Columns/Opinions

Thu
06
Apr

Bloody triple murder in the Big Thicket

By Bartee Haile

 

Ten years into a 99- year prison sentence for murder, a trusty told the guards he was going fishing on Apr. 11, 1930 and vanished into thin air. In February 1915, a farmer and his son hunting in the Big Thicket, the impenetrable natural wonder that once covered portions of 11 southeast Texas counties, came upon a partially decomposed corpse in a shallow grave.

The coroner’s educated guess was that the man had been dead two weeks, but the bullet holes in the victim’s chest left no doubt as to the cause of death. The deceased was identified from his clothes and dental work as an oilfield worker named Richard Watts.

 

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Thu
06
Apr

Gov. welcomes Justice Department’s sanctuary cities announcement

By Ed Sterling

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on March 27 praised an announcement by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the Department of Justice will withhold and take back federal funds from cities that do not comply with federal immigration laws and enforcement directives. “Texas joins the Trump administration in its commitment to end sanctuary cities and I look forward to signing legislation that bans these dangerous policies in Texas once and for all,” Abbott said. Senate Bill 4, legislation to prohibit sanctuary city policies in Texas, was passed by the Senate on Feb. 8. It was heard in the House State Affairs Committee on March 15, but has not been scheduled for a committee vote.

In 2015, Abbott’s office implemented a policy that requires the sheriffs for each of Texas’ 254 counties to certify their cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests or risk losing funding through the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division.

 

Thu
30
Mar

Dallas battles Houston over federal bank

By Bartee Haile

Civic leaders in Dallas and Houston waited nervously on Apr. 2, 1914 for the decision on which of Texas’ two largest cities had been awarded the new federal bank.

The rash of bank failures caused by the Panic of 1907 underscored the urgent need for effective monitoring and management of the national money supply. To avert future crises, the country required a bank for the banks.

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Thu
30
Mar

Senate panel OKs budget for upcoming two-year period

By Ed Sterling

AUSTIN — A state budget for fiscal years 2018-2019 cleared the first in a series of hurdles when the Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved committee substitute Senate Bill 1 on March 22.

The legislation next moves to the full Senate for consideration.

“This budget remains a work in progress, but we will continue our work to make the most of every dollar, meet our priority needs and keep Texas moving in the right direction,” said Senate Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson, RFlower Mound. “This committee left no stone unturned looking for savings, examining our budget drivers and looking for ways to make smarter use of our limited resources.”

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Thu
23
Mar

State budget progresses toward vote by full Senate

By Ed Sterling

 

AUSTIN — The Senate Finance Committee, at work on the 2018-2019 state budget since January, on March 16 approved workgroup recommendations in preparation for a final vote.

 

Committee Chair Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, said she expects her panel to vote on the state budget, Senate Bill 1, this week, March 20-24 After the committee votes, the next step for the budget is consideration by the full Senate.

 

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Thu
23
Mar

Ex-congressman negotiates release of Texans

By Bartee Haile

 

Waddy Thompson did not let the fact that he had been a private citizen for two weeks keep him from asking one more life-saving favor of Santa Anna on Mar. 23, 1844.

 

Texans naively presumed their neighbors in New Mexico would jump at the chance to join the Lone Star Republic. So, in the summer of 1841, President Mirabeau Lamar sent more than 300 soldiers, merchants and a grab bag of adventurers to deliver an engraved invitation and to stake Texas’ claim to the lucrative trade of the Santa Fe Trail.

 

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Thu
16
Mar

House takes stumble on Obamacare fix

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

That pretty much sums up the health care reform bill unveiled by the U.S. House of Representatives last Monday that purports to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.” Although it does eliminate a lot of Obamacare’s tangle of taxes, the House proposal retains the federal government’s fundamental role in health care. It therefore maintains the vast regulatory regimen that increases costs, and it does nothing to reverse the downward spiral of health insurance markets.

It transforms the ACA’s mandate to buy insurance into a surcharge on anyone who doesn’t maintain continuous coverage. That’s supposed to discourage healthy adults from leaving insurance rolls, where their premiums are needed to help pay for the sick. But that penalty might disincentivize healthy people who had already left from getting back on the rolls.

 

Thu
16
Mar

Federal court panel rules against Texas redistricting plan

By Ed Sterling

AUSTIN — Three of Texas’ 36 congressional districts are unconstitutional because of racial or political gerrymandering, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas ruled on March 10.

The judges ruled 2-1 that the districts’ boundaries, drawn by the Texas Legislature in 2011 and 2013, violate the U.S. Constitution.

 

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Fri
10
Mar

Federal judge sides with plaintiffs in Planned Parenthood case

By Ed Sterling

 

AUSTIN — Texans who rely on Planned Parenthood as a medical care provider won’t have to seek those services elsewhere, pending an upcoming trial.

In the lawsuit titled Planned Parenthood et al. v. Texas Health and Human Services Commission, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin on Feb. 21 granted a preliminary injunction to prevent the Texas Department of Health and Human Services from eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood in the state’s 2017-18 budget.

There is no legitimate public interest in allowing Texas to complete its planned terminations (of funding) based on the current facts,” wrote Sparks. “Instead, the public interest favors enforcing the individual plaintiffs’ rights and avoiding disrupting the health care of some of Texas’s most vulnerable individuals.”

 

Fri
10
Mar

Going wobbly will not serve GOP legislators

Shortly after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the incident that triggered America's first war in the Middle East, the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution allowing Western naval forces operating in the Persian Gulf to enforce an economic embargo against the Iraqi strongman, in the hope a blockade would force Saddam to withdraw. As he mulled over the potential consequences, President George H.W. Bush got some advice from British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. "This is no time to go wobbly, George," Thatcher told Bush.

It's too bad Lady Thatcher isn't around to offer some contemporary Republicans the same advice.

In recent days, as Congress took its first recess of the year, GOP lawmakers have become surrogates for hostile crowds at home that are intent on venting their anger at President Donald Trump's actions and agenda. That is, at least the ones who show up.

 

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