Editorial Roundup: Texas

Dallas Morning News. Oct. 16, 2021.

Editorial: We blame legislative meddling for the Holocaust controversy in Southlake

If any American community embodies the national frenzy about how we teach race in schools, it’s Southlake. The acrimony over Carroll ISD’s diversity plan to tackle racism reshaped the school board, drew unflattering headlines and inspired a podcast by NBC News.

Now the ugly debate in Southlake has twisted into something unthinkable.

On Thursday, news broke that a Carroll ISD administrator advised teachers to make sure classroom libraries featuring books about the Holocaust also included “opposing” perspectives. The administrator, Gina Peddy, was directing teachers on how to vet books in light of a new state law meant to ban critical race theory in schools.

Let’s start with the obvious: Nazis and their collaborators slaughtered more than 6 million Jewish people. There should be no denial of the Holocaust nor any defense of it, and we should never wander into a place where our teachers might be pressed to treat it as anything other than the unspeakably evil act it was.

The views of Nazis are not morally equivalent to those of the people they terrorized. If our children are to study a perspective other than those of victims, it should be a lesson on how some of our fellow citizens will contort facts and deny others their humanity for their own purposes. It should be a lesson on how those actions are indefensible.

What happened in Southlake this month is the unfortunate outcome of a new and misguided state law against critical race theory that passed earlier this year. While the law doesn’t define the term or even mention it, it was crafted by legislators in the context of a national panic about how our country confronts racism.

A major sticking point for educators was a requirement that teachers not be compelled to discuss current events in class, and that those who do so explore “diverse and contending perspectives” without giving deference to any particular one. Educators and other critics of the legislation warned that it was vague and that it would create confusion and lead teachers to avoid issues such as racism. Some worried it would force them to straddle the fence on something like a white supremacist rally.

Peddy clearly misunderstood the law, which instructs teachers on how to discuss any “particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs.” That does not describe the Holocaust. Still, many teachers are terrified about the climate in schools right now, as one of them told Peddy during the book-vetting training session. Photos show Carroll ISD classroom libraries covered with yellow caution tape or black sheets of paper.

“We are in the middle of a political mess,” Peddy said, according to a recording obtained by NBC News. “And you are in the middle of a political mess.”

There should be no moral confusion in our schools about the evils of the Holocaust, of slavery, of white supremacy. But educators are overreacting to the new state law out of fear of getting in trouble, and our lawmakers should have never put them in this predicament. They must revise the law or repeal it.

This awful episode could ratchet up tensions in Southlake even higher. How much more discord can a community take?

We hope Southlake parents will agree that the hostility has gone on too long. It’s evident that this political mess only exacerbates feuds. There have been more than enough incidents to make it clear why many students and families feel less than welcome in Southlake, so it should be equally clear why the community needs honest and civil discussions about a diversity and inclusion plan.

The Texas Legislature has made it harder for Southlake to find a path toward reconciliation. Our lawmakers should be joining us in these difficult conversations instead of dividing us.

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Waco Tribune. Oct 17, 2021.

Editorial: Who’s socialist now? Business, not government, best knows how to safeguard workers, customers

If one needs evidence of how upside-down our times are, consider the spectacle Americans witness daily where elected officials seeking to score political points work not toward the “general welfare” cited in the U.S. Constitution, not toward the sanctity of life pressed by the Bible, but toward putting the public in greater peril. Latest example: Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who again betrays the very socialist characteristics that he and other Republicans so often attribute to Democrats.

Bowing to the whims of a radicalized Republican Party of Texas in a state where 69,000 of our friends, co-workers and neighbors have died of COVID-19, Abbott played socialist tyrant last week, ordering that “no entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer.” In short, he demands that businesses cease protecting via private vaccine mandates their own employees — and thus risk company efficiency, productivity and viability.

We acknowledge debate over government-mandated COVID-19 vaccinations. But Abbott is trashing the formerly Republican principle that businesses should be free of burdensome government regulations that interfere with a vibrant capitalist society. Many businesses on their own are mandating vaccinations because they want environments where employees are significantly protected against spread of a highly contagious, potentially disabling virus.

Such workplace mandates are good business, especially when undertaken by savvy business owners and proprietors, not the almighty, omnipotent state.

Yes, some argue against company-imposed vaccinations including the decision of local hospitals to mandate vaccinations of staffs and contract labor. Yet these business-place decisions are primarily undertaken not only to protect a valuable workforce so often stretched thin but also to reduce the possibility of unvaccinated employees infecting innocent customers who should be able to enter a business confident they won’t walk out with COVID-19.

For all but the blind, it’s obvious what’s going on. We marvel at the pace with which the Republican Party continues to place on the funeral pyre its conservative tenets, one by one. Abbott’s order is clearly issued in his dread of Allen West, 2022 primary election challenger and right-wing rabble-rouser lately hospitalized with COVID-19, as well as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, likely rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination and now busy undermining public safety throughout the Sunshine State.

And if the lives of Abbott’s constituents must be placed on the pyre for his political ambitions, so be it.

As one Democratic wag quipped, it’s a curious strategy indeed that seems bent on bumping off many of the Republican Party’s own disciples. The “Don’t tread on me” crowd should be irate, but they’re no longer interested in the preservation of capitalism but rather in a form of absolute individual freedom that sacrifices everybody and his or her dog. For those of us who grew up in Republican environments where personal freedom was neatly balanced with the public good, one increasingly wonders if the Republican Party can rally from the socialist malignancy that now infects it.

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Amarillo Globe News. Oct. 15, 2021.

Editorial: Voters to weigh eight constitutional amendment proposals

Election Day is right around the corner, and as is common following a Texas Legislature regular session, voters are being asked to weigh in on a handful of proposed constitutional amendments.

This year, there are eight such proposals on the ballot. Election Day is Nov. 2 with the early voting period set to begin Monday (Oct. 18) through Oct. 29. The wording of each proposition is included below as well as our recommendation.

Proposition 1: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the professional sports team charitable foundations of organizations sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association or the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association to conduct charitable raffles at rodeo venues.”

Vote “for,” allows raffles to be held at rodeos in the state and puts pro rodeo charitable foundations on equal footing with similar organizations in Texas.

Proposition 2: “The constitutional amendment authorizing a county to finance the development or redevelopment of transportation or infrastructure in unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted areas in the county.”

Vote “for,” gives counties similar authority to do what towns and cities may already do.

Proposition 3: “The constitutional amendment to prohibit this state or a political subdivision of this state from prohibiting or limiting religious services of religious organizations.”

Vote “for,” keeps state and local governments from restricting religious services. Proposition is one of two resulting from the ongoing pandemic.

Proposition 4: “The constitutional amendment changing the eligibility requirements for a justice of the supreme court, a judge of the court of criminal appeals, a justice of a court of appeals, and a district judge.”

No position, proposition boosts requirements for judges to run for office.

Proposition 5: “The constitutional amendment providing additional powers to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct with respect to candidates for judicial office.”

Vote “for,” expands ability to file allegations of misconduct complaints against sitting judges to judicial candidates.

Proposition 6: “The constitutional amendment establishing a right for residents of certain facilities to designate an essential caregiver for in-person visitation.”

Vote “for,” another pandemic-related proposition allowing those in long-term care facilities to receive visits from a designated essential caregiver.

Proposition 7: “The constitutional amendment to allow the surviving spouse of a person who is disabled to receive a limitation on the school district ad valorem taxes on the spouse’s residence homestead if the spouse is 55 years of age or older at the time of the person’s death.”

Vote “for,” allows surviving spouses of disabled persons (at least 55 years of age) a limit on school district property tax.

Proposition 8: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a member of the armed services of the United States who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty.”

Vote “for,” expands property tax exemption eligibility to surviving spouses of military members killed in “line of duty” instead of simply “in action.”

We encourage voters to educate themselves on these proposed constitutional amendments and exercise their right to have their voice heard by casting a ballot.

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Houston Chronicle. Oct. 17, 2021.

Editorial: Abbott’s mandate against vaccine mandates is still a mandate

So what’s a good number? About 75,000? How about 85,000? Maybe 100,000?

How many deaths from COVID-19 will it take, we’re wondering, before Gov. Greg Abbott shifts attention from his political ambitions to the health and well-being of his fellow Texans? We’re closing in on 70,000 deaths, about the equivalent of the population of Missouri City, the population of Spring. As we head into winter, that number is sure to keep climbing, particularly if Abbott The Craven continues to kowtow to the anti-vaxxers who rule Republican primary voting.

Despite the dire death numbers, the governor issued an executive order last week banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates by any “entity in Texas,” including private businesses, hospitals, schools, nursing homes and any other place where people gather in sizable numbers. Abbott said violators will face a fine up to $1,000, which will remain in effect until the Legislature passes a law that formalizes it.

The governor’s order conflicts with a soon-to-be-enacted federal regulation that will require businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure they’re either vaccinated or tested weekly. Butting up against President Joe Biden is precisely the point.

“In yet another instance of federal overreach, the Biden administration is now bullying many private entities into imposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates,” Abbott wrote in the order.

Abbott’s anti-mandate mandate also conflicts with the classic conservative tradition in this state and elsewhere of the primacy of local control. Since Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton have ruled the Capitol roost, such rank hypocrisy is par for the course. Still, it’s one thing when the governor ignores local control over the use of plastic bags, cutting down trees or restricting fracking within the city limits; it’s another when thousands of lives are at stake in a global pandemic.

“This prohibition against vaccine mandates is like as if the governor were telling me that I can’t issue an order to evacuate the coastal areas when a hurricane is barreling toward us,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said at a news conference. (Abbott probably wouldn’t hesitate to do even that if he saw some sort of political advantage.)

What’s infuriating during these difficult times is that the governor’s swerve to the hard right on a number of issues during a legislative session seemingly without end is pure (or, rather, impure) politics. Personally and politically over the years, Abbott has been relatively moderate — compared, that is, to the ideologues who have taken over the GOP — but now that two extremist challengers to his political future have cropped up, the governor has veered to the fence-line verge of the political highway.

What’s the man afraid of? He has millions in his campaign war chest, and his GOP opponents, Don Huffines and Allen West, are right-wing lightweights.

Huffines is a former state senator from Dallas who was obscure even before he lost a bid for reelection in 2018 to a Democrat, Nathan Johnson, by 8 percentage points in a district Donald Trump won by 4. A man who curried disfavor with both Democrats and his fellow Republicans in the Legislature, Huffines calls himself “the only real Trump candidate in this race,” even though the former president bestowed his “Complete and Total Endorsement for re-election” on Abbott.

“Greg Abbott is a political windsock and today proves it,” Huffines tweeted after the governor issued his vaccine order. “He knows conservative Republican voters are tired of the vaccine mandates and tired of him being a failed leader.”

West, who served one disputatious term as a Florida congressman before moving to Texas, is known mainly for outrageous outbursts. He announced for governor after briefly serving as chair of the Texas Republican Party, hoping the position would serve as a trampoline for his political aspirations. Currently out of the hospital after recovering from a recent bout with COVID, he’s a loud and proud anti-vaxxer who insisted that his treatment include doses of ivermectin, the horse de-wormer.

Maybe the governor knows something we don’t know about his political weaknesses, but it’s hard to see either of these characters as an Abbott-tamer.

What’s glaringly obvious, though, is that Abbott, under the apparent influence of his challengers, is a danger to the people of Texas. Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, explained the consequences of their intransigence. “We’re still at a high level of transmission in the nation, and in Texas only one-half of the population is vaccinated,” he tweeted last week. “We need all tools possible, including vaccine mandates, to close the gap and halt COVID-19 transmission.”

Scott Gottlieb, the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner in the Trump administration, told CNBC last week he disagreed with Abbott’s order and worried about the broader consequences.

“I think we’re going to see this fight over vaccines bleed into other realms,” he said, “vaccinations for children, vaccinations for flu, and we’re going to see vaccination rates decline across the country now that this is something that people think defines their political virtue.”

Hotez worries about more immediate consequences. “We’re probably looking at 80,000 deaths by the end of the year,” he told MSNBC. “This is the single greatest tragedy that’s ever befallen the state of Texas, most likely.”

The single greatest tragedy. That’s Abbott’s legacy as governor, in large measure because he’s desperate to be reelected, not because he’s desperate to lead his fellow Texans through the valley of the shadow of COVID death.

It could be, of course, that Abbott — who is vaccinated, by the way — is a mere clanging symbol, nothing more. Once the federal regulation takes effect, Texas’ larger employers have to require vaccines, creating a conflict with Abbott’s order, and any subsequent legislation, that most legal scholars suggest will be preempted under the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.

A large number of Texas-based companies, including Southwest Airlines, AT&T and Houston-based Hewlett Packard Enterprise, already have employer vaccine mandates in place. Recognizing that they have proven effective in other countries — and in states not in thrall to recalcitrant Republican governors — companies are likely to keep them.

“The governor’s executive order does not support Texas businesses’ ability and duty to create a safe workplace,” Bob Harvey, president of the Greater Houston Partnership, said in a written statement. “While the courts will likely decide the validity of this order, we encourage all employers to continue to promote the importance of vaccinations with their employees. Vaccinations are our path out of the pandemic, and the Partnership remains focused on supporting steps that lead to improving the rate of vaccination in our community.”

Many Texas companies are likely to agree with Harvey and with Amber Gunst, chief executive of the Austin Technology Council. She told the Washington Post that Abbott’s mandate “simply is a nuisance to have to deal with at this point.”

We’re trying to fight our way out of a pandemic that for nearly two years has hobbled our economy, disrupted our daily lives and killed more than 700,000 of our fellow Americans. The last thing we need, Gov. Abbott, is a nuisance. Back off.

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The (McAllen) Monitor. Oct. 13, 2021.

Editorial: Back and forth: Dreamers, Americans deserve, need legislation to settle issue

A president issues an executive order. A court throws it out on a technicality. The president issues a new order, addressing the court’s concerns. Another court throws that out, on another technicality. And on and on. This is no way to enact national policy, and it certainly is no way to treat hundreds of thousands of people whose legal status hangs in the balance.

We’ve lost track of how many different executive orders have been issued regarding the right of lifelong American residents to stay here. President Biden has promised yet another version of the order to address issues that a federal judge says invalidates the current one.

The issue seems simple enough: Do people who were brought to this country as children and know no other homeland have a right to stay here? It seems logical: “Dreamers,” as they are known due to the proposed legislation that Congress failed to pass in 2001, did not come to this country of their own volition; they’ve lived, been educated and worked in the United States their entire lives and have proven they benefit their communities and our country has a whole. It’s popular: A February poll by Vox and Data for Progress shows that 69% of likely voters “strongly” support offering Dreamers a path to citizenship; the number rose to 86% when they were asked if they “somewhat” supported naturalization. Other polls similarly indicate that more than three-fourths of Americans accept them as compatriots.

For more than two decades Congress has failed to resolve the issue. As a result, the Obama administration in 2012 issued a policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, allowing people who met certain guidelines to apply for renewable two-year visas enabling them to live and work in this country without fear of deportation.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of Brownsville declared in June that the policy was invalid — not in principle, but on procedural grounds; the new policy was enacted without required steps such as public hearings and public comments. The Biden administration has appealed Hanen’s ruling, but also took steps to address his concerns, submitting a rule proposal Sept. 27 on the issue. Public comments are being taken through Nov. 29. People can offer comments through the regulations.gov website, referencing DHS Docket No. 2021-0006.

This is only the latest legal hurdle on Dreamers’ path to acceptance. Even President Trump’s efforts to rescind the Obama order failed not on their merits, but on administrative grounds; the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Trump order offered insufficient grounds for the action, and did not address the arguments that were used to justify the original order.

Immigration policy must be set by Congress, not by the courts. Chief Justice John Roberts made that clear in his majority ruling on the Trump order.

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies. The wisdom of those decisions is none of our concern,” Roberts wrote.

The presidents’ actions — and Congress’ inaction — must not be tolerated any longer. President Biden’s needs to pressure lawmakers to stop abdicating their responsibility, and start working on real, sensible immigration reform.

END