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OPINION: State Capital Highlights - LBJ School hosts civil rights summit

AUSTIN — President Barack Obama and former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush spoke at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library’s Civil Rights Summit, held April 8-10 in Austin.

The summit marked the 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s efforts culminating in Congress’ passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Johnson’s signing the bill into law on July 2, 1964.

“As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, we honor the men and women who made it possible,” President Obama said in his address. “We recall the countless unheralded Americans, black and white, students and scholars, preachers and housekeepers whose names are etched not on monuments, but in the hearts of their loved ones and in the fabric of the country they helped to change. But we also gather here deep in the heart of the state that shaped (President Johnson), to recall one giant man’s remarkable efforts to make real the promise of our founding: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ ”

Obama and the past presidents each uttered words to the effect that while Johnson’s accomplishments serve as durable bridges to a better America, every generation has civil rights challenges that must be recognized and addressed, and the value of teaching and learning about the work of predecessors is critical to the health of the nation.

Panels composed of historians, scholars, current and former public officials and noted personalities addressed a range of topics, including: LBJ and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., heroes of the civil rights movement, social justice in the 21st century, immigration policy, education, gay marriage, music and social consciousness and professional sports.

Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said, and others agreed, LBJ’s mastery of the legislative process and effective use of the power of the White House proved keys to the success of the civil rights law, the voting rights law, the fair housing law, Medicaid, Medicare and other laws and federal programs that have been the legacy of the Johnson presidency and central to American life over the last half century.

In their panel discussion, former NAACP President Julian Bond, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and former Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young — associates of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — recounted their personal involvement in the movement. Each of the three credited many others and acknowledged the work of the ranks of the unnamed who struggled in the 1950s and 1960s to unravel racial segregation across the South, and pushed for equal protection and equal access, while generating worldwide awareness and spurring changes in hearts and minds across the United States.

Hall of fame professional athletes Jim Brown and Bill Russell traded anecdotes on breaking the color line in sports, opening doors after their retirement as players, and dealing with the day-to-day realities of life in America.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musicians Mavis Staples and Graham Nash performed songs and participated as panelists.

Governor looks for MIAs

Gov. Rick Perry and first lady Anita Perry traveled to the Republic of Palau in the Western Pacific Ocean to participate in the BentProp Project, April 5 to April 17.

BentProp is an ongoing effort to find the remains of U.S. soldiers and sailors listed as “Missing in Action” in World War II battles fought in the South Pacific. Joining the Perrys on the island of Peleliu were former U.S. Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and Romus Valton Burgin, a veteran of the September 1944 Battle of Peleliu.

According to the governor’s office, the Perrys “are traveling as guests of the BentStar Project, which assists in funding the BentProp Project and Pursuit Productions, which is filming a documentary on the 2014 expedition.”

Revenues grow in March

State Comptroller Susan Combs on April 9 announced state sales tax revenue in March was $2.09 billion, up 5.6 percent compared to March of the previous year.

“The growth in sales tax revenues was led by business spending in the oil and natural gas mining, wholesale trade and construction sectors,” Texas chief revenue officer explained. “Collections from restaurants were also strong. This marks 48 consecutive months of growth in state sales tax collections.”

Combs said her office would send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts their April local sales tax allocations totaling $554.5 million, up 6.2 percent compared to April 2013.


OPINION: State Capital Highlights - Vietnam Veterans Monument is placed at Capitol

Austin — Forty-one years after the last U.S. combat troops left Vietnam, the new Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument was dedicated in a March 29 ceremony attended by a crowd of thousands, including veterans, active duty military, families, friends and relatives.

Some 3,417 Texans died or are unaccounted for in Vietnam, according to the State Capitol Preservation Board.

Speakers at the ceremony included: Gov. Rick Perry; U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson of Dallas, an Air Force pilot who was held captive and tortured as prisoner of war in Vietnam for seven years; Lt. Gen. Mick Kicklighter, director of the United States 50th Commemoration of the Vietnam War; state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and state Rep. Wayne Smith, R-Houston, Vietnam veteran legislators who co-sponsored the monument authorization legislation; Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst; Robert Floyd, chairman of monument committee; and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, who introduced the memorial tribute that included students from San Antonio’s Edgewood Memorial High School and wreaths presented by the families of Texans killed and missing in Vietnam, the Texas Vietnamese community and the Texas Legislature.

Read more: OPINION: State Capital Highlights - Vietnam Veterans Monument is placed at Capitol


OPINION: State Capital Highlights - DPS creates center to protect children

AUSTIN — The Texas Department of Public Safety on March 18 announced the creation of the Texas Crimes Against Children Center within the agency’s Texas Rangers Division.

The stated goal is to protect children through the collection and dissemination of vital intelligence, investigative support and cooperation with victim-assistance counselors by “providing support to local, state and federal partners on investigations related to missing and exploited children, the trafficking of children, child abductions and other high-risk threats to children.”

“The exploitation and human trafficking of children is a deplorable crime and it is critical that we use all available resources to keep them safe,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw.

Read more: OPINION: State Capital Highlights - DPS creates center to protect children


OPINION: South Texas Voter Fraud - Epilogue: What happened to the evidence?

In the South Texas Voter Fraud editorial series, I did not tell the story of what happened to the evidence we had collected for a reason: the current 2014 primary election. It was important that readers not confuse the intent to inform the public and motivate action vs. trying to sway any outcome in the current election. I’m not here to take sides. Fraud is fraud no matter who is doing it.

So, the rest of the story…

Step 1: Who do we take the voter fraud documentation to once it’s gathered? The district attorney for the county in which the election is held is the proper official to investigate and to bring it to trial, if necessary.

When our group was well underway with going through the election documents, analyzing and categorizing what we found, and while individual witnesses to events were preparing affidavits, I requested a meeting with Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra. Then County Clerk J.D. Salinas, who was very cooperative and supportive of our efforts, arranged a meeting in his office for the three of us.

Read more: OPINION: South Texas Voter Fraud - Epilogue: What happened to the evidence?


OPINION: State Capital Highlights - Many registered but few voted in primaries

AUSTIN — Looking back at the March 4 primaries, Texas boasted 13,601,324 voters registered in time to cast a ballot.

An estimated 9 percent of the overall number of registered voters (about 1.3 million) voted in the Republican primary and 4 percent (500,000) voted in the Democratic primary. 

Runoffs between the top two vote-getting candidates in a number of contests are scheduled for Tuesday, May 27, the day after the federal holiday, Memorial Day. Votes count big in any election, but as historic participation records reveal, the portion of the electorate that actually votes in runoffs is an even thinner slice of the whole. And voter turnout is especially low in mid-term (non-presidential election year) runoffs, as those set for May 27 will be. Usually about 2 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in those.

Read more: OPINION: State Capital Highlights - Many registered but few voted in primaries


OPINION: South Texas Voter Fraud - Part 6: What’s Ahead?

During the past weeks, I’ve talked about an election that occurred in 2000, but the election problems and voter fraud have spanned decades.

The hope is that this series has begun to get people talking, analyzing and re-evaluating their own attitudes and perceptions about this issue and voting generally—to be more self-aware about personal voting patterns and more peripherally aware. Its intent is not to titillate the gossip, but to motivate action.

Thank you for the kind words of encouragement we have received. Please share, encourage others and become involved.

What’s happening today? The printed size of the Texas Election Code has grown since the first copy I purchased in 2000. So, now the process begins again as I read the newest version front to back. I am updating my knowledge base to the current laws and procedures relative to the current conditions. But, this time I’m analyzing it more carefully from an informed perspective and weighing it against the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA)—which has influenced election processes across the country. This year I am also planning to attend training for election officials and workers at the state and county level to see what is happening in that process.

Read more: OPINION: South Texas Voter Fraud - Part 6: What’s Ahead?


OPINION: South Texas Voter Fraud - Part 5: Are you the problem or the solution?

My mother, June Brann, and I had a lot of political discussions over the years on a variety of subjects.

On one occasion—and more years back than I want to admit—we were discussing the public’s integrity and the tide of elections generally.

She said, “People will always vote their pocketbooks.”

I replied, “The people will never vote for an individual with higher moral character than that which they personally possess. The moral fiber of those elected to office reflects the moral fiber of the populace.”

Read more: OPINION: South Texas Voter Fraud - Part 5: Are you the problem or the solution?


OPINION: South Texas Voter Fraud - Part 4: Procedures, practices and pitfalls = problems

Up to now, this series has only skimmed the surface of the cogs turning the wheel of voter fraud in South Texas. The convoluted layers require multiple elements to survive and for the machine to move forward.

The root begins with the official procedures for the conduct of elections in Texas governed by the Texas Election Code. The election laws can be broken into two main parts—those which are procedural only and have no legal consequence and those which do have legal consequence. Any consequence may be defined as a misdemeanor or a felony within the Election Code, depending on the degree of severity it interferes with the individual’s right to vote. But, both parts still have direct and irretrievable effect on an election’s outcome if not administered properly.

Practices could best be described by the too often heard exclamation, “But that’s the way it’s always been done!” Because it’s always been done that way doesn’t mean it’s correct or legal. How far did that argument get you with your mother? Then they cry, “Discrimination!” if someone else—with correct knowledge—cries, “Foul!” Last time anyone checked, the rule of law applies to everyone.

Read more: OPINION: South Texas Voter Fraud - Part 4: Procedures, practices and pitfalls = problems


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