Category: Viewpoints

Texas House Members Have Chance to Save Open Government

by Kelley Shannon, Executive Director, Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas Keeping our Texas Public Information Act operating effectively takes effort. That’s why open government advocates have worked with public officials and businesses over the past year to fine tune the landmark state law. Transparency legislation resulting from these work sessions emerged out of frank discussions – and with an understanding that some compromise is necessary. Now, state lawmakers have the opportunity to pass multiple negotiated open government measures to improve the Public Information Act and restore its strength, for the benefit of all Texans. The Texas Senate took a stand Thursday by overwhelmingly approving House Bill 2328 and amending it to include transparency bills that had stalled in a House committee. The anchor legislation by Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, providing quicker access to public information, was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin. Open government is a bipartisan issue, and Watson successfully urged fellow senators to include in the legislation other bills by Republican Reps. Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi and Giovanni Capriglione of Southlake, as well as bills Watson pushed. It’s critical that the Texas House of Representatives join this effort to save open government by concurring with Senate amendments to the Lucio legislation. The provisions would repair damage to the Public Information Act done by two Texas Supreme Court decisions in 2015. A...

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Letters to the Editor: National Day of Prayer & Freestone Cancer Support Group Thank You

Dear Editor, May 4, 2017 was the best National Day of Prayer Service that has been held so far!  Someone said there were close to 100 people there.  It was a night filled with prayer, singing, and the Holy Spirit touching lives. A special thanks to Apostle David Ransom and the congregation of Cornerstone Full Gospel Church for inviting us into their church. Don Thornton led the congregation in the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem, and as always, it was heartfelt. Music performed by Pastor Chris Owen, Pastor Leon Thomas and others was very inspiring and set the tone for the evening! A big Thank You goes to Cornerstone Full Gospel Church’s “Voices of Praise” for their Spirit filled music! Also, thank you to “His Hands” from Southside Baptist Church in Palestine which is a group that “signs” to music. This is a very spiritual ministry and is well received. The ladies in the fellowship hall must be the best cooks in all of Freestone County as most everyone in attendance enjoyed all kinds of goodies prepared by them.  Thank you, also, to the ones who ran the audio and for those dear people who handed out the bulletins. Special thanks for all those who offered prayers:  Apostle David Ransom, Evangelist Jason Smith, Sheriff Jeremy Shipley, Pastor Leon Thomas, Pastor Chris Owen, Evangelist Don Thornton and Virgil...

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Sanctuary City Ban Clears Legislature

One of Governor Greg Abbott’s top priorities for the session, a ban on sanctuary cities, was signed into law on Sunday, May 7, 2017, after the Senate voted Wednesday to concur in House amendments to Senate Bill 4. There is no official definition of a sanctuary city, but the term is generally applied to municipalities or police departments that have a formal or informal policy of not enforcing federal immigration laws or complying with requests from immigration officials to hold suspected undocumented criminals. Those policies would be illegal under the new law, and violating entities could face financial penalties and even jail time for the top officers in the jurisdictions. The bill, by Lubbock Senator Charles Perry, would also prohibit bans on inquiries into immigration status of lawfully detained persons.   Once signed by the Governor, the bill would become law on the first day of September. With only a month left in session, time is running out for Senate bills, which must still go through the committee and floor process over in the House. The Senate passed a number of key pieces of legislation this week before the chamber’s attention turns to House bills coming in from the opposite side of the Capitol.   One is a measure intended to fix the Houston pension system that currently has nearly $8 billion in unfunded liabilities. “The current situation is straining the...

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Historic Transportation Plan Gets Another Boost

by Tyron Lewis, Chairman, Texas Transportation Commission The Texas Transportation Commission recently approved an update of TxDOT’s $70 billion Unified Transportation Program (UTP). The UTP represents a 10-year project funding outlook that includes new plans to add or improve more than 1,200 miles of roadways to improve safety and mobility, and reduce congestion. Seventy billion dollars is an historic amount of funding. It includes over $38 billion in additional funding, which Gov. Abbott and the Legislature presented to the public for approval as Proposition 7 and the ending of diversions of highway funds for other purposes. The 12,000 men and women of TxDOT stand ready to immediately execute on these projects that will keep people and freight moving safely and efficiently throughout our state. Texas is a dynamic state with a robust economy. With more than 27 million people living in Texas – a number that is expected to double by the year 2050 – this transportation funding is not only more than welcome, it’s absolutely crucial to our overall quality of life, economic health and global competitiveness. TxDOT is committed to anticipating and addressing the transportation demands of our entire state. The 10-year plan, the largest in TxDOT history, dedicates funding to address safety, maintenance and rural connectivity needs across all 25 TxDOT districts and 25 metropolitan planning areas throughout the state. Gov. Abbott has charged the Texas...

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TX Police Chiefs: Don’t Burden Local Officers with Federal Immigration Enforcement

No one believes in the rule of law more than police officers. We work tirelessly to make our communities safer, within the confines of the constitution, by arresting those that commit criminal actions that threaten our communities. We target individuals committing violent crimes and arrest anyone who threatens the safety, regardless of their immigration status. Members of the Texas Major Cities Chiefs, consisting of the police chiefs in Dallas, Houston, Austin, Arlington, Fort Worth and San Antonio, and the Texas Police Chiefs Association respectfully oppose Senate Bill 4, the so-called sanctuary cities bill. As amended by the Texas House, the bill would allow local law enforcement officers to ask people about their immigration status during an arrest or a lawful detention, like a routine traffic stop, putting local officers in the position of handling federal immigration issues. We officers work extremely hard to build and maintain trust, communication, and stronger relationships with minority communities through community based policing and outreach programs. Broad mandates, such as those imposed by SB 4, requiring local law enforcement to take a more active role in immigration enforcement will further strain the relationship between local law enforcement and these diverse communities. Officers would start inquiring about the immigration status of every person they come in contact with, or worse, inquire about the immigration status of people based on their appearance. This will lead to...

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