Columns/Opinions

Wed
13
Sep

Late musings

Rustic Ramblings

Years ago, I discovered wild Clematis Crispa vines in our pastures. They resemble little purple bells. I coaxed a few to grow near the house. Besides the pasture violets we relocated years ago, the delicate, wild Clematis has been my most successful transplant patient. They’ve rewarded me by gracing several fences and trailing up an arbor then seeding for months.

More plants pop up each spring, and I help the cultivation along by gathering and spreading the seeds to other fence lines.

Wed
06
Sep

Harvey’s flood suffering, relief efforts grow in wake

AUSTIN — Emergency relief operations expanded and intensified last week as floodwaters caused by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey-generated rains inundated and overwhelmed Harris County and dozens of other stricken counties.

While damage estimates continue to increase, at least 45,000 people have moved to public shelters, more than 100,000 homes have been destroyed and the death toll is rising.

On Aug. 25, President Donald Trump declared a major disaster exists in Texas. He ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in affected areas. Assistance may include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Wed
06
Sep

Being grateful

Rustic Ramblings

Gratitude is - or should be - a theme in our lives. It’s certainly central in mine. Lately I’ve been especially grateful for air conditioning which we’ve used generously this summer. It wasn’t always so.

In Central Texas, we’ve lately enjoyed more rainfall and lower temps than usual. Farmers and ranchers may be more involved with weather, but a milder summer’s easier on everyone. Perhaps we haven’t received as much rain as some, but we’re grateful for what we’ve had.

Wed
30
Aug

Hurricane Harvey assaults coast, batters inland areas

AUSTIN — Hurricane Harvey slammed the middle Texas coast on Aug. 25, hammering the region from Rockport to Palacios before continuing inland as a tropical storm and causing widespread catastrophic flooding.

With wind speeds in excess of 130 miles per hour before landfall at Rockport, the National Hurricane Center in Miami gave the storm a rating of Category 4. As rains and flooding worsened, Harvey was widely reportedly to be the strongest hurricane to hit Texas since Carla in 1961.

Before the storm hit, Gov. Greg Abbott requested and received a presidential disaster declaration, receiving approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The declaration cleared the way for individual assistance, public assistance and hazard mitigation to communities in affected counties, where high winds, torrential rains, flooding, tornadoes, power outages and more weather-related troubles affected millions of Texans.

Wed
30
Aug

Storm empathy

Following Hurricane Harvey on the Texas coastline has caused me to recall another terribly destructive storm that strongly affected my life and the lives of my family.

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew hit Florida - including our home on Key Biscayne. My ex, now late husband, the two kids and I were here at the ranch when it happened. We’d planned to stay for a year or longer enrolling the kids in Clifton schools.It was to be a “test” run prior to possibly returning home to Texas.

This wasn’t meant to be. It took me another eight or nine years to make it back on my own. We hurriedly packed up and returned to Florida, timing our arrival for the day residents would be allowed access to the island, two days after the storm had hit.

Driving the seven-mile-long causeway from Miami, destruction was horrifying. Barely a tree was standing. The few buildings were terribly damaged if not down entirely. Debris covered the beaches, but the main road had been cleared.

Wed
23
Aug

Special session impasse over property taxes

CAPITOL HIGHLIGHTS

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott gave legislators 20 must-pass items, but the lawmakers delivered only 12 bills to his desk during the first called session of the 85th Texas Legislature.

Both the House and Senate gaveled to final adjournment on Aug. 15, the 29th day of the 30-day session, after deadlines left negotiators without enough time to resolve differences in Senate Bill 1, the property tax reform bill. The House adjourned first, leaving the Senate to accept its substituted version of SB 1 or let it die. The Senate adjourned and the bill died.

Wed
23
Aug

Nine presidents: policy, politics & life

EDITORIAL

Lee Hamilton shares his impressions of the nine Presidents with whom he has worked.

One reason I consider myself fortunate to have led a life in politics is that, over time, I’ve had a chance to work with nine presidents. From Lyndon Johnson through Barack Obama, I’ve talked policy, politics and, sometimes, the trivial details of daily life with them. I met JFK twice for brief conversations. I don’t know our current President, but I’ve gained valuable perspective from his predecessors.

Johnson was a deal-maker — always trying to figure out how to get your vote. He came into office with a clear vision of what he wanted to do, and on the domestic side notched accomplishments unmatched in recent decades. Yet he was brought down by the Vietnam War — a war he could neither win nor quit.

Wed
16
Aug

Abbott signs three bills, few likely in final week

Capitol Highlights

AUSTIN — Three bills reached Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk last week, with the 30-day special session of the Texas Legislature set to expire Aug. 16 .

Abbott signed all three into law on Aug. 11:

- Senate Bill 5, increasing criminal penalties for voter fraud, by Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, and sponsored in the House by Dan Huberty, R-Kingwood;

- Senate Bill 20, the “sunset bill” that extends the life of the Texas Medical Board and several other healthcare-regulating state boards, by Van Taylor, R-Plano, and sponsored in the House by Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock; and

- Senate Bill 60, relating to the funding of those revived healthcare boards, also by Taylor and sponsored by Gonzales. Two more bills headed to the governor for consideration are:

Wed
16
Aug

Middle-aged clerk turns to robbing trains

This Week In Texas History

On Aug. 23, 1892, a Gainesville newspaper confirmed the rumored death of a local politician turned train robber.

Eugene Franklin Bunch did not fit the stereotype of the late nineteenth century outlaw. He was not an illiterate saddle tramp nor a trigger-happy sociopath but the well-educated son of a Mississippi planter. So why did he chose a life of crime at the age of 43?

Soon after the Civil War, Bunch moved to Louisiana where he taught school and married a southern belle from the same social class. Sometime in the early 1870’s, the couple emigrated to Cooke County, Texas, living briefly in Dexter, a source of illegal whiskey for reservation Indians, before settling in Gainesville.

Wed
09
Aug

House passes bill to give retired teachers relief

CAPITOL HIGHLIGHTS

AUSTIN – The Texas House on Aug. 1 approved House Bill 20, legislation appropriating $212.7 million from the “rainy day” reserve fund to help defray rising healthcare costs for retired school employees.

Primary authors of HB 20 include: Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin; Drew Darby, R-San Angelo; Gary VanDeaver, R-New Boston; John Zerwas, R-Katy; and Donna Howard, D-Austin.

The House also approved HB 80, legislation that through the Teacher Retirement System of Texas would make a one-time cost-of-living adjustment to the retirement benefits paid to certain retirees, disability retirees and survivors. To be eligible for the increase, the annuitant must have retired between Aug. 31, 2004 and Aug. 31, 2015.

Primary authors of HB 80 include: Rep. Darby, Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City; Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville; and Bobby Guerra, D-McAllen.

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