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Recent editorials from Texas newspapers

January 22, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

Midland Reporter-Telegram. Jan. 20, 2019.

State Sen. Kel Seliger deserved better than what he received when Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick handed out his committee assignments last week.

The residents of District 31, which includes Midland, Odessa and Amarillo, deserved better, too.

Patrick stripped Seliger of his chairmanship (and seat) on the Higher Education committee and removed Seliger from the Senate Education and Finance committees.

Seliger was named chair of the Senate’s new Agriculture Committee, a smaller committee split off from the Agriculture, Water & Rural Affairs Committee.

“Lt. Gov. Patrick created a separate agriculture committee this session because of the ever-increasing economic impact on agriculture on the state economy,” wrote Patrick staffer Alejandro Garcia in a response to the Reporter-Telegram. “The agriculture industry is hugely important in Senate District 31.”

At this point in time, there is nothing more important than education.

Plenty of people in District 31 care about school finance and having to send to Austin tens of millions of property tax dollars to be redistributed to so-called poorer school districts. Midland Independent School District officials have previously told the Reporter-Telegram a school finance payment of $80 million or more could be required next school year. Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott aren’t concerned with returning those dollars to Midland. They are on the record that a victory on the school finance front would be just capping school finance payments.

We disagree with Patrick on his committee assignments. This was a serious demotion for Seliger and a serious slap in the face to the people of the Permian Basin.

There is history between Patrick and Seliger. The Texas Tribune reported Friday that “Seliger and Patrick have had squabbles in the past, if they remained relatively low-temperature. Patrick stayed quiet on Seliger’s re-election bid, but his top political consultant — Houston-based Allen Blakemore — ran the campaign of Victor Leal, who unsuccessfully challenged Seliger in the Republican primary. And Seliger was the only Republican senator who didn’t endorse Patrick’s re-election campaign, saying he was focused on his own race.”

“I know exactly what motivated the change. It was a couple of ‘no’ votes for the lieutenant governor’s priorities in 2017,” the longtime higher education chairman told the Texas Tribune. “It was a very clear warning to the Republicans that if you get off the reservation, you better be careful.”

Let’s be clear about Seliger’s decision to put local government ahead of the mandates of a heavy-handed Senate leader in Austin. Seliger was right. The voters of District 31 agreed. Despite efforts from Team Patrick — conservative West Texans overwhelming voted to send Seliger back to Austin.

For the record, conservatives in District 31 also helped pave the way for a narrow Patrick victory over Mike Collier. Patrick got 75.92 percent in Midland County, 67.48 percent in Potter County and 77.16 percent in Randall County. On Friday, District 31 residents saw how the lieutenant governor showed his appreciation of the region.

West Texans deserved better.

___

The Dallas Morning News. Jan. 21, 2019.

There is an old legal maxim that is taking on new relevance in Dallas County just now: “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

For at least two years, the county has been embroiled in a fight over its process for granting bail. The issue should have been resolved last year, when U.S. District Judge David Godbey issued an order to revise how bail is handled. But that wasn’t the end of it. Instead, defendants are now caught between the county that wants to make changes and county judges who need to sign off on those changes but haven’t.

And there is some urgency. The federal judge set Jan. 16 as a deadline for compliance. As that date approached, county officials agreed to pay for a prosecutor and a public defender to be present at suspects’ initial bail hearings within 48 hours of arrest to protect the rights of the accused. Amazingly, that was more than Godbey ordered and seemingly should have solved matters.

But here’s where the saga takes an odd twist. The deadline passed without state district judges in Dallas County agreeing to have public defenders present at the initial bail hearings as the county had proposed. State district judges over local felony courts added to the confusion with a local order stating that a public defender or private attorney may assist a suspect in “any bail review hearing” after the initial appearance before a magistrate at the jail.

Frankly, this squabble has created unacceptable and unnecessary confusion. Should a public defender or a court-appointed private attorney be present and at what stages of the legal proceedings? “Who knows” is a bad answer.

Here’s why. Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot and Chief Public Defender Lynn Richardson told The Dallas Morning News that they interpreted the order to mean that no prosecutors or public defenders would be present at the first bail hearing, but would be allowed at a second bail hearing. And here’s another twist: Public defenders are currently present at initial bail hearings for suspects with mental health issues.

Such basic administrative details should have been resolved quickly. The bail reform issue has been on the front burner for criminal court judges and lawyers for at least two years. And they generally agree that the county and justice itself would be better served if the county had a better way to assess the risk that a defendant will flee or be a threat to the community if released on the streets pending adjudication. Yet, the dispute and the messy attempt to resolve it seems to have only created gridlock.

It’s time to stop the nonsense. Godbey’s decision last fall was issued because the way the county assigned bail (it set amounts based on a set schedule that factored in the offense and criminal record) treated poor defendants unfairly. Correcting that problem is a crucial part of ensuring the administration of justice. Instead we have delays, and people who might otherwise be able to make bail are stuck behind bars.

It is time to end this impasse. The system will have to be revised eventually, and there is no reason to delay it any longer.

___

The Monitor. Jan. 21, 2019.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador traditionally has aligned himself with leftist political parties and stances. But he ended 2018 with announcements that suggest a welcome restraint and appreciation for the market economy.

Two weeks after his Dec. 1 inauguration, AMLO, as the president is popularly known, presented a three-year federal budget that drew positive responses from international trading and financial markets and prompted a rise in the value of the peso. It trimmed spending by cutting some government initiatives. Those cuts will help offset his next pronouncement: On Dec. 31, he issued an executive order cutting corporate taxes in states that border the United States, coupled with a minimum wage increase.

He also ordered a reduction in gasoline prices.

AMLO’s stated goal is to increase productivity and trade in hopes of encouraging investment and economic expansion.

Higher wages are included in the recently reworked trade agreement with the United States and Canada. The president expressed hopes that higher wages and more jobs will inspire more Mexican workers to stay in their home country instead of migrating to seek better economic opportunity north of the border.

Immigration from Mexico already has slowed in recent years; much of the movement into the United States recently has come from Asia and Central America. Living conditions in much of Mexico have improved, steadily but slowly and in some years more Mexican nationals have returned home than have migrated here — despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s continued talk of waves of invaders from our southern neighbor.

Lopez Obrador has said he hopes Central American migrants will choose to stay in Mexico, which would benefit from their labor.

Further improvements would have a two-fold effect: It would ease the demand for U.S. entry visas, while keeping more workers in Mexico to help develop that country’s economy.

Improved conditions along the border should prove especially auspicious for U.S. areas such as the Rio Grande Valley, whose economy benefits greatly from cross-border trade. More businesses in northern Mexico would give Valley residents new incentives to cross over and buy their wares, while improved conditions in Mexico attract more Mexican residents to local cities to shop in our stores, patronize our restaurants and come to concerts and other entertainment events.

Some analysts have expressed fears that AMLO’s budget and plans might be a bit too optimistic, although he has said this is just the first part of what he calls “curtains of development” that will ripple through the country. His announced reductions in federal spending before the announced tax cuts, which will reduce federal revenue, suggest an understanding that the national budget must be kept under control before he launches any of the social welfare and infrastructure projects he promised during his presidential campaign.

“This suggests the new administration is keen to show more conservative fiscal management from the get-go,” international banking conglomerate BNP Paribas stated in a note to its clients. We hope the optimism that has followed AMLO’s moves proves to be well-founded.

We hope the moves prove fruitful for Mexico’s new president, and encourage further market reforms.

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