Politics

Lone Star watch by Ed Sterling

TEXAS governor Greg Abbott pledged to retain and write more state anti-Iran laws in a meeting with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week.
Abbott made the promises during a business-development tour of Israel on January 18 when he and Netanyahu, above, met “to discuss Texas and Israel’s historic bond”.
Abbott said afterwards that he had also discussed how he could further solidify the relationship between Israel and Texas.
He said he had told Netanyahu that Texas would “maintain its Iran divestiture policy” and that he would “seek new laws to strengthen Texas’ prohibitions on the investment of public funds in Iran”.
He said legislation he plans to promote would require Texas’ state and local-governmental entities, not just the state’s various retirement funds, to divest investments in Iran.
It would also close loopholes in Texas’ Iran-divestment law after examining them to determine where and how any exceptions can be minimized or eliminated altogether.
It is not the first time Abbott has involved himself in Iran’s affairs. In September, he sent a letter to the Texas US congressional delegation stating his opposition to last year’s nuclear deal between that nation and the UN security council’s five permanent members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – plus Germany.
On July 14, 2015, president Barack Obama signed the agreement, with the White House calling it “a comprehensive, long-term deal that will verifiably prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon”.

Supreme court to hear Texas deportation case

AN IMMIGRATION case that originated in Brownsville is to be reviewed by the US supreme court.
Styled now as United States v Texas, the case challenges the Obama administration’s November 2014 executive order affecting deportation policy for undocumented immigrants.
The case is scheduled to be argued before the court in April, with a decision expected in June.
Texas attorney general Ken Paxton reacted to the supreme court’s January 19 announcement that it would hear the case by saying the court “recognizes the importance of the separation
of powers.”
Texas is leading a 26-state coalition against the president’s immigration plan. Federal courts have ruled in the states’ favor three times, most recently in the
US court of appeals for the fifth circuit.

Paxton: Legality of daily online gaming is pure fantasy

THE STATE’S attorney general has come out against the legality of daily fantasy sports leagues, which have begun to dominate the world of online gaming.
Ken Paxton issued an opinion on the issue last week in response to a legislative inquiry by state representative Myra Crownover, a Republican from Denton and chair of the house of representatives’ public-health committee.
Crownover had asked the attorney general whether “daily fantasy sports leagues” are permissible under Texas law and whether it is legal to participate in fantasy sports leagues where a gaming house does not take a “rake” and the participants only wager among themselves.
Issuing his opinion on January 19, Paxton said: “Paid daily ‘fantasy sports’ operators claim they can legally operate as an unregulated house but none of their arguments square with existing Texas law.
“Simply put, it is prohibited gambling in Texas if you bet on the performance of a participant in a sporting event and the house takes a cut.”
He said that, unlike some other states, Texas only requires “partial chance” for something to be construed as gambling; it does not require that chance predominate.
He said his opinion makes clear that “traditional fantasy sports leagues are, as a general rule, legal under Texas law”, adding: “In those leagues, participants generally split any pot among themselves, so there is no house that takes a cut.”

Jobs end year on high note

LAST YEAR ended with another month of growth in Texas employment as 24,900 jobs were added during December, according to the state’s workforce commission.
The boost brought the figure for the year to 166,900, commission chair Andres Alcantar said on Friday.
But the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 4.7 per cent during the month, up from 4.6 per cent in November. Even so, it remained below the national average of 5.0 per cent, Alcantar said.
Citing figures compiled by the US department of labor statistics, the commission said Texas’ professional and business-services employment surged in December with the addition of 12,500 positions, the industry’s largest over-the-month gain since November 2014.
TWC officials also said the state’s education and health-services industry recorded Texas’ second-largest employment gain over the month by adding 7,400 jobs, marking 21 consecutive months of growth and a total of 66,700 jobs added since January last year.

Commissioner announces re-election bid

By Lora-Marie Bernard

A WOMAN with more than a decade of service to her city as a member of its commission says she is still up for the job.
Dee Ann Haney has become the first of Texas City’s commissioners to announce a reelection bid and is seeking to retain her position as its commissioner-at-large, a role she has held since May 2004.DeeAnn Haney
Haney, left, is a past member of the city’s museum board and planning commission. At present, she represents the city at Houston-Galveston Area Council, serves as vice chair of the county’s transit district board, is a member of the county’s animal advisory services committee and is vice-president of Galveston County Mayors And Council-members’ Association. She is also president of the Rotary Club of Texas City.
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve the citizens of Texas City and let’s continue working together for an even better Texas City,” she said.
She said that, of several highlights during her several terms on the commission dating back to the early millennium, Sixth Street improvements and remodeling Texas City Museum top her list.
She said she is proud of the new displays in the museum and that Rotary Trails, a Rotary Club outdoors project, is another project that is dear to her.
“Of course, rebuilding the dike after Hurricane Ike and the water and sewer upgrades are other projects that were also important to be part of,” she said. “I also can’t forget all the work to the golf course.”
Haney said she regards serving on the commission as a way to do her civic duty.
“I enjoy the opportunity to serve the citizens and to in some way give back, even though it is small,” she said.
“By being part of the team that shapes the decisions that affect the community, I am able to make a difference in the way they turn out.”
A 1981 graduate of Texas City high school, her education includes AA and AS degrees from College Of The Mainland, a bachelor degree in industrial hygiene and safety from University Of Houston-Clear Lake and a master’s degree in technology with a concentration in emergency management from Arizona State University.
She is a safety engineer with more than 25 years of experience in safety, health, environmental and emergency management and holds numerous professional designations including certified industrial hygienist, certified safety professional, certified emergency manager and certified Texas emergency manager.
The Texas City commission election will be held on May 7.

County quizzed on plan to set historic fort house ablaze

By Lora-Marie Bernard

PART of a fort that once housed Nazi prisoners of war is to be burned to the ground by the county in the next few months despite the objections of a nearby resident.
Because the building, at Fort Travis Park on the Bolivar peninsula, is constructed of brick, the resident believes fire is not the best way of destroying it.
Crystal Beach resident Mary Ann Rogers questioned the method the county will use when the county’s commissioners discussed razing the caretaker’s house at the federally registered historical site last week.
During World War II, the site became part of the country’s coastal defense system as the government believed that German submarines and other vessels could attack or invade America’s seaports. Captured Nazi soldiers were also imprisoned at the site.Fort Travis Caretaker House    Photo courtesy Texas Historical Commission

Although no one opposed the county’s decision to destroy the building during the commissioners’ court meeting, Rogers told the commissioners that burning it seemed an odd decision as the house is mostly brick and contains little wood.
“Who was the one who made this decision to burn something that’s all brick?” she asked.
County officials said the building does have enough wood to burn. They agreed with Rogers that most of the building’s wood flooring has eroded but said its joists and other wood components are still intact.
The county’s road-and-bridge department director, Lee Crowder, said the project will be carried out by in-house workers and that the county could do the job cheaper itself than by hiring a contractor.
Rogers said she was still confused because another county department had called for a bid for demolishing the house.
“My whole concern was the fact that nuisance-and-abatement put it out for bid and I understand here that they could do it in-house,” she said.
“I guess, if y’all can, I have no other recourse here. In my mind, it’s just ludicrous that they’re going to build something that had one per cent wood in it and demo it somehow.”
At the end of the discussion, the commissioners voted unanimously to destroy the building by setting fire to it.
Fort Travis remains one of the most complete concentrations of coastal artillery batteries on the Texas Gulf Coast. It was placed on the national register of historical places in 2005 and its entry was amended in 2013 after further research by the state’s historical commission.
The fort’s history goes back to 1898, when the federal government purchased 97 acres to build the Fort Travis military reservation. The following year, the government deeded it to the coast artillery and construction continued until 1943.
The government raised the property by 17 feet after the 1900 storm, making it the highest point on the peninsula.
During World War II, the fort contained coastal gun batteries, magazine bunkers and anti- aircraft-gun emplacements. Its housing included barracks for enlisted soldiers, officers’ quarters and ancillary structures.
Today, only its four main gun batteries, a forward observation post and one anti-aircraft-gun emplacement remain. Many are still in good shape, according to the 2013 nomination amendment, and they represent three distinctive historical periods within the military history of coastal fortifications. Water tanks and other facilities still keep the site’s historical integrity intact.
The caretaker’s house is alongside a playground and parking lot near one of the batteries, named Davis. According to the state’s 2013 nomination, it was not considered a major feature of the site. At best it played a supporting role.
“These remains might contribute to the military history of the fort, the history of the area and the history of coastal fortifications,” the nomination documents state.

PUBLIC DOMAIN with Lora-Marie Bernard

TEXAS Republicans were quick last week to band against president Barack Obama’s executive actions on gun control and rallied together in an effort to have him censured.
Obama’s controversial move drew fire from the state’s senior US senator, John Cornyn, who said the president showed indifference to the bipartisanship message he, the senator, had been spreading during the holiday season.

usnews.com: Obama to keep more troops in 'fragile' Afghanistan

“An unwillingness to find common ground and achieve compromise has been a hallmark of this president’s tenure, and this issue is unfortunately no different,” the senate’s majority whip said.
US congressman Randy Weber said the president was looking for “political brownie points” with his party and nothing more.
“The president’s excessive use of executive action completely disregards congress and the constitution,” he said after backing a resolution by Mississippi congressman Steve Palazzo.
“It’s ignorant to think that ramping up gun control will exclusively prevent bad people from doing bad things.”
Weber, who represents Galveston County in Washington as the representative for Texas’ 14th congressional district, is a co-sponsor of Palazzo’s resolution, which seeks to censure the president for the memorandum and other points of his agenda.

Policeman with hand on gun holster

More than 30 Republican are co-sponsoring the resolution. On Monday, Texas representative Bill Flores of Bryan joined the growing list.
Presidential executive action differs slightly from an executive order. Both are recorded in the federal register but an action is entered as a memorandum rather than a rule. The presidential document issued last week does not have legal weight but it does express an aggressive stance on an agenda.
In his action last week, Obama described a series of background-check overhauls from the FBI and ATF, the bureau responsible for alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives. He said the FBI should be allowed to add 283 more staff to handle gun control.
He also said his 2017 budget will call for 200 new ATF agents and investigators to help enforce existing gun laws.
Cornyn criticized Obama for not focusing on mental-health issues and choosing to use enforcement to control gun violence.
Loopholes
He said the Mental Health And Safe Communities bill, which he introduced, “would strengthen the existing background check system without expanding it and improve treatment, preventative screening and crisis response for individuals with mental illness”.
While not specifically mentioning Cornyn’s bill, Obama said his administration calls for a $500m investment to increase access to mental-health care.
Nevertheless, Cornyn still charged the president with not cooperating with congress.
“Rather than unilaterally impose a gun-control agenda that’s unlawful and strips the constitutional rights of elderly Americans, the president should better enforce current law and work with congress on legislation reforming our mental-health system,” he said.
The executive action also describes measures to close legal loopholes the president wants to end. Among them are licenses for internet gun sellers, more stringent rules for people buying weapons through a trust and other crackdowns.
It also calls for the departments of defense, justice and homeland security to prepare a report outlining new research into gun safety within 90 days.
Obama wants to see how the departments can conduct or sponsor research that would reduce the frequency of accidental discharges and the unauthorized use of firearms and improve ways of tracing lost or stolen guns.
Cornyn, meanwhile, said reports indicate an overall decrease in gun crime and a 10-year decline in felony weapons convictions. He produced data showing 9,206 convictions in 2005 and 6,002 in 2015. TEXAS Republicans were quick last week to band against president Barack Obama’s executive actions on gun control and rallied together in an effort to have him censured.
Obama’s controversial move drew fire from the state’s senior US senator, John Cornyn, who said the president showed indifference to the bipartisanship message he, the senator, had been spreading during the holiday season.
“An unwillingness to find common ground and achieve compromise has been a hallmark of this president’s tenure, and this issue is unfortunately no different,” the senate’s majority whip said.
US congressman Randy Weber said the president was looking for “political brownie points” with his party and nothing more.
“The president’s excessive use of executive action completely disregards congress and the constitution,” he said after backing a resolution by Mississippi congressman Steve Palazzo.
“It’s ignorant to think that ramping up gun control will exclusively prevent bad people from doing bad things.”
Weber, who represents Galveston County in Washington as the representative for Texas’ 14th congressional district, is a co-sponsor of Palazzo’s resolution, which seeks to censure the president for the memorandum and other points of his agenda.
More than 30 Republican are co-sponsoring the resolution. On Monday, Texas representative Bill Flores of Bryan joined the growing list.
Presidential executive action differs slightly from an executive order. Both are recorded in the federal register but an action is entered as a memorandum rather than a rule. The presidential document issued last week does not have legal weight but it does express an aggressive stance on
an agenda.
In his action last week, Obama described a series of background-check overhauls from the FBI and ATF, the bureau responsible for alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives. He said the FBI should be allowed to add 283 more staff to handle gun control.
He also said his 2017 budget will call for 200 new ATF agents and investigators to help enforce existing gun laws.
Cornyn criticized Obama for not focusing on mental-health issues and choosing to use enforcement to control gun violence.
He said the Mental Health And Safe Communities bill, which he introduced, “would strengthen the existing background check system without expanding it and improve treatment, preventative screening and crisis response for individuals with mental illness”.
While not specifically mentioning Cornyn’s bill, Obama said his administration calls for a $500m investment to increase access to mental-health care.
Nevertheless, Cornyn still charged the president with not cooperating with congress.
“Rather than unilaterally impose a gun-control agenda that’s unlawful and strips the constitutional rights of elderly Americans, the president should better enforce current law and work with congress on legislation reforming our mental-health system,” he said.
The executive action also describes measures to close legal loopholes the president wants to end. Among them are licenses for internet gun sellers, more stringent rules for people buying weapons through a trust and other crackdowns.
It also calls for the departments of defense, justice and homeland security to prepare a report outlining new research into gun safety within 90 days.
Obama wants to see how the departments can conduct or sponsor research that would reduce the frequency of accidental discharges and the unauthorized use of firearms and improve ways of tracing lost or stolen guns.
Cornyn, meanwhile, said reports indicate an overall decrease in gun crime and a 10-year decline in felony weapons convictions. He produced data showing 9,206 convictions in 2005 and 6,002 in 2015.

Weber lauds healthcare repeal bill

US CONGRESSMAN Randy Weber said he was pleased with the final passage of Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation bill, which seeks to repeal the Affordable Care act and defund Planned Parenthood.
Speaking about the Affordable Care act, he said: “Since the implementation of Obamacare, we have seen premiums increase and healthcare coverage options disappear.
“The majority of Americans believe there is a better way than the president’s onerous health-care law.”
He said the measure will become the first repeal bill to reach president Barack Obama’s desk.
“The president will finally have to answer to the American people,” he said.
“If and when the president vetoes this legislation, he is sending a clear message that he will not work with congress to abandon this burdensome law and work toward a better option that will allow people to buy affordable health care by way of the free market.”
The house bill also seeks to defund Planned Parenthood and divert taxpayer funding to nonprofit health organizations that do not provide abortions.
“We are starting off on the right foot,” Weber said about the start of the 114th congress’ second session.
“I hope that we continue this momentum in passing legislation that will finally put America first.”

Lone Star watch by Ed Sterling

THE EXECUTIVE director of the state’s Democratic Party has accused Texas governor Greg Abbott of trying to set America back more than 220 years by “tearing apart” the US constitution.
And he also claims that Abbott’s “Tea Party nonsense” policies have diminished Texas’ status among the states, leaving it “sixth in job creation” and “the uninsured capital of the nation”.
Manny Garcia called Abbott’s constitutional proposals the “equivalent of the articles of confederation” as he reacted to the governor’s call for nine amendments to the constitution.Abbott, 2015-GovernorAbbott-Portrait2 cropped
As The Post revealed exclusively in its Sunday edition, Abbott made the call in a speech on Friday in which he outlined his Texas Plan, seeking “to rein in the federal government and restore the balance of power between the states and the United States”.
The amendments Abbott is proposing include prohibiting the US congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one state, requiring congress to balance its budget and prohibiting administrative agencies “and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them” from creating federal law or preempting state law.
He also wants the constitution to allow a two-thirds majority of the states to override a US supreme court decisions and require a seven-justice supermajority vote for US supreme-court decisions “that invalidate a democratically enacted law”.
His demands also call for restoration of “the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the constitution” and for state officials to have the power to sue in federal court “when federal officials overstep their bounds”.
And he wants the constitution to allow a two-thirds majority of the states to override federal laws or regulations.
Garcia said the proposals would “tear apart the constitution and take America back to an equivalent of the articles of confederation”, referring to the United States’ first constitution, which was adopted by the Continental congress in 1777 and governed the nation’s law from 1781 until 1789, when the present constitution replaced it.
Turning to Texas’ economy, Garcia added: “America added 292,000 new jobs in December but, under Abbott, Texas fell to sixth in job creation [and] remains the uninsured capital of the nation. Wages and incomes remain far too low for hardworking families, our neighborhood schools are still underfunded and college education is slipping out of reach.
“Texas families deserve serious solutions, not Tea Party nonsense.”

… as Abbott slams Obama on guns

GREG ABBOTT and Texas attorney general Ken Paxton have both weighed in on the issue of gun control after president Barack Obama said he would take executive action to reduce gun violence in America, primarily by keeping guns “out of the wrong hands through background checks”.
Reacting to Thursday’s White House address by the president, Abbott said: “Despite the president’s latest attempt to undermine our liberty, Texas will take every action to protect the second-amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”
Paxton said: “I stand ready to fight back against any overreach that will deny or infringe on [gun owners’] rights.”

‘Don’t Mess’ turns 30

ONE OF THE state’s most prominent public-awareness campaigns has reached its 30th anniversary.
According to the state’s transportation department, don't mess with Texas - logo-1during the 30 years the iconic Don’t Mess With Texas anti-litter campaign has been reminding people to put litter in a trashcan instead of tossing it out of their vehicles, 435 million pieces of visible litter have piled up along state-maintained highways annually.
Small bits of trash can add up to one big litter problem, especially when napkins, wrappers and cigarette butts make up 70 per cent of all litter found along Texas roads, TxDOT said, adding that, in 2014 alone, the state spent $35m in highway cleanup costs.

Sales tax revenue drops

TEXAS collected $2.33 billion in sales-tax revenue in December, 1.1 per cent less than in December 2014, according to state public-accounts comptroller Glenn Hegar.sales tax
“As with the previous two months, December sales tax revenue was down largely due to spending reductions in oil and gas-related sectors,” Hegar said last week.
“This was expected, given ongoing weakness in oil and natural gas prices. Remittances from other sectors, such as construction and information, continued
to grow.”
This month, his office is sending cities, counties, transit systems and special-purpose taxing districts $617.2m in local sales-tax allocations, 0.1 per cent less than in January 2015.
The allocations are based on sales made in November by businesses that report
tax monthly.