the Texas Education Agency announced their new facilities standards to improve school safety. In conjunction, Governor Abbott announced an additional $400 million in grant funding to help school districts replace and upgrade doors, windows, fencing, communications, and other measures outlined in the facilities requirements. The new facilities standards included requirements that exterior doors, exterior classroom doors, and portable building doors must be closed, latched, and locked unless actively monitored or in a secured area. Any windowed doors on the ground level or windows adjacent to doors must be reinforced with entry-resistant film unless within a secured area. Campuses must have exterior door numbering, radio signal repeaters, and exterior secure master key lock boxes. Schools will also be required to conduct weekly exterior door sweeps and provide an exterior door numbering site plan to local law enforcement entities.

The $400 million in grant funding is allocated on a per-pupil basis, however small and rural districts will receive a base allocation of $200,000. The grant will allow for spending on security-related items, but schools must first spend on items necessary to comply with the new rules. Once those standards are met, remaining funds can be spent on other eligible security-related costs as defined by the grant program.

3. Bill filing for 88thLegislative Session begins

Legislators are ready and gearing up for next session. As of November 14, bill filing for the 88th Legislative Session has begun. Over a thousand bills have already been filed with many more to come before the Legislature convenes on January 10 next year. I’ve filed two bills already, one regarding maternity leave for state employees and the other relating to continuing transportation funding. This is an important time of year for policymakers to begin to set the agenda for the next session and find out what our colleagues are interested in as well.

4. AT&T unveils new cell tower in Jasper to boost connectivity

This month, AT&T announced an expansion of its network in the Jasper area, boosting wireless connectivity. The new tower brings Band 14 spectrum to the area. Band 14 is nationwide, high-quality spectrum for FirstNet, which can be used to enhance public safety.

5. Over $300M grantapproved for UT-TylerMedical Education Building

Earlier this month, the University of Texas Board of Regents gave final authorization for UT-Tyler School of Medicine’s new Medical Education Building. The total project cost of the building is $308 million. The building will support interdisciplinary education for graduate medical students, resident training, and nursing training for students. It will also play a role in the medical education program expansion through the UT Health East Texas Health System. It will provide outpatient and specialty clinical services with exam rooms, specimen collection and processing, and imaging facilities. The project is expected to be completed in March 2025.

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