News

By Lora-Marie Bernard

A NATIONAL touring exhibit to commemorate the life of every Texas troop killed in the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts is to go on display in the county for 12 days to help commemorate Veterans Day in November.
The Remembering Our Fallen exhibit depicts the name, rank and photo of each of the 600 Texans who served the United States during the “war on terror” and features each of Galveston County’s fallen troops.
The 200-foot-long free exhibit will be on display in the lobby of World’s Gym at Mall Of The Mainland in Texas City from November 1 until November 12.

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Texas-based nonprofit organization LifeDonation.org will host the exhibit, which will be on loan to Texas Funeral Directors Association from its funding organization, Nebraska’s Bellevue University, during its national tour.
LifeDonation.org, which benefits people who want to donate their bodies to science, collaborated with Carnes funeral home and the trade association to bring the tour’s Texas leg to Galveston County. Other collaborating partners are World’s Gym and Jerome Karam Inc.
“When you see this exhibit, it affects you,” sponsor Jay Carnes said.
“It is moving and it makes you see the wars through the lens of a single soldier. It’s something to see those who sacrificed to protect you looking back at you.”

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The exhibit’s national tour is taking it to 18 states, with each leg commemorating the fallen from its host state. The number of troops featured in the Texas display is second only to that in California, where 900 troops fell in the line of duty during the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts.
Mary Hawkins, president of Bellevue University, said the exhibit’s creators designed the project to have a direct impact on all who view it.
“We can never forget those who sacrificed everything for our freedom,”
she said.
“We must remember these American heroes and speak their names when we see their family members.”

By Lora-Marie Bernard

COUNTY taxes are at their lowest rate since 2010, county judge Mark Henry told a roomful of business leaders on Wednesday.
Henry, below, was discussing the county’s taxes during a State Of The Counties address at a Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership meeting in which he spoke along with Harris County’s county judge, Ed Emmett.
“The county is in really good shape,” he told

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the meeting at Lakewood Yacht Club.
Speaking about the fiscal year that ended on September 30, he added: “We had increases in tax revenues that more than offset any unexpected expenses.
“We are now at the level last seen in 2009.”
Henry, whose wife is expecting twins in November, said the commissioners’ court has been steadily cutting the county tax rate since 2010 and that it is now almost down to its 2008 level.
Henry said he knows the decreases come with caveats.
“I always have to say – comma – yes I know you are unhappy with your appraisals but that’s not us,” he teased the audience. “That’s the Galveston County appraisal district.”
The county tax rate has been on a steady decrease since 2010, when property appraisals and real-estate values began to recover from the combined impacts of the economic recession and Hurricane Ike.
The 2015 tax rate is $0.567 per $100 valuation.

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In 2008, the year Ike hit the county hard, the county tax rate was at its lowest since 2003, at $0.558 per $100 of property valuation.
But the rate then suffered a rise to $0.618 in 2009 and to $0.619 in 2010, the highest it’s been between 2003 and today, according to the central appraisal district’s published records of tax rates.
It then dipped to $0.612 in 2011 and has been falling since, Henry said.
More significant dips occurred in 2012, when the rate dropped to $0.599, and in 2013, when it fell again to $0.583. The county commissioners reduced it further, to $0.578, in 2014.
During Wednesday’s function, county commissioner Ken Clark encouraged the audience to vote for the state’s constitutional-amendment proposition 7 in November’s election.
The proposition, which will appear on the election ballot, asks the people of Texas to authorize the dedication of funds from the state’s sales-and-use and motor-vehicle-sales taxes to pay for the construction and maintenance of Texas roads and to cut transportation-related state debt.
“It will provide funding, if it’s approved by the voters, for the state highway fund,” Clark said.
“We had proposition 1 that was passed last November that took money out of the rainy-day fund and that revenue source may potentially dry
up because of the state of the economy.”

By Lora-Marie Bernard

FEDERAL congressman Randy Weber has become a vocal advocate of making English the nation’s official language since adding his name to a bill that seeks to do just that.
The county’s US representative has made passing the bill one of his priorities, devoting this week’s Washington Watch column on page 3 to the issue.
The English language unity act of 2015 was introduced in February and was quick to wind its way through several committees of the house
of representatives.

HR 997
Sixty representatives had already joined the bill when Weber agreed to co-sponsor it on September 30.
HR 997 started at the house education and workforce committee. It then landed in the chamber’s judiciary committee, which moved the bill to its immigration and border security subcommittee, where it has stayed since March.
Steve King of Iowa introduced the party-line bill, saying in February that an official language is a communications currency that needs to be addressed in immigration reform.
“Every sovereign nation sate, including the Vatican, has at a minimum an official language,” he said.
“It is essential that we make assimilation of our legal immigrants a top priority and learning English is an important first step in that process.”
After backing the bill, Weber said it is common sense. It requires all official functions of the government to be conducted in English and creates a uniform language for naturalization. It also requires the government to promote and encourage learning the English language.
“A common language is a cohesive bond that allows us to build strong relationships at work and in our community,” Weber said.
“Not only will this allow legal immigrants to assimilate more effectively; it could also save our government millions of dollars.”
English as the official language would become a bond that strengthens America as a melting pot that celebrates diversity, he said.

TEXAS HAS jumped into an international controversy by suing two automakers accused of deliberately violating national air standards for years.
On Thursday, the state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, announced that Texas has filed a lawsuit against the American arms of Volkswagen and Audi for violating state consumer-protection laws. A separate suit addresses clean-air act violations in Texas.

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“For years, Volkswagen intentionally misled consumers about the environmental and performance qualities of the vehicles they sold in Texas,” Paxton said when announcing the move.
“When companies willfully violate the public’s trust, a penalty must be paid, and we will hold these entities responsible.”

Volkswagen admits huge diesel emissions data deception Click picture or text for this report

The state is seeking restitution on behalf of Texas consumers, an injunction to bar the companies from attempting similar actions again and civil penalties.
Volkswagen has about 50 car dealerships in Texas.
The controversy began in Europe when a low-profile environmental group questioned why Volkswagen had passed diesel-emissions tests in the laboratory but not on the road.
International Council On Clean Transportation decided to replicate the process in America, according to news reports. America has higher diesel emission thresholds than Europe.
When the vehicles being tested failed, the nonprofit study prompted an unexpected admission from VW that it was gaming the system. The company had installed “defeat device” software in millions of trucks and cars between 2009 and 2015.
Later, it was discovered that Audi diesel-powered vehicles had had the software installed as well. On September 25, the environmental protection agency notified the companies that they had violated the federal clean air act.
“These cars contain software that turns off emissions controls when driving normally and turns them on when the car is undergoing an emission test,” the EPA announced.
The EPA is charging the companies with putting ”defeat device” software into 2.1 million cars. As a result, it says, those cars have emitted up to 40 times the amount of NOx emissions that the act allows.

A NATIONAL injunction against a federal effort to clarify the scope of the clean water act has Texas leaders hailing a significant victory.
Texas attorney general Ken Paxton is among those who are elated, saying the order prevents had a blatant attempt at a power grab by the federal government.
“The court’s ruling is good news for property owners whose land would have been subject to extensive new federal regulations due to this overreaching new water rule,” he said in a statement released within hours of the ruling.
He vowed Texas would keep fighting for the right to its own natural resources.
The waterway effort became known as the WOTUS rule for seeking to expand the scope of the federal government’s enforcement of waterways. The rule was supposed to be implemented on August 28.
Opponents of the rule charge that it triggers more fees and regulation permits for the national government. Proponents say it enhances and protects the cleanliness and health of US water resources.
Controversy began several months ago when a contingent of 13 states led by North Dakota applied for an injunction against the federal environmental protection agency.
The September injunction limited federal interference in state waterways. When the judge made the ruling, the states asked for the injunction to apply nationally.
In fact, 14 petitions representing 18 states were filed in different appeals courts. They were consolidated, at the EPA’s request, for consideration by the nation’s sixth circuit court of appeals. Last week that court ruled in favor of the states, granting a national injunction while the courts continued to grapple with the complexities of the issue.
Texas’ junior US senator, Ted Cruz, agreed that the courts needed to study the legal issues.
“Regulatory confusion and uncertainty surrounding this rule forces landowners to incur great costs, since it is difficult to comply with a rule lacking clarity,” he said within hours of the announcement.
“I am hopeful that the courts will use this case as an opportunity to reassert the appropriate balance between the federal government and the states.”
Texas joined the lawsuit against WOTUS on June 2. It joined Louisiana and Mississippi in federal district court and in the fifth circuit court of appeals.
Legally, Paxton said the judge followed US supreme court precedents in SWANCC v US Army Corps Of Engineers and Rapanos v USA.
In those opinions, the supreme-court justices said the federal government could not regulate waterways that congress had never intended to be under national control.
Cruz said the injunction favored farmers, ranchers and landowners.
“Today’s order is also an important step toward curbing the federal government’s relentless intrusion on the states – power grabs that have become standard practice for president [Barack] Obama’s EPA,” he said.
“I applaud the states for fighting to preserve their constitutional authority against an ever-expanding federal regulatory state.”
Cruz, who is contesting the Republican party’s 2016 presidential nomination, also echoed concerns of opponents who say the EPA and the Corps Of Engineers want to control waters that have run dry.
“This heavy-handed rule could bring virtually every puddle and ditch in America within the jurisdiction of the federal government, allowing it to dictate what people can and cannot do with their own property,” he said.
Texas governor Greg Abbott also expressed pleasure at the injunction, quickly issuing a statement that said ditches and ponds are not navigable waters under the clean water act.
“It is clear this rule serves the sole purpose of enabling the federal government to regulate businesses and property owners on an increasingly granular level,” he said.

Cornyn praises house for passing oil export bill

US SENATE majority whip John Cornyn, a vocal proponent of lifting the ban on exporting US crude oil, said he is ready to push for a repeal bill in the senate after the house of representatives approved its own measure on Friday.
Texas’ senior US senator said: “Today’s vote is a long overdue step in the right direction that will lower energy costs and foster job growth while helping America’s allies abroad.”
The bill, brought by US representative Joe Barton of Waco in February, passed with a 261-159 vote. Six Republicans were among those who voted against it, while local congressman Randy Weber voted in favor.
HR 702 seeks to lift the ban on crude exports, including coal, petroleum, natural gas and petrochemical feedstocks, and to
lift the ban on materials and equipment needed for the industry.