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San Jacinto County News - Breakout

Nichols to support rape exceptions for abortion

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102722 nichols aboration

By Pooja Salhotra
The Texas Tribune

Republican state Sen. Robert Nichols of Jacksonville said Friday that he’d support a change to Texas’ abortion laws to allow victims of rape to legally obtain the procedure.

“If I get a chance to vote for an exception to rape, I will vote yes,” the East Texas senator said during a panel of Republican lawmakers at the 2022 Texas Tribune Festival. “I think instead of us telling women what to do, we should show our support for women of this state.”

Nichols is one of the first anti-abortion lawmakers to say he would support loosening the abortion laws when lawmakers meet in January.

Texas has one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws, which went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — the landmark case that established the legal right to an abortion. Under Texas law, abortions are prohibited in almost all cases, including rape and incest, and are allowed only to save the life of the pregnant person.

Texas is competing against private companies who are willing to bus their employees out of state for “pregnancy care,” said Nichols. “And what are we doing?”
At the least, Nichols said, the state should provide a minimum of four weeks of paid maternity leave for state employees.

Nichols self-identifies as “pro-life” and has voted in favor of the state’s abortion laws, including the “fetal heartbeat” law that went into effect last September. The law prohibited most abortions after an ultrasound could detect cardiac activity in a embryo, about six weeks into a pregnancy. Nichols’ office did not immediately respond to questions about whether the senator would support any other exceptions to the abortion law, such as for incest.

In response, members of the Orange County Republican Party of Texas issued a statement in opposition to Nichols’ stance, and drafted a resolution reaffirming “life in the womb even in sexual assault cases.”
The statement said the members rebuke Nichols, and the OCRP seeks to have all GOP groups in Nichols’ district, which for now includes San Jacinto County, to adopt the same resolution.

Public polling shows that Texans overwhelmingly support exceptions for both rape and incest, with only 13 percent and 11 percent, respectively, saying pregnant people should not be able to obtain abortions in those cases.

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan also signaled an openness at the Festival on Friday to reexamining exceptions to Texas’ abortion law. Phelan, a southeast Texas Republican, said he was unlikely to personally support such exceptions but that some members of his caucus have said they may want to revisit the matter.Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has said in previous interviews that the abortion issue appeared settled.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/09/23/texas-rape-exceptions-robert-nichols/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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District on solid footing

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J.J. LeBlanc was given an Anchor Award. Photo by Tony FarkasJ.J. LeBlanc was given an Anchor Award. Photo by Tony Farkas

By Tony Farkas
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SHEPHERD — All indications from the state show the Shepherd ISD is on sound financial footing.

At its regular meeting on Thursday, the Board of Managers held a public hearing on the district’s Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas scores for 2021, and Assistant Superintendent DeAnna Clavell said that on most indicators, the district held top marks.

The district got max scores on solvency, and overall, was rated superior for its finances.

In a separate matter, the board discussed revisions of student outcome goals and campus and district improvement goals.

Superintendent Jason Hewitt said the district would need to hire experts to help the district assess and modify the goals, as well as create an operating policy for the board.

Hewitt said that the policies would be needed to help the board of managers transition to a regular board of trustees while continuing the good work the board has done.

In other business, the board:

•approved the quarterly financial update;

•approved policy revisions for the library, and discussed new website information about libraries on all campuses; and

•approved an interlocal agreement with San Jacinto County for road maintenance.

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County commissioners extend burn ban

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062622 burn ban extended

By Tony Farkas
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COLDSPRING — The San Jacinto County Commissioners’ Court extended a burn ban for another 30 days at its regular meeting on Wednesday.

County Judge Fritz Faulkner said he issued a burn ban for a week, which expired, and then the next day after consulting with the fire marshal it was extended for another week; however, the county had receiv ed a little bit of rain.

Commissioner Donnie Marrs, echoing sentiments from all commissioners, said the little rain they’ve had isn’t enough to make a difference.

Faulkner was hopeful, however, saying that historically speaking, when the county passes a burn ban, it usually rains.

In other business, the county:

•approved creating a permit process for utility companies boring under county roads;

•approved an agreement with the UTMB regional WIC program for office space;

•approved a resolution authorizing the Texas Department of Agriculture Texans Feeding Texans home-delivered grant program, in the amount of $12,000;

•approved an $8,500 settlement agreement with Vivian Smith for damages done from a tree falling from county land on a trailer she owned;

•approved hiring former DPS Trooper Michael Lyons as a reserve deputy;

•approved the purchase of a motor and valve body for a patch truck in the amount $30,562.77;

•approved the subdivision revision in the Bay Hill area of the Waterwood subdivision;

•approved a late bid for laydown work and asphalt work from Washburn Paving;

•approved a $1,000 donation from Best Friends for the animal control center;

•tabled discussion regarding the passing of an animal control ordinance;

•approved the purchase of a maintainer for Precinct 1 Road and Bridge for $317,440.16;

•approved the declaration of desks and computer equipment as salvage; and

•approved $45,000 in America Rescue Plan Act funds for work on the county animal shelter.

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City moves forward on chief position

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Police GraphicBy Tony Farkas

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SHEPHERD — After a non-attended public hearing on establishing a City of Shepherd Police Department, the Shepherd City Council moved forward by approving the department and the creation of a chief of police position.

City Clerk Debra Hagler said the city is planning to have the department staffed and in operation by Dec. 1. 

Additionally, she said a new police chief should be hired and appointed at the November meeting.

The city does own a police vehicle, and already has purchased a lot of the necessary equipment but is looking to purchase a second vehicle. Hagler said it’s just a matter of dealing with the red tape to get Texas Commission on Law Enforcement approval.

Council Member Yvonne Cones expressed concern about funding, but the city has the funds budgeted, Hagler said.

In other business, the council:

•approved an ordinance denying Entergy Texas’s intent to change rates;

•approved submitting a grant application to the Texas General Land Office for the Community Development Block Grant Mitigation Regional Allocation Program for water system improvement project;

•tabled a road maintenance request from Shantal Pope at 2400 E. Beverly for more information;

•approved a request from Cassandra Schaver to allow the Drill Team to use the Community Center for a fundraiser on Dec. 9 for four hours with fees to be waived;

•took no action on requests from Augusto Estrada to have an RV on his property, and a manufactured home variance request from Hershel Ebarb;

•tabled a discussion on a request from Lisette Gaytan to install a 1993 Single Wide Wingate on her property for more information;

•approved a request from Johnny Watson to install temporary RVs on his property to house a team of security people to protect his business that has been burglarized three times within a weeks’ time; and

•approved the hiring of Sissy Prigmore as the Municipal Court prosecutor on an as-needed basis for a fee of $200 per month.

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County breaks ground on new center

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San Jacinto County dignitaries break ground for a new Innovation Center.  Courtesy photo by Ray McCoppinSan Jacinto County dignitaries break ground for a new Innovation Center. Courtesy photo by Ray McCoppin

SJNT staff

COLDSPRING — San Jacinto County commissioners, dignitaries and residents celebrated a groundbreaking on Thursday for a new Innovation and Emergency Operations Center.

The shelter is located at 255 Live Oak St. in Coldspring and is an Economic Development Administration/DETCOG and San Jacinto County project grant-funded Project using EDA funds, American Rescue Plan Act funds with a county match, according to information from County Commissioner David Brandon.

This is a multi-use facility that will serve as an Emergency Operation Center, ag training area, with economic development breakout rooms and broadband communications.

Brandon said that when a disaster occurs in San Jacinto County can have all the support services in one location, such as FEMA, the Small Business Administration, Workforce Solutions and many more. Resources such as Army Corps of Engineers, USFS/TFS and many other federal and state agencies will be utilizing the facility alongside congressional and legislative members and staff. 

The operational side will be separated from the shelter building for privacy and safety reasons, since residents affected by some disaster could be sleeping there. The Red Cross can set up at either location and food, water and ice distribution can be staged at the shelter leaving the EOC building and parking open for needed response and recovery services.

At the event, County Judge Fritz Faulkner said that with the help Of Lonnie Hunt, director Of DETCOG, Christi Sullivan, grant writer who prepared the original grant, and Bob Bashaw with DETCOG, who is the current grant administrator, the process was begun. 

After extensive work by the court working on the plans and trying to keep it under budget, we contracted with Timberline Constructors of Lufkin to build the building, which is a 10,000 square foot facility, Faulkner said. 

The grant includes a $400,000 county match which the county acquired from a tax note, for a total initial budget of $2 million. However, the effects of COVID and the economy has pushed the costs to $2.9 million.

The county sought the services Of Langford Community Management grant administrators in order to gain approval to utilize American Recovery Act funds to cover the budget overruns, Faulkner said.

“The project will support long-term solutions that will improve the county’s ability to respond efficiently to future disasters and help recovery efforts from the devastation Of Hurricane Harvey,” he said. “Once completed, the project will serve as the centralized disaster response center for several economic development entities and will increase regional capacity to support job retention and creation.”

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