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Opinion

OPINION - State Capital Highlights: Permanent School Fund reaches new high

AUSTIN — Texas’ 160-year-old Permanent School Fund had grown to $29 billion, a record high value, in December 2013, the Texas Education Agency reported Feb. 6.

The fund was created by the state in 1854 with a $2 million investment. Last year was a good one. In fiscal year 2013, which ended Aug. 31, the fund earned a return of 10.16 percent — the highest return earned by any major state of Texas investment fund. Recent strong returns also made the Permanent School Fund the best performing major state fund over a three-year period ending on Aug. 31, 2013, with a return of 11.07 percent.

Read more: OPINION - State Capital Highlights: Permanent School Fund reaches new high

   

OPINION: South Texas Voter Fraud - Part 2: Setting the scene: Why get involved?

There’s a story to tell—actually numerous, individual stories—but their summation is centered on one thing: the longtime, illegal voting practices and abuses in South Texas.

This chapter in the story begins with why I chose to get involved in South Texas voting problems.

It was the year 2000. Some will recall it as the year of the contested wrangling between political factions following the November general election. Time seemingly stood still during the furor over the presidential race. Scrutinized under the national microscope, dangling chads were flying off ballots in Florida—sometimes with assistance.  It held the nation riveted. In the sea of flying accusations of illegalities compromising the election’s integrity, it became a national debate of finger pointing. It was not the finest hour for partisan politics. All the while, it left citizens across the country bewildered, talking and frustrated.

Read more: OPINION: South Texas Voter Fraud - Part 2: Setting the scene: Why get involved?

   

OPINION: South Texas Voter Fraud - Part 1: More than meets the eye?

Regarding an editorial*, “Commentary: Encouraging RGV voters through civic engagement,” which ran Jan. 27 with The Monitor:

The author, a Michael Seifert from Brownsville, writes, "As the 2014 primary election season begins to heat up, members of the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network are preparing to knock on doors throughout the region, including South McAllen, in a nonpartisan effort to encourage neighbors and friends to get out and vote."

Nonpartisan? How so? The definition of “partisan” is “strong supporter of a party, cause or person.”  It’s a word that is bandied about too easily these days and is misleading in most uses.

His piece ends with "The Get Out the Vote project is a collaborative effort involving LUPE, Proyecto Azteca, ARISE, Texas Organizing Project, South Texas Civil Rights’ Project and the ACLU in Hidalgo County." Everything between is a partisan position on HB-5.

Read more: OPINION: South Texas Voter Fraud - Part 1: More than meets the eye?

   

OPINION - State Capital Highlights: Perry touches on pot policy in international forum

AUSTIN — With the end of his longevity record of 14 years as governor less than a year away, Rick Perry took part in policy discussions at the 2014 World Economic Forum Jan. 21-25 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.

Perry was the only U.S. state governor to attend the forum, the governor’s office said. Besides his headline-grabbing words suggesting a softer approach through drug courts on state marijuana laws, Perry said Texas is the place to be for companies seeking a business-friendly environment.

On Jan. 23, during the forum’s widely publicized panel discussion on drug policy, Perry said, “I’m probably the only person who is going to be an anti-legalization person on the stage tonight.” But, in the context of Tenth Amendment/state sovereignty, Perry added, “As the governor of the second-largest state in the country, what I can do is start us on policies that can start us on the road towards decriminalization.”

Read more: OPINION - State Capital Highlights: Perry touches on pot policy in international forum

   

Early voting turnout looks strong

Texas voters will decide the fate of nine proposed amendments to the state constitution in the coming election.

Early voting began Oct. 21 and runs through Nov. 1. Numbers reported Oct. 25 showed that voting is on track to outpace turnout in recent elections.

The Secretary of State’s office reports daily voting totals for the 15 most populous counties in the state, and by the end of Oct. 24, the fourth day of early voting, about 95,000 Texans had cast a ballot at the polls in those counties. That was more than double the 45,379 voters who had voted at the same point in 2011 constitutional amendment election, the Secretary of State’s office said.

The Nov. 5 constitutional amendment election is the first statewide election since photo ID requirements for voting in person went into effect. Computer users who have an Internet connection can see daily voter turnout numbers for early voting in this and past elections by visiting the elections tab at sos.state.tx.us.

Focus of week is safety

On Oct. 21, the Texas Education Agency and Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University jointly pointed school districts and charters toward resources available to help address and combat bullying and cyber-bullying on campuses.

That message, part of Texas Safe Schools Week, Oct. 20-26, fit with a law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011 mandating that schools make campuses safer for all students. Gov. Rick Perry, in his Oct. 4 Texas Safe Schools Week proclamation, said, “All children deserve to learn in an environment where they feel safe and free from harm.”

State law defines bullying as “engaging in written or verbal expression, expression through electronic means, or physical conduct that occurs on school property, at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, or in a vehicle operated by the district and that has the effect or will have the effect of physically harming a student, damaging a student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to the student’s person or of damage to the student's property; or is sufficiently severe, persistent, and pervasive enough that the action or threat creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for a student.”

Texas School Safety Center’s inaugural Texas Bully Prevention Summit in San Marcos is set for Oct. 30.

A&M Israel is planned

On location in Israel on Oct. 23, Gov. Perry and Israeli President Shimon Peres, joined by Texas A&M University Chancellor John Sharp and other TAMU System executives, announced the creation of an international branch of Texas A&M University in Israel.

Funding for development and construction of the campus, to be located in the predominantly Arab city of Nazareth, will come from private donations.

The governor’s office released a statement on the topic, saying, “Locating a branch campus of Texas A&M University in Israel will further strengthen the economic and cultural ties Gov. Perry has worked for two decades to foster between Texas and Israel. In developing the new campus, a strong emphasis will be placed on building bridges of peace and understanding through education among the region's vibrant and diverse cultures and religions.”

Williams resigns from Senate

In early October, state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, announced he would not remain in office for the 2015 session of the Texas Legislature.

Last week, Williams, an accountant by trade, said he would resign from office, effective at midnight, Oct. 25.

Williams chaired the budget-writing Senate Finance Committee in 2013. In 2011, he chaired the Senate Transportation Committee. He began is legislative career in 1997 as a House member. In 2003 he was elected to the Senate.

Enforcement push slows crime

The Texas Department of Public Safety on Oct. 24 announced results of an enforcement initiative titled, “Operation Strong Safety.”

Targeting the Rio Grande Valley, this state, local and federal multi-agency effort brought about an increase patrols Sept. 15 through Oct. 4 to address three public safety issues: criminal activity; commercial vehicles traffic on roadways and unsafe driving practices.

“These 24/7 saturation patrols were sustained until the cartels were forced to curtail their drug and human smuggling operations in the targeted area,” the DPS reported. Beefed up law enforcement in the area resulted in decreases in the illegal trafficking of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, U.S. currency and stolen vehicles, plus a list of other positive effects.

   

Appellate court overturns DeLay conviction

AUSTIN — The Texas Third Court of Appeals on Sept. 19 overturned former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay’s 2010 conviction on charges of money-laundering and conspiracy in an ethics case brought by the State of Texas.

In a 2-1 opinion, the majority concluded that there was insufficient evidence of any felony offense that generated proceeds and, therefore, that the State failed to establish an element of the crime of money-laundering as alleged in the indictment.

DeLay resigned from Congress in 2006 while the state's lawsuit against him, stemming from fundraising activities in the 2002 election, was in progress. A Travis County jury convicted DeLay in November 2010 but he served no prison time.

Read more: Appellate court overturns DeLay conviction

   

OPINION-State Capital Highlights: Governor goes on business-luring trip

AUSTIN — Maryland is the next state in Gov. Rick Perry’s sights. He’s already been to California, Connecticut, Missouri and New York to court businesses, hoping they will pull up stakes and head to the Lone Star State.

Perry announced on Sept. 12 that he would be in Maryland on Sept. 18 to make his pitch. To prepare Maryland for his arrival, a 60-second radio ad and 30-second TV ad are running in several markets.

“The ads showcase the opportunities and freedom available to families and businesses thanks to Texas’ smart fiscal policies,” the governor’s office stated, adding, the nearly $500,000 television and radio ad buys and the governor’s trip are paid for by “TexasOne” and “no state tax dollars were to be used for his travel and accommodations, or for the ad buy.”

Read more: OPINION-State Capital Highlights: Governor goes on business-luring trip

   

Court lets redistricting maps stand, for now

AUSTIN — A San Antonio federal court on Sept. 6 ordered that redistricting maps passed by the 2013 Texas Legislature will serve as interim plans and those plans would be used in upcoming elections, including 2014 elections.

Plaintiffs challenging the maps allege racial discrimination in the drawing of boundaries in certain districts.

In its order, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court Western District of Texas San Antonio Division noted the litigation would continue “for as long as it takes to reach a legally correct decision on very important issues, but elections must go on.” And, the panel reasoned, that because “a full, fair and final review of all issues before this Court cannot be completed prior to the upcoming deadlines for the 2014 elections” the current set of maps being challenged will stand for the time being.

Read more: Court lets redistricting maps stand, for now

   

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