Columns/Opinions

Wed
01
May
Edgar's picture

Top issues remain in play as Legislature enters final month

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STATE CAPITAL HIGHLIGHTS

AUSTIN — Only a month is left for lawmakers to get the state’s business done in the 86th regular session of the Texas Legislature.

Still unfinished are the issues at the top of a list shared by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen: the passage of a state budget for fiscal years 2020-2021, property tax reform and school finance reform.

Last week, a conference committee of 10 House and Senate budget writers began negotiations over the two chambers’ budget bills. While the negotiators have agreed on $9 billion to spend on property tax relief and education finance reform, the two versions are about $400 million apart on state revenue spending and $3.2 billion apart, out of a total of about $250 billion in all funds, according to the Senate News Service.

 

 

Wed
01
May
Edgar's picture

Go Figure

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IT’S THE PITTS

I love auctions and the professionals who put them on. I’d rather watch a good bull sale than the Super Bowl or a Jennifer Anniston movie any day. Now, to the casual observer an auction may look like a simple affair but believe me, there’s a lot more than meets the eye.

A good sale manager can be worth their weight in commission and can pay for themselves if all they do is make a great sale order. For example, many years ago there was a big bull sale in Montana and the owner of the bulls was very innovative and he came up with an idea he called “the bull roll.”

If you bought a bull you could just keep buying bulls as they came in the ring for the same price. This would have worked well if the bulls were placed in descending order of quality.

 

 

Wed
01
May
Edgar's picture

A prescription for affordable medications

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U.S SENATOR GUEST COLUMN

The ability to shop around for the lowest price is one of the cornerstones of the free market. Whether you’re making a big purchase such as a new car, or restocking everyday items such as paper towels, you can compare prices across various brands and retailers and decide where to take your business. That’s how consumers make informed decisions, and why companies keep their prices low.

But when it comes to prescription medication – that type of competition and price transparency doesn’t exist. As a result, patients are often blindsided by the cost of their prescriptions when they’re standing at the pharmacy window.

One Texan named Sharon told me that her son has been dealing with severe depression. He was given a sample of an antidepressant by his doctor, and they were encouraged by the drug’s effect. But their hope quickly diminished once they learned that a one-month supply of the drug costs nearly $400.

 

Wed
24
Apr
Edgar's picture

Conference committee to work out differences in state budget

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STATE CAPITAL HIGHLIGHTS

AUSTIN — After Easter weekend, conferees for the Texas House and Senate must work out differences in the two chambers’ versions of a fiscal 2020-2021 state budget to send to Gov. Greg Abbott. Concurrence is required on how to spend an estimated $250 billion in revenue available to fund the state’s fiscal years 2020-2021. Once an agreement has been reached, the budget bill will be subject to an up or down vote in each chamber before it is forwarded to the governor’s office for final approval.

Speaker Dennis Bonnen on April 15 named five House members to a conference committee tasked with negotiating an agreement. He chose House Appropriations Committee Chair John Zerwas, RRichmond; and Reps. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood; Sarah Davis, R-West University Place; Oscar Longoria, D-Mission; and Armando Walle, DHouston.

Wed
24
Apr
Edgar's picture

The Speech Makers

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IT’S THE PITTS

Now days it’s not unusual for purebred breeders to offer 500 bulls in a sale but when I started working bull sales 46 years ago a typical sale might offer 60 or 70 bulls and it would take almost as long to sell them as it does 500 head today. The reason it took so long was because the sale managers and auctioneers would make long speeches about nearly every bull in the sale. They’d prattle, harangue, preach, and babble on about some dwarf relative five generations removed from the inferior bull in the ring and they put a lot of fire into these speeches. Instead, most of their speeches should have been put in the fire.

Wed
24
Apr
Edgar's picture

Property Tax Relief is on the way

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PETE’S PERIÓDICO

While listening to constituents from all parts of Senate District 19––rural and urban, Republican and Democrat––there is one shared issue that emerges: ever-increasing property taxes. Folks told me to “go to Austin and do something.” Well, we did something.

The Texas Senate passed the Texas Property Tax Reform and Relief Act of 2019; a landmark property tax bill which lowers the rollback rate (the threshold at which an election for voter-approval is automatically triggered).

I described this bill (Senate Bill 2) in detail in my Periódico in late February.

Currently, the rollback rate is 8 percent: meaning cities, counties, and other jurisdictions can increase taxes without voter approval up to 8 percent a year.

Senate Bill 2, as originally proposed, changed that rate to 2.5 percent.

The rate was amended to 3.5 percent in the final bill that passed the Senate.

 

 

Wed
24
Apr
Edgar's picture

On farms and ranches, every day is Earth Day

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USDA FARM SERVICE AGENCY

At USDA, we celebrate Earth Day 2019 by offering a big thank you to farmers and ranchers here in Texas. Every day we see their efforts to conserve natural resources while producing food, fiber and fuel for people in communities and around the world.

This year’s Earth Day theme, “Protect Our Species,” highlights the responsibility we share in supporting wildlife. Two-thirds of the land in the continental United States is privately owned, and the decisions that farmers and ranchers make for their land can impact wildlife.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) assist agricultural producers with adopting conservation practices that benefit not only farms, ranches and forest lands but wildlife species.

 

 

Wed
17
Apr
Edgar's picture

Top officeholders join together in push for funding solution

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STATE CAPITAL HIGHLIGHTS

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen on April 10 released a joint statement promoting a twofold method for the 86th Texas Legislature to curb property tax increases across the state.

“Texans are fed up with skyrocketing property taxes. At the beginning of the legislative session, the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker laid out an agenda for property tax relief through the passage of Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 2 to limit property tax growth,” the state’s top officeholders said.

Wed
17
Apr
Edgar's picture

I Hate The Internet

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IT’S THE PITTS

A few years ago Pete Gnatkowski from Carrizozo, N.M., wrote me, I hope in jest, and wondered which Lee Pitts I was. He’d Googled my name and found that there was a Lee Pitts African American comedian, a well known preacher, champion fisherman and a murderer. Talk about identity theft!

If you think you’re important or have accomplished anything in life just Google your name. I did and found there were 17,600,000 results for Lee Pitts. I think Pete must have wandered down the list a ways because when I Googled my name the numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, results were me. Number 4 was a black guy from Fort Meyers, Fla., who was on TV. I once gave a speech in Fort Meyers and while I was there I watched that Lee Pitts on TV and found myself wishing I was half as entertaining as he was.

Wed
17
Apr
Edgar's picture

A tale of two counties

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TEXAS PUBLIC POLICY FOUNDATION

While the debates over property taxes in the Texas Legislature are mostly held out in the open, the same can’t be said of negotiations surrounding property tax abatements under Chapter 312 of the Texas Tax Code. This controversial economic development incentive is brokered behind closed doors, even though it costs Texas taxpayers millions in foregone revenue.

Residents of Concho County learned this the hard way last summer. They found out about a special tax deal for the subsidiary of a big corporation when they read through a meeting agenda posted at the county courthouse 72 hours before the meeting.

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