Columns/Opinions

Wed
21
Feb
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Hazard mitigation funding for Harvey recovery now available

By Ed Sterling

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott traveled to Rockport and Houston on Feb. 13 to announce the availability of new funding for hazard mitigation projects along the Gulf Coast following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.

Abbott invited cities and counties to submit applications for projects and said the funding would provide an estimated $1 billion for hazard and flood mitigation projects designed to both help Texas rebuild and reduce the risk of future damage from flooding and Hurricanes.

 

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Wed
21
Feb
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Trump orders parade for Vets

By Rich Lowry

The Pentagon has confirmed that it is in the preliminary stages of planning a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue -- one of President Donald Trump’s fondest desires.

Trump was, understandably, impressed in a visit to France last July by the pageantry of the Bastille Day parade. The parade dates back to the 1880s. Nothing the United States comes up with will match its resonance or its beloved, unifying nature.

 

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Wed
14
Feb
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A cloudy day for sunshine laws in Texas

By Ross Ramsey

It might deflate your confidence in the state of Texas to find that the people protecting your access to government information have their thumbs on the scale. That they’re playing favorites. That they put requests from their enemies on the slow track. Or that they advise the agencies who come to them for advice to act that way.

But that might be your takeaway from a remarkable 10-minute, 21-second video of Marc Rylander, director of communications for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, talking to a crowd at an open government seminar put on by the AG’s office in San Marcos last month.

Rylander seems to be joking at the beginning of the video, but he’s persistent — what communications pros call “on message” — for the whole time. That message? He doesn’t trust the news media, and you shouldn’t, either.

 

Wed
14
Feb
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Legislation passed by Congress includes hurricane relief funds

By Ed Sterling

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on Feb. 9 lauded Congress’ passage of budget legislation that contains nearly $90 billion in hurricane and wildfire disaster relief funding for Texas, Florida, California and Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Harvey pounded Texas from Aug. 25-31, resulting in disaster status for some 60 counties. The federal Office of Coastal Management has estimated the total cost of Harvey at $125 billion. Cost estimates by various other organizations have reached as high as $200 billion.

“Today’s passage of disaster funding marks another crucial step forward as Texans continue to recover and rebuild in the aftermath of Harvey, and I thank the Texas delegation and leaders in Congress for taking action to pass this critical recovery package,” Abbott said.

 

Wed
07
Feb
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Straus: Audit reveals need for stronger oversight at agency

by Ed Sterling 

AUSTIN — House Speaker Joe Straus on Jan. 31 said a new state audit raises questions about the management of the state Health and Human Services Commission and illustrates the need for legislative hearings.

A report released last week by the State Auditor’s Office found that HHSC allowed Superior Health Plan Inc. to report approximately $29.6 million in bonus and incentive payments paid to affiliates’ employees, even though those payments were not allowed under the state’s contract with Superior.

The state agency also approved Superior’s request to report affiliate profits as costs without following the approval process contained in the state’s contract with Superior.

 

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Wed
07
Feb
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What to look for in a politician this election

by Lee Hamilton 

One wonders whether we can ever find the will to negotiate and compromise on difficult issues. We need leaders who can rise above the polarization and divisiveness, and instill a sense that we are all in this together.

Have you already made up your mind about how you’re going to vote — at least by party — in this year’s important elections? I hope not.

Because to serve our nation well at this troubled time in its political history, you should be looking for certain qualities in the politicians you favor. Ideology, party affiliation, positions on key issues — these are important considerations, but this year demands more from us as voters.

 

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Wed
31
Jan
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No rangers served longer than Captain Hughes

By Bartee Haile

After almost three decades of frontier crime fighting, Capt. John Reynolds Hughes retired from the Texas Rangers on Jan. 31, 1915.

As a headstrong youth of 14, Hughes ran away from his Kansas home in 1869 and finished growing up in the Indian Territory. During his six years among the Choctaw, Osage and Comanche, he suffered a wound that partially paralyzed his right arm. He compensated for the disability by learning how to shoot with his left hand.

Hughes herded cattle on the Chisholm Trail until he saved enough for the down payment on a small spread outside Austin. In the summer of 1885, he took off after a gang of rustlers that had been stealing horses from ranches in the area, including his own. Catching up with the crooks in New Mexico, he singlehandedly slew several of the surprised thieves and handed the survivors over to the nearest sheriff.

 

Wed
31
Jan
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Governors urge congressional leaders to pass disaster aid

By Ed Sterling

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott and the governors of California, Puerto Rico and Florida on Jan. 24 asked U.S. House and Senate leaders to hurry up and pass supplemental disaster funding, and to send the legislation to President Trump.

“Over the past several months, we have received numerous assurances that adequate disaster funding was imminent,” the governors wrote in a joint letter. “Its continued delay only exacerbates ongoing uncertainty in devastated areas. Simply put, the communities devastated by these storms cannot be completely put back together until the federal government makes good on its promise to our citizens. If ever there was a time and role for the federal government to urgently help its citizens rebuild communities damaged by epochal disasters, now is the time to step up and fill that role.”

 

Wed
24
Jan
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Hurricane recovery efforts continue with much still to do

By Ed Sterling

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on Jan. 17 extended for 30 days the state disaster declaration for counties affected by Hurricane Harvey, which pounded and flooded the Gulf Coast and moved deeply inland, spreading its destructive power.

“As long as Texas families are fighting to recover, they can rest assured that the State of Texas is fighting with them,” Abbott said. The 60 counties listed in the declaration will continue to be eligible for assistance as  they recover and rebuild, the governor said.

Abbott, who remains in regular contact with congressional leaders and the Trump administration, said he has continued to request funds to rebuild Texas. On Jan. 19, Abbott said he shared Hurricane Harvey survivors’ aggravation over that fact that much-needed continuing federal disaster aid for Texas is bogged down in Washington politics.

 

Wed
24
Jan
Edgar's picture

The Presidency: Needs oversight & scrutiny

By Lee Hamilton

Presidents need oversight and scrutiny; they need a Congress that will press them and insist on consultation. They get very little of that pressure today.

Because we live in such tumultuous political times, it’s easy to believe that today’s intense public focus on the Trump presidency is something new — an obsession like none we’ve ever seen before. Yet to one degree or another, the president has always been at the center of the public’s attention.

This is because he or she is the central actor in American government. The sheer complexity of our system, with its three branches, separation of powers and competing centers of power, demands someone who can make it work.

 

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