- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

Amarillo Globe-News. Nov. 11, 2017.

Churches and guns do not seem a fitting combination. A place of worship? And a weapon? Sacrilegious, right? Not in Texas, thankfully.

While churches and guns do not seem to fit, the reality is they do - legally - in Texas.

The recent mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs - the worst mass shooting in Lone Star State history - has put the focus (once again) on gun control.

And since churches (along with schools) are often targets for evil and insane acts of violence, it needs to be pointed out that churches in Texas have had the ability to protect their members - with guns - for quite some time.

State Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, is credited for spearheading a bill allowing places of worship (for example, churches) to have armed volunteer guards. The bill became a state law that took effect in September.

According to the Texas Legislature website, there were similar bills in the 85th Legislature, one authored by state Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo (HB 981). HB 421 was authored by Rinaldi and had several co-authors, including state Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo.

Previously, a member of a religious entity could carry a firearm to a worship service, provided this person was licensed to carry a gun by the state of Texas. However, these individuals could not serve as security. Rinaldi’s bill changed that as of September.

Those who attend larger churches in Amarillo have no doubt seen members of Amarillo Police Department on church grounds during services. However, smaller churches may not have the resources to compensate law enforcement personnel to provide security during their services.

So where does this leave such churches? Rinaldi’s bill addresses this problem.

Tom Nichols, a professor at the Naval War College and the Harvard Extension School, offered a different perspective recently in Los Angeles Times: “The desire to bring guns to churches is not about rights, but about risk. You have the right to carry a gun. But should you? If the main reason you’re holstering up in the morning is because it’s a family tradition where you live, or because you have a particular need to do so, or merely because you feel better with a gun, that is your right. But if you are doing so because you think you’re in danger from the next mass shooting, then you should ask yourself whether you’re nearly as capable, trained and judicious as you think you are - and why you are spending your days, including your day of worship - obsessing over one of the least likely things that could happen to you.”

In Texas, those who want to carry a gun legally must be licensed by the state, and complete the review process to be licensed. This license allows Texans to protect themselves - and others - by legally carrying a firearm.

If the state determines a person is capable and responsible enough to carry a gun, why should this right cease to exist at the church door? And if a church - or any place of worship - has members licensed by the state to carry a gun, the church should be able to extend this right to protect its members.


San Antonio Express-News. Nov. 12, 2017.

It is refreshing to see Bexar County commissioners moving forward with plans announced last year to reduce the county bureaucracy.

The commissioners recently voted to eliminate part-time justice of the peace positions in Precincts 3 and 4. It is the third such position that commissioners have abolished in the past year.

It is not often that elected officials will admit they made a mistake and take on the politically unsavory task of abolishing elected posts held by their colleagues.

Bexar County commissioners created two part-time justice of the peace posts in 2013 after redistricting revealed an inequitable distribution of the workload in those offices.

Changes in Texas law decriminalizing truancy, establishing campus administrative remedies and sending cases to municipal court as a last resort had a major impact on the workload in the justice of the peace courts.

It prompted commissioners in 2016 to eliminate the Precinct 2, Place 3 post effective at the end of that year, when the term for that officerholder came to an end. Then commissioners voted to abolish two part-time justice of the peace posts held by officials whose terms expire at the end of this year.

The move effectively removes those posts from the ballot next year. A couple of would-be candidates already had expressed interest in running for one of those positions.

During the 2016 election cycle, candidates for justice of the peace Precinct 2, Place 3 were not so lucky. Commissioners Court voted to eliminate the post after the primaries when candidates already had spent money campaigning.

County government has changed considerably over the course of time, but it is still primarily responsible for operation of the justice system, the county jail, and the recording of land and marriage records.

Justices of the peace and constables still have a role in county government, but they have outgrown much of their usefulness in urban counties.

In the 2016 budget cycle, commissioners eliminated two dozen deputy constables and justice of the peace clerk positions despite strong pushback from the officeholders whose employees were affected.

Shrinking government and doing right by the taxpayers require strong political fortitude. We applaud the continued effort in making county government more efficient.


Beaumont Enterprise. Nov. 12, 2017.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently closed a Mobile Disaster Recovery Center in the Nome City Hall, and it attracted little notice. After all, Harvey hit more than 10 weeks ago, and most of the debris piles have been picked up. We’re in the home stretch, aren’t we?

No. The effects of this tropical storm might be less visible now, but this struggle is far from over.

Hundreds of homes still need to be mucked out. Rose City has water, but it’s still not safe to drink. Impending winter weather could reveal more damage in roads that were undermined by days of flooding.

Many school districts have buildings that can’t be used. They are discovering new mold and water damage each week. They’re bringing in portable buildings - 22 in Vidor alone - but they’re expensive and hardly ideal.

Some businesses have closed, meaning fewer jobs and fewer tax receipts for local governments.

In varying ways, from Orange to Winnie, and Sabine Pass to Jasper, the story is the same. The region is in better shape than it was in early September, but it’s not 100 percent improved, either.

Some displaced people are just getting into FEMA trailers or repaired buildings. But they might not have any clothes or furniture - and no state or federal programs provide that either.

The recovery from this epochal flood, like the struggle to overcome hurricanes Rita and Ike, will be a marathon, not a sprint. It will extend well into 2018 and beyond.

Every public official in Southeast Texas must keep working hard on local challenges - and stay on the phone with state and federal contacts. The private sector and charities, which have already done so much, will be asked to do more. All of us should be open to helping a friend or neighbor - or someone we don’t know.

For how long? Until every school is reopened, every road is repaired, and everyone who wants to live here can find a home.


Houston Chronicle. Nov. 12, 2017.

Homeless encampments don’t normally have power generators and big-screen televisions. But there’s nothing normal about the tent cities that have sprung up beneath freeway overpasses near Minute Maid Park and in Midtown.

These long-term homeless sites have proven themselves hazardous to the public and dangerous for inhabitants.

Violence has become a regular occurrence at and around the tent encampments. The presence of urine, feces and garbage poses a sanitation hazard not only to the homeless residents, but for the city as a whole.

In an effort to discourage extended camping on public property, the Turner administration passed new laws in May to discourage the sites as they exist. The goal was to balance the rights and needs of the homeless with the concerns of nearby neighborhoods. This meant making it illegal to set up tents in a public place and to require that any personal belonging must fit inside a 3-foot cube.

Rather than working to find a solution that benefits the homeless and the neighborhoods, the ACLU of Texas filed an emergency petition to block enforcement, and U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt granted petitioners a temporary restraining order in August.

Hoyt found that the city didn’t challenge the fact that “the emergency shelters in Houston are full and have been so for years.” He noted that homeless individuals “wait in lines, daily, at the five shelters … only to be turned away.”

In the long run, Houston needs a facility similar to Haven for Hope in San Antonio. This would be a one-stop shop for homeless services that features open intake 24/7 and has space for the city’s Homeless Initiatives and local nonprofits. It will take time and money before Houston has our own Haven for Hope, but the tent encampments are not a viable stop-gap solution.

Since the judge issued the stay, the number of tents in Midtown has grown from 40 to 102, and there have been two murders and a stabbing at the Midtown encampment in the last 30 days.

The latest victim, a resident of the Midtown encampment, died of a single gunshot and was found in a parking lot Nov. 7.

The Texas Department of Transportation could ameliorate the deteriorating situation by filing trespass actions against the individuals camping out on state land. But instead, the agency is contributing to the stalemate by sitting on its hands.

Everyone has a right to use public space, but no one has a right to monopolize it. The injunction doesn’t remove Houston’s most vulnerable from harm’s way. The ACLU should drop its opposition to this reasonable ordinance.


The Dallas Morning News. Nov. 13, 2017.

The chaos and distractions that are part of the Trump administration landed on one of Dallas’ most important companies this month.

AT&T;, which has spent the past year preparing to acquire Time Warner Inc., had to publicly deny that it had offered to sell CNN in order to win regulatory approval. In a broadcast from New York, CEO Randall Stephenson said he never made such an offer and would not do so. He added that AT&T; was ready to litigate the case.

It was an extraordinary moment, because the AT&T-Time; Warner proposal is still under review by the Justice Department. There’s time to find common ground, assuming partisan politics and personal grudges don’t drive the parties further apart.

The idea of selling CNN appeared in several news reports, attributed to unnamed sources. Stephenson said he had to set the record straight and reaffirm AT&T;’s commitment to Time Warner employees, especially the creative talent at CNN.

The news network has broken many key stories on President Donald Trump and Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Trump has repeatedly attacked it as a purveyor of “fake news,” and many feared that his administration was trying to punish CNN through the AT&T; review.

Mergers are supposed to be evaluated on the economics, so White House intervention would cross a line.

“Exactly what the Founders feared when they drafted the First Amendment,” said Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush and a frequent Trump critic.

As a candidate, Trump opposed the merger, saying it would concentrate too much power in too few hands. Trump recently said he didn’t make the decision on AT&T; and CNN. Then he added: “I do feel you should have as many news outlets as you can - especially since so many are fake.”

Maybe Trump can’t resist a shot at his perceived enemies, but his public comments undermine government credibility. Recall his travel ban and Bowe Bergdahl’s desertion case.

The Justice Department must evaluate AT&T-Time; Warner on the merits - and put aside Trump’s frustrations with CNN.

No competitors would be eliminated in the deal and a so-called vertical merger hasn’t been blocked in the U.S. for four decades. Regulators for 18 countries, including the European Union and Mexico, have approved it without any asset sales.

If there are concerns about AT&T;’s power, regulators should require remedies to protect competition, as they did with Comcast in 2011.

We believe consumers and the marketplace stand to benefit from the combination.

AT&T; would pay almost $109 billion, including debt, to marry Time Warner content with its distribution in wireless service and pay TV. AT&T; wants to create new low-cost video options and ad models. It expects to innovate faster and accelerate the adoption of next-gen wireless.

Would AT&T; become too big? Not measured against the tech giants pushing into Hollywood.

Apple recently won the bidding for a Reese Witherspoon TV series. Amazon, Facebook and Google’s parent, Alphabet, are betting big on video. Netflix plans to spend $8 billion on programming next year.

With Time Warner, AT&T; would be among the few companies capable of challenging these players. That sounds like a boon to competition, not a threat.

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