- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

Amarillo Globe-News. March 12, 2018.

It is unfortunate that the U.S. Senate has to pass legislation requiring government agencies, not to mention the U.S. military, to do something they should already be doing, but so be it.

The senior U.S. senator from Texas, Republican John Cornyn, recently announced that he has the votes to pass what is being called the “Fix NICS” bill, a reference to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

The “fix” is needed following a mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs in 2017. The shooter had a history of domestic abuse and was given a bad conduct discharge from the U.S. Air Force in 2014. However, this information was not forwarded to the FBI database, which would have prevented the shooter from legally purchasing a firearm.

The bill requires federal agencies - and states - to “design plans for ensuring information is accurately reported to the database, and it would allocate resources to those agencies to help them do so. It would also set up a system of incentives and penalties for agencies who comply or fail to comply,” according to www.texastribune.org .

Again - why legislation is needed requiring federal agencies to do what common sense, if not the law, requires them to do anyway is curious. But if the end result helps prevent those who should not have legal access to firearms from getting their hands on weapons, then all is good.

Cornyn may get some criticism from those who are under the impression he is against gun rights, but such people are either misinformed or ignorant.

If federal agencies, and especially the U.S. military, are not going to forward information to a federal database (which already exists) regarding those who have forfeited their right to legally buy a firearm by exhibiting dangerous and/or criminal behavior, why have such databases in the first place?

This bill is not about gun rights.

This bill is about segments of the federal government doing what is right - and what they should already be doing.

___

The Monitor. March 12, 2018.

As attention turned to Texas last week for the nation’s first electoral primary after President Donald Trump took office, a deadline passed with virtually little mention: The end of the program that protected hundreds of thousands of Dreamers in this country.

Federal court rulings, essentially backed by the U.S. Supreme Court, forces the Trump administration to keep issuing renewals under this program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). But the executive branch of government is intent on abolishing this program, so no one should take DACA for granted. And although the reprieve given by a federal district judge in California applies to Dreamers who are seeking an additional two-year work permit; it does not apply to those seeking a work permit for the first time. And, thus the program is now closed to thousands.

While we have steadfastly supported the idea of allowing Dreamers to stay in this country legally, we have also expressed support for President Trump’s admonitions, when his administration announced the end of this program last September and that Congress should come up with a permanent solution for Dreamers.

We admit that Trump has since sent mixed signals over what he would and would not support legislatively, but we believe he is correct in seeking a permanent solution to DACA, which President Barack Obama started as a temporary solution to address those brought to this country illegally as youth.

We were heartened by the actions taken by Democrats in the U.S. Senate, who threatened a government shutdown unless DACA was addressed. And we looked forward to that chamber addressing the issue, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised via a floor debate in exchange for Democrats allowing the federal government to reopen after a brief shutdown over the federal budget.

Yet here we stand, after President Trump’s deadline to end this program - and six months after he announced he was ending it - still waiting for Congress to act.

It’s the same song with the same verse: Outrage by one party in Congress, followed by finger-pointing by both parties, followed by proposals - including some bipartisan attempts - and promises followed by inaction.

Several weeks ago, a video went viral on social media that showed former Mexican President Vicente Fox - a staunch critic of President Trump - saying Mexico would love to have Dreamers return home. Think of it, he said, having a highly educated and highly trained workforce suddenly descend on Mexico at a time of economic growth for that country, which could use the workforce.

That concept should be the focus of Congress: What it would cost our country to lose a highly educated and highly trained workforce, at a time when the birth rate in this country points to a skilled labor shortage in a generation or two.

If members of Congress can’t get beyond the concept of allowing foreigners in our midst - an ironic concept given that most Dreamers are American in culture, education and training and foreign in definition only - then they should consider the economic implications of losing a trained workforce of nearly one million young people.

___

Corpus Christi Caller-Times. March 12, 2018.

Ray High School is setting an especially fine example for how to engage the topic of school safety, post-Florida.

Much credit is due, starting with the students. They wrote more than 2,000 letters to their principal in response to the Florida high school shooting. Ray’s enrollment is 2,117. So that’s pretty much the whole student body. The letters are a measure of their assertiveness, their awareness and their respect for the school’s leadership. If this is how they “act out,” they chose a mature, constructive way to do it.

People generally don’t go to the effort of writing letters that aren’t going to be read or acted upon. Apparently Principal Cissy Reynolds-Perez has succeeded in establishing herself as someone students can approach and trust. It’s a credit to her that writing to her was their outlet rather than class-disrupting sit-ins or walkouts.

Reynolds-Perez hosted a school district-wide forum at Ray on March 5 with Corpus Christi’s state legislative delegation in attendance to answer questions and take suggestions. Clicks to Reynolds-Perez for getting our lawmakers’ commitments to attend - and to the lawmakers for recognizing the value of participating and engaging with high school students. The 300 students in attendance had the rare opportunity to participate in representative government with state Reps. Abel Herrero, D-Robstown, and Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, and Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen. It’s not unusual for people to live their whole lives without that experience.

Reynolds-Perez’s actions compare favorably to the methods of the late civil rights hero Dr. Hector P. Garcia, who worked assertively but within the system to bring people together to solve problems. She and the lawmakers gave the students reason to believe that their concerns were heard and, most importantly, that it didn’t all end there. Hunter, specifically, urged them to maintain contact with him and the others. Reynolds-Perez said social studies teachers at Ray would help students submit more questions and suggest solutions.

The adults’ actions were a dignified contrast to the grown-up trolls who have been attacking the Florida student survivor-activists in various unseemly ways - from accusing them of being groomed impostors to saying that their teen brains haven’t formed sufficiently for them to be taken seriously. Some of those trolls are elected officials in positions similar to Herrero, Hinojosa and Hunter.

Ray’s mascot name, the Texans, should be noted because Texans identify closely with their guns. Any proposed solutions that emerge from the discussion are bound to undergo boisterous debate. We can’t predict what actions, if any, will result. But it was gratifying to see our students, faculty, administrators and lawmakers working together on it, constructively. They could serve as a model for the nation.

___

Houston Chronicle. March 12, 2018.

Kingwood residents have long complained about feeling like the unwanted stepchildren of Houston ever since the neighborhood was annexed in 1996.

The city and county’s recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey should set out to prove them wrong, and this means treating Kingwood’s flooding problems with the same seriousness reserved for a coastal barrier near Galveston and a third reservoir in west Houston.

Kingwood residents, on the banks of the San Jacinto River, are sitting ducks for flooding. The north Houston community suffered mightily during Hurricane Harvey, and damage from that storm left Kingwood vulnerable to flooding from even small rainfall events, the Chronicle’s Mike Snyder reports.

How? Harvey washed sediment - some of it from nearby sand mines - into the river, shallowing the waterway so it can hold less volume. The destruction was so bad entire sandbars formed in the river, displacing so much water that parts of Kingwood flooded when a mere half-inch of rain fell in a February downpour.

Fighting this flooding means regulating sand mining along the San Jacinto, which feeds Houston’s massive appetite for construction concrete.

A 2011 law requiring sand mines to register and be inspected was a start, and Humble Republican state Rep. Dan Huberty is correct to call for that law to be strengthened, perhaps even to include a ban on sand mining along the San Jacinto.

Fixing the damage already done by dredging the river would cost millions and potentially lower the quality of Houston’s main source of potable water. Houston and Harris County officials are making the right move to push for dredging as soon as possible, so long as they consult with environmentalists to minimize disruption to the river’s ecology.

With flooding in Houston expected to worsen with additional development and climate change, neglecting to create a long-term plan to keep sand banks from washing into the San Jacinto could end up costing far more, and needlessly subject Kingwood residents to flooding of their homes.

This risk has already led businesses to tell the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce that another flood would convince them to leave town, a move that would justify District E Council Member Dave Martin’s fears of losing the community’s tax base.

Houston and Harris County policy makers have shown a rare willingness to consider spending billions on building infrastructure to handle future flood-producing storms. Harvey was undoubtedly a wakeup call for this city, and Kingwood must be included in long-term efforts to protect the city from future deluges.

___

The Dallas Morning News. March 12, 2018.

Every few decades, a political party reaches a moment when it has the opportunity to redefine itself. The upcoming runoff for Texas governor between former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Houston businessman Andrew White could represent one of those moments within Texas’ Democratic Party.

Valdez has all the traditional democratic demographics in her favor. She’s a liberal, Hispanic and a lesbian, a combination that shattered barriers as Dallas County sheriff and offers a compelling narrative to core constituencies. It was a strong enough narrative for her to get 42.9 percent of the vote in a nine-person primary field and to amass a 15 percentage point advantage over second-place finisher White, who campaigned as a conservative, business-oriented “common sense” Democrat and whose father was former Gov. Mark White.

Therein lies the challenge for Democratic voters in the runoff - whether to double down on a traditional orthodoxy that has proved successful in primary contests but has failed in statewide elections since 1994 or to embrace a new approach that some hope will attract crossover voters and independents. Four years ago, former state Sen. Wendy Davis carried an even more impressive portfolio of Democratic orthodoxy than Valdez into the general election only to lose by a massive 20 percentage points to Republican Greg Abbott.

The dilemma here is whether a party plays to its base, or seeks to build a margin of victory by also pulling in non-ideological voters. The latter has examples of success on both sides. In Texas, George W. Bush broadened the base of the Republican party in 1994 to beat Gov. Ann Richards. State Democrats have yet to recover from the defeat. Nationally, Bill Clinton - powered by the ideas of Al From and the Democratic Leadership Council - won the presidency in 1992 with a centrist message of “it’s the economy stupid.” Democrats went on to hold the White House for 16 of the past 25 years.

Texas Democrats now face consequential decisions that pit ideology against Texas’ changing demographics and recent statewide political trends. Valdez invigorated Hispanics, the fastest growing demographic in the state, while White struggled in a crowded field to connect with Democratic voters, many of whom expressed suspicion about his self-description as a conservative Democrat. Both candidates are very long shots against Abbott in the fall. However, the challenge for Democratic voters in the runoff is to decide how best to build a party that can compete with Republicans who are so confident in their ability to run the tables that they run the risk of playing too much to their base.

Texans need a healthy two-party system that doesn’t leave behind the political middle. This runoff could be the start of an overdue debate among Democrats.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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