News

VOTERS were given a chance to put candidates for educational trusteeships to the test on Tuesday during a public forum hosted by Texas City-La Marque chamber of commerce at Mall Of The Mainland’s recently reopened central corridor.
During the forum, the candidates spoke about their qualifications for the job and outlined their vision for their respective jurisdictions before members of the public asked questions.
In the May 6 elections, Texas City ISD sees Lois Henderson-Jones and Mable Pratt vying for its district-two board seat and Nakisha Paul and David Rac contesting its district-three position.
College Of The Mainland sees Roney McCrary, Sharon Mitchiner and Melissa Skipworth vying for its board of trustees’ position five, while Don Gartman and Arnetta Henderson are rivals for position seven.

PUBLIC DOMAIN

A regular roundup of local-authority activities by Lora-Marie Bernard and Trishna Buch

A CITY’S first-ever public-safety capital-investment project took a big step forward on Wednesday when officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new fire station.
The city of La Marque and its fire department hosted the ceremony as contractors prepared to start work on the fire station at 1000 Salt Grass Point Boulevard and the department’s 5201 Texas Avenue administration building.
During the ceremony, La Marque fire chief Gerald Grimm said: “This is a milestone for the city. These facilities will have incomprehensible positive impact on the delivery of quality public service across La Marque, directly affecting the preservation of life and property in our community.”

Firefighters light up safety rating

CHEAPER property insurance could be in the offing for a huge swath of county residents as their city’s fire service has just been awarded the fire-insurance industry’s highest protection rating.
Homeowners in the affected area could save nine per cent and commercial-property owners four per cent on their insurance from next January in the wake of several improvements in their fire-protection services.
Most properties in League City could benefit from the new rating, which places the city in the top one per cent of townships throughout the nation for fire safety.
Texas fire marshal Chris Connealy presented the city with the rating on Tuesday after Insurance Services Office, a research company based in Jersey City, New York, determined that six years of improvements in its fire protection merited a boost of two ratings grades in its public protection classification.
ISO found improvements in the city fire department’s water distribution, dispatching capabilities, fire-station distribution, record keeping, hydrant maintenance and firefighter response times, as well as a mutual-aid agreement with neighboring city Webster.
That qualified most residents of the county’s largest city for the potential savings, although owners of property in its far southwest area might not save as much as other citizens.
Connealy praised League City’s firefighters as he presented the certificate for the ISO 1 rating, replacing the city’s ISO 3 certificate.
He said: “The volunteers are doing such an awesome job protecting a very large community. This is a city that exemplifies the process of working together.”
City fire chief Gary Warren was excited that Connealy had traveled from Austin to present the certificate.
He said: “This is a rare appearance for the state fire marshal and indicates the important announcement. This city has a great deal to be proud of with this fire protection rating.”

Ike Dike ‘has Trump’s ear’

THE PROPOSED coastal protection system popularly known as the Ike Dike has reached the White House, one of its proponents told League City councilmembers on Tuesday.
And they heard that the storm-surge-suppression barrier officially known as a coastal spine would reduce the cost of damage in their city from $79 million to $2.9 million in a hurricane of similar magnitude to Ike, which hit the county in September 2008.
The barrier would also reduce the city’s economic damage in the wake of the storm by $500 million.
The information was presented to the councilmembers by Morgan’s Point city mayor Michel Bechtel and Sam Brody, the director of the center for Texas beaches and shores at Texas A&M Galveston.
Brody told the meeting that the path of a storm traveling up Galveston Bay had been used to predict flooding levels, physical damage and the potential economic costs. He used a map to show how League City will suffer economically if the coastal barrier is not built.
“This area has a lot to save”, he said.
Bechtel talked about the barrier’s political support, which has been slow to build since TAMUG professor Bill Merrell conceived the idea in the wake of the 20078 storm, and said it has gained the attention of president Donald Trump’s administration and other areas of federal government in Washington.
He told the meeting that, on Capitol Hill, speaker of the house Paul Ryan, the majority leader Kevin McCarthy and majority whip Steve Scalise are all aware of the project.
He said: “We are into the administration, into the chief of staff and they are aware of the project.
“Scalise is from Louisiana district one and knows exactly what happens when storm surge destroys a community.”
He added: “It is a political deal now. We have to convince the rest of the country that this is an economic engine that we have to protect.”
At state level, Bechtel said, requests for funding of the barrier had been made in concurrent resolutions by the county’s district 11 senator Larry Taylor and district 22 representative Joe Deshotel. Taylor’s has been approved by the senate while Deshotel’s is under consideration by the house calendar committee.
Taylor has also introduced senate bill 2265, which seeks the appointment of the Gulf Coast water authority as the agency responsible for the barrier’s operation and maintenance.

Johnson to speak on tax reform

CHERYL JOHNSON, the county’s tax assessor-collector, will talk on effective tax protests and the progress of proposed property-tax legislation in the current state legislative session when she addresses an influential property owners’ group next Saturday.
West Galveston Island Property Owners Association’s April 22 meeting will also feature a discussion about Galveston’s proposed $62 million bond led by city manager Brian Maxwell. The bond is on the ballot for the May 6 local elections.
Saturday’s meeting will take place at Galveston Country Club, 14228 Stewart Road, starting at 8:30am.

Boost for sales-tax revenues

THE STATE’S public-accounts comptroller is sending $620.2 million to local-government bodies this month, almost five per cent more than in April last year.
Glenn Hagar’s office said on Wednesday that cities will receive $397.8 million, counties $36.8 million, transit systems $144.1 million and special-purpose taxing districts $41.5 million as their share of February’s sales taxes.
The 4.9 per cent increase is good news for most of the Houston area’s economy but Sugar Land is
an exception.
Announcing the allocations, Hegar said: “The cities of Houston, San Antonio and Austin saw noticeable increases in sales tax allocations.
“The cities of Sugar Land, McAllen, Irving and Grand Prairie saw noticeable decrease.”

In brief …

• DURING its April 25 meeting, Dickinson city council will hold the second reading of its annexation ordinance for properties in the vicinity of SH-3 and Deats Road, east of SH-3 to Hill Avenue and north of Salvato Street to Deats Road. Members of the public may speak at the hearing.

• THIS WEEK’S Santa Fe city council meeting was cancelled due to a lack of business. The next meeting
is scheduled for Thursday April 27 at 7:00pm.

Service will honor folks who really do give their all

By Lora-Marie Bernard

AN ANNUAL memorial service to honor people who have donated their bodies to science and education is set to bring their beneficiaries and bereaved family members together next Saturday.
Organizer Jay Carnes told The Post it represents the final tribute for donors and their families.
It takes place at his family’s Texas City funeral home at noon on April 22 and is open to anyone interested in the ways in which whole-body donations benefit mankind.
LifeDonation.org, a nonprofit that helps people who want to donate their bodies to science, organizes and hosts the event.
Carnes, co-owner of Carnes funeral home and founder of the nonprofit, said: “We realize this is an option that most people are intrigued by but don’t understand.
“The service allows families who might not understand what the decision was about to meet those who are actively benefiting from it.”
He said whole-body donors help advance medical science, educate first responders and train many professions but the decision to donate remains shrouded in mystery.
The donor memorial service sheds light on the process and educating the community, he said.
The annual event began after Carnes and other like-minded professionals formed LifeDonation.org to build a whole-body donation community and fill the knowledge gap.
He said: “We want to help a person get the support he or she needs as they make this decision. “We want people to know they can call us and we’ll help them understand.”
According to the organization, people often make their decision to donate their body in private so their family members don’t realize they are part of a special community that has experienced a unique process.
Carnes said: “Neither the person who is donating nor their families see or understand that there is an entire group of people who are doing this too. They need to understand they are not in a vacuum.”
Saturday’s service at the 3100 Gulf Freeway funeral home will include tributes from organizations that use whole-body donations to accomplish research and education.
It will be the first time many of the bereaved family members meet the people behind the organizations to which their loved ones donated their bodies.
“One of the most special moments of the event is to see family members actually hear what advances the research or education institution has made in medicine because of the donation”, Carnes said.

Photo: lifedonations.org

Senator wants special graduation project extended

By Richard Lee
Texas Senate News

A PROGRAM that allows some Texas high-school seniors to graduate even if they don’t pass all their required standardized tests could become permanent even though it is set to expire this fall.
The senate education committee this week considered a proposal to extend the program, which passed into state law two years ago and could help several thousand students each year.
If passed, Amarillo senator Kel Seliger’s senate bill 463 would make the law permanent.
Seliger proposed the existing law during the legislature’s 2015 session, creating an alternate pathway to graduation for students who meet all other graduation requirements but fail to pass one or two required STAAR end-of-course examinations.
Under the law, committees made up of a student’s parents, teachers and school administrators look at the student’s entire academic career, including factors
like grades and extra-curricular activities.
They can assign remedial work or an additional project in the subjects for which the student failed the standardized test.
If they unanimously agree that the student is ready to move on to college, the military or the workforce, they can then recommend that he or she be allowed to graduate.
Seliger said on Tuesday that less than three per cent of last year’s Texas senior class, or about 12,000 students, graduated this way.
About 70 per cent of the students who submitted to an independent graduation committee were approved for graduation but Seliger said even more important is the 30 per cent who weren’t. He said it “shows that the educators involved in this and the parents are being discerning and pretty tough minded.  “They aren’t doing this just to get the kid out of school unless he should get out of school.”

County clerk marriage license bill clears senate

By Richard Lee
Texas Senate News

COUNTY CLERKS with a sincerely-held religious objection to same-sex marriage could pass responsibility for granting licenses to such couples to a deputy under a bill that received final approval by the Texas senate on Wednesday.               Brian Birdwell
If it becomes law, senate bill 522 would allow county clerks to notify their respective commissioners’ courts that they cannot issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and the commissioners to then delegate the responsibility to another clerk’s office employee, or even an outside agency if no one in the office is willing.
The bill would prohibit a person from refusing to issue a license for a reason that is protected under law, such as religious affiliation or race. It would also permit judges to refuse to perform a marriage ceremony under the same sincerely-held religious objection.
Bill author and Granbury senator Brian Birdwell said he believes that forcing people to violate their religious beliefs at work is unconstitutional.
He said: “Under this bill, county clerks will be able to fully follow the law without being forced to compromise their religious liberty, the license is issued and is executed to the couple requiring the license and simultaneously the right of conscience to clerks and judges is protected”.
Also on Wednesday, the senate approved a bill aimed at reducing prescription opioid addiction and abuse
in Texas.                   Don Huffines
The bill’s author, McAllen senator Chuy Hinojosa, said problems with opioid prescription have become a crisis.
He said: “Drug overdoses now kill more Americans than HIV or AIDS did at its peak, more than gun homicides and car crashes combined. In 2015, 52,000 people died of drug overdoses, more overdoses than any other period in US history.”
His bill, SB 316, seeks a requirement for doctors and pharmacists to check a state database, called the prescription monitoring program, that tracks opioid prescriptions before they prescribe or dispense one to a patient.
If passed into law, it would also require pharmacists to report any opioid prescription they dispense to the database within one business day and would also allow the state’s board of pharmacists, which operates the database, to monitor it to find ways to identify problematic prescription trends like doctor shopping and send electronic alerts to the doctors.
Elsewhere this week, on Monday the senate finance committee approved a bill that would expand sales-tax collections for online purchases, possibly earning the state a quarter-billion dollars each year.
Current Texas law requires that the customer calculate and remit the sales tax on out-of-state internet purchases to the comptroller. San Antonio senator Carlos Uresti said the law is little known and online shoppers seldom comply with it.
“The result is that out-of-state retailers are able to offer goods at prices that are 8.25 per cent cheaper than those of local businesses, putting them at a competitive disadvantage”, he said.
Uresti’s bill, SB 1713, would require internet marketplaces with more than $250,000 in annual sales or more than 1,000 transactions to calculate, collect and remit sales taxes for purchases made by their Texas customers.
The senator said studies have estimated that Texas could be missing out on upwards of $250 million in sales-tax revenue every year from internet purchases.
The bill remains pending in committee.
Also on Monday, the senate state affairs committee voted in favor of legislation that would allow first responders to carry a concealed handgun in places where it is normally prohibited.
Dallas senator Don Huffines told members that firemen and EMTs often find themselves in danger on the job.
He said: “Most recently, firefighters and paramedics put themselves in harm’s way when they assisted police officers with retrieving downed officers during the July 7, 2016, ambush of law-enforcement [officers] in Dallas.
“Similar incidents are reported with regularity. Nevertheless these brave men and women are deprived of their liberty to defend themselves.”
Huffines’ bill, SB 1408, would permit a first responder with a license to carry to take a 20-hour course on topics such as self-defense and conflict de-escalation. They would then be allowed to carry a handgun concealed on their person while working even in places where to do so is normally prohibited.
The bill is now headed to the full senate for consideration.