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Election dates approaching fast

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From Enterprise Staff

Texas Secretary of State Jane Nelson is reminding Texans to prepare for the upcoming constitutional amendment election on Nov. 7.

“Texans will have the opportunity to vote on 14 proposed amendments to the state constitution, and some local governments will also hold elections this November. Now is a good time to take note of upcoming election deadlines and prepare,” Nelson said.

Important dates include:

•Oct. 10 - The last day to register to vote in time for the Nov. 7 election

•Oct. 27 - Last day to apply for ballot by mail

•Oct. 23 - Early voting begins

•Nov. 3 - Last day of early voting

•Nov. 7 – Election Day, polls open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Additionally, after the passage of House Bill 357 during the 88th Legislative Session, the Secretary of State’s office is now required to set the date of a runoff election resulting from an election held on a uniform election date. The runoff date for the Nov. 7 election will be Dec. 9. While there are no runoffs for constitutional amendments, runoffs may be required for some local and special elections.

This information and all the details for casting a ballot can be found at VoteTexas.gov, Texas’ official voting resource. Explanatory statements for the constitutional amendments from the Office of the Secretary are available online and the Texas Legislative Council offers Analyses of Proposed Constitutional Amendments complete with background information for each amendment.

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Ashby provides legislative update for Rotary Club

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By Emily Banks Wooten
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State Rep. Trent AshbyState Rep. Trent AshbyState Representative Trent Ashby addressed the Rotary Club of Livingston Thursday, providing a wrap-up of the 88th session of the Texas Legislature. The six-term representative from Lufkin told those in attendance that he considers it an honor to represent them in the Texas House.

He expressed his pleasure at having Polk and Tyler counties added to his district after redistricting, commenting that it just made sense to put an East Texas heavily-forested group of counties together.

To give everyone a sense of how many bills get filed during a legislative session, Ashby said a total of 8,040 bills were filed in the House and Senate. He said that 1,246 made it all the way through the process, which is an approximate 15% success rate. He said 76 bills were vetoed, the second most in Texas history. Only 1,038 bills were actually signed by the governor into law, he said, with most having gone into effect Sept. 1 and the remainder going into effect Jan. 1, 2024.

Ashby said the only bill the legislature is constitutionally required to pass is the budget and that this session was different, with a historic budget surplus of $33 billion, a 26% increase in general revenue than in 2021.

“It speaks to how well our economy is, especially following the pandemic. The State of Texas has the eighth largest economy in the entire world. That is a big focus, trying to forecast and plan how we want to spend our precious resources,” he said.

“I am a big proponent of public education. We must continue to invest in our most important resource in the state of Texas - our children. That’s our seed stock,” Ashby said.

“We are the fastest-growing state in the union. People are wanting to come here. The work is not done though. We’re going back in October for a special session,” he said, adding that $5 million was not spent because it was not authorized.

Noting that his grandmother and mother were teachers and that his two sisters are teachers, he said he gets an earful at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

“It’s been 19 years since we’ve given our retired teachers a cost of living adjustment.This year, finally, we were able to do that,” he said, adding that there will be a proposition in the upcoming constitutional amendment election that, if approved, would make the cost of living adjustment for retired teachers permanent.

“In addition to a cost of living adjustment, we also provided a one-time stipend. I’m really proud of the work we were able to do for our retired teachers,” he said.

“We’re still dealing with the tragedy of Uvalde but we did a lot of work and passed HB 3, which ensures that at every school campus in the State of Texas there will be an armed security guard,” he said.

“We also provided community college funding. This was a transformational session for the 50 community colleges in Texas which make up the lifeblood of the workforce today. We needed to modernize our funding system, incentivizing our community colleges to help fill the void by rewarding them financially. All 50 were wildly supportive,” he said.

Commenting that another focus was on infrastructure, he said there were two big items, the first being water and the second being broadband.

“Prop 1 on the ballot, if approved, will create the Texas Water Fund, which will provide low interest loans and grants for rural areas in Texas to assist with replacing outdated infrastructure. We’re at a crisis point in making sure we can continue to provide safe drinking water for the people of the State of Texas and this is something I believe will be very beneficial,” he said.

Regarding broadband, Ashby said, “So many school districts were impacted during COVID when TEA says, ‘school’s out, we’re going to a digital format.’ That’s fine if you have broadband. Texas was one of only four states in 2020 that didn’t have a broadband plan for our state.”

During the 2021 session, a broadband office was created and a broadband study was conducted to determine who had access and who didn’t. During this session, they added funding.

“In the next seven to 10 years, you’re going to see a whole lot more connectivity,” he said.

“The number one issue that I heard about coming into this session is people were crying out for relief on property taxes. That was a priority for the House, the Senate and the governor. And when those stars align, good things happen,” he said, referring to the $18 billion in relief, $12 billion of which he said will be seen through the compression of school district maintenance and operations taxes.

He said they also approved raising the homestead exemption.

“Prop 4, if approved, will raise the homestead exemption from $40,000 to $100,000,” he said.

“The other item I hear the most about today is ‘what are we doing to secure the border?’ It is a crisis, it’s worse today than it’s ever been,” he said, adding that they are seeing a surge from Central America.

“We’ve got a lot more to do on this front. We appropriated $5.1 billion spread across 13 different agencies working to slow the migration. It’s going to be a combination of issues, not just barriers. This is bipartisan. It is not a partisan issue,” he said.

“A huge focus of mine is taking care of my constituents in a non-legislative manner,” Ashby said, reporting that he met with City of Livingston officials and representatives from the Texas Department of Transportation on Wednesday to talk about the local challenges with transportation.

“I like to work directly with constituents to see if we can find a compromise. That is a big part of what Senator Robert Nichols and myself do, so if you ever have an issue or a problem with a state agency, that is my job to help you with that,” he said.

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Rotary Club learns all about FCCLA

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Livingston High School CTE (Career/Tech) Coordinator Blake Thornton and FCCLA students Emma Bradley, Jy’Asia Terry, Cole Gann and Sofia Fitzgerald stand with Rotary President Brandon Wigent after presenting a program for the Rotary Club of Livingston recently. Photo by Emily Banks WootenLivingston High School CTE (Career/Tech) Coordinator Blake Thornton and FCCLA students Emma Bradley, Jy’Asia Terry, Cole Gann and Sofia Fitzgerald stand with Rotary President Brandon Wigent after presenting a program for the Rotary Club of Livingston recently. Photo by Emily Banks Wooten

By Emily Banks Wooten
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Livingston High School CTE (Career/Tech) Coordinator Blake Thornton and four Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) students recently presented a program for the Rotary Club of Livingston. Cole Gann, Jy’Asia Terry, Emma Bradley and Sofia Fitzgerald all serve as regional and state officers for Texas FCCLA.

Prior to turning it over to the students, Thornton provided a recap of the FCCLA achievements from the 2022-2023 school year. Three students were elected to serve as Region IV officers and one student was elected to serve as a Texas FCCLA state officer for the 2023-2024 school year. Thirty-three teams competed at the regional level, with four students placing first, five placing second, one placing third, four placing fourth and three placing fifth.

During the Region IV conference, $12,500 in scholarships were awarded to competitors from the Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. For the Region IV service project, 102 items were donated to CASA of Galveston. Seventeen teams competed at state, with one placing first, two placing third and two placing fifth.

There was one competitor at the national conference. The region and state officers also attended and gained valuable leadership skills throughout the week in Denver. One student brought home a gold medal in her event, placing fourth in the nation. The students attending national had the opportunity to visit Garden of the Gods, the Air Force Academy and Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum.

Members at the national conference listened to national officer candidate speeches and gave valuable insight to the voting delegates for Texas FCCLA which had two national officer candidates, with one being successfully elected.

The region and state officers attended a week-long officer training camp. During this time, they planned yearly fall leadership, region conference and state conference. They created media materials to be used throughout the year and learned how to be leaders and advocate for FCCLA. They selected “Uncover the possibilities” as the theme for the 2023-2024 school year. They also practiced etiquette and parliamentary procedures.

The students shared how the opportunity to join FCCLA organization is offered to any students enrolled in family and consumer sciences classes anywhere in the country. The LHS chapter has monthly meetings and events. They encourage members to compete and engage in leadership activities, attend regional conferences and workshops. LHS hosted a fall leadership workshop that introduced new members to community service opportunities and a record 130 students attended from Livingston and surrounding schools. The local chapter at LHS has a school record of almost 300 members. There are 28,000 members in the state and LHS has had much success at the state and national level competitions. The FCCLA advisors are Chef Kristi Gann, Cayla Young and Laura Gokey.

Cole Gann talked about the number of ways to get involved and reviewed some of the goals for this year, one of which is to show every one of the members that they have a place with FCCLA.

Jy’Asia Terry talked about how FCCLA participation benefits the school and the students by providing scholarships and introducing them to various careers. She said they have the opportunity to compete in events and participate in job interviews which helps to prepare them for the real world. She said their national leadership conference will be in Seattle, Wash. this year.

Sofia Fitzgerald talked about attending the leadership conferences and how FCCLA creates a safe environment for students, allowing them to take the lead in their studies and their lives. She also spoke highly of the FCCLA advisors, adding that they serve in leadership positions within the region.

Emma Bradley talked about the various community service projects in which the students participate.

“Unfortunately, we hear all the negatives that go on in the world, but I could bring in any one of these individuals and say this is representative of our best students. They understand respect and hard work and it makes me proud to see them grow as people,” Thornton said.

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Help shape the county’s future

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By Emily Banks Wooten
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Survey1 QRAs of Tuesday afternoon, there had been 257 responses to the countywide survey that went live Sept. 11. Of those, 193 were resident surveys, 29 were business surveys and 35 were elected official/government staff surveys. While that may be a good start, additional input is sought.

Due to the overwhelming growth Polk County has experienced in recent years, the Polk County Commissioners Court approved entering into a strategic planning process that is a collaborative effort aimed at developing a comprehensive countywide strategic plan. Once developed, this plan will serve as a roadmap to guide the collective vision and goals for Polk County. It will outline the aspirations, priorities and strategies to enhance various aspects of the community, including economic growth, public services, infrastructure development and more.

The collaboration is between Polk County, the Polk County Economic Development Corporation and the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce.

There are three distinct surveys being used to gather insight from residents, local business owners and entrepreneurs, and elected officials and government staff members. The Polk County Strategic Planning Committee recognizes the importance of involving all stakeholders in the planning process to ensure a well-rounded and inclusive strategy. The surveys have been carefully crafted to capture perspectives from different points of view, to help understand the unique needs, aspirations and priorities of the diverse community.

All county residents are encouraged to participate in the survey to share thoughts on various aspects of the community. From public services and recreational opportunities to transportation and environmental concerns, the survey results will contribute to a well-rounded strategic plan that enhances the quality of life for everyone.

Survey2 QREach survey is designed to be quick and easy to complete, taking just a few minutes to complete. Participants are welcome to take one or all three surveys, depending on their unique viewpoints and interests. Input will help create a strategic plan that truly reflects the aspirations of the entire community.

  For those who may not have access to a computer, Priscilla Emrich, director of the Livingston Municipal Library, has agreed to provide stations for community members to complete the survey. Livingston Municipal Library is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. It is located at 707 N. Tyler Ave. in Livingston.

For additional information about the strategic planning process, please visit the website at https://www.co.polk.tx.us/page/polk.county.news.

 

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HISTORIC RENOVATION CONTINUES

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HistoricRenovation

Over time, the brick and mortar have seen their fair share of challenges from washing methods and natural wear, and numerous patches have been made due to the building’s shifting, resulting in a lack of uniform color. To combat this, the contractor, Komatsu Architecture, worked closely with the Texas Historical Commission to find the perfect mixture of historically accurate mortar – one that is soft, permeable and matches the original color. Surprises have occurred. A concealed door was found within the exterior east wall of the basement. Also uncovered was evidence of the stage’s expansion. They are presently in the process of removing the “add-on” section of the stage, paving the way for an updated floor plan for the stage area, complete with a shiny new door in the basement. Committed to maintaining historic accuracy, the historic facilities from the third-floor restroom were carefully relocated and will be reinstalled when the time is right. Contractors are presently in the “discovery” phase, ensuring that everything that is revealed aligns with the original plans. Photo by Brian Besch

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