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‘No’ on ‘constitutional carry’

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

They’re calling it “constitutional carry” legislation.

I will call it foolishness that carries some dire peril for many Texans.

The Texas House of Representatives has voted along partisan lines for a bill that will allow any Texas resident to carry a handgun around with them even without a permit issued by the state. Yep, the House – led by its Republican Party majority – wants to liberalize (if you’ll excuse that verb) the state’s concealed-carry law to enable anyone to pack heat on their person.

House Bill 1927 passed on an 84-56 vote and now goes to the Texas Senate, where it might meet some needed resistance, particularly from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Senate’s presiding officer and a politician who has expressed serious reservations about the bill.

I can’t believe I am going to say this, but I concur with Lt. Gov. Patrick’s squeamishness.

Texas’ concealed carry law has proven to be nothing close to the monster that many of us thought it would be when the 1995 Legislature enacted it. I opposed it then but grew to accept it over time. I feared an outbreak of road-rage violence involving those who were licensed to carry weapons. That hasn’t happened. For which I am glad and grateful.

Now this new law might be on the horizon. Texas does not require stringent knowledge of firearms to issue a concealed carry permit. Applicants need to take a brief course on firearm safety and pass a proficiency test with the firearm while of course clearing the necessary background check to ensure they lack a criminal record.

Why in the word, then, do legislators feel the need to allow everyone who lives here to pack heat without so much as a rudimentary test to acquire a permit?

As the Texas Tribune reports: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick … has previously expressed hesitation over the measure, saying in 2017 … that “with all the police violence today we have in our state … law enforcement does not like the idea of anyone being able to walk down the street with a gun and they don’t know if they have a permit or not.”

I hope Patrick hasn’t swilled the gun-toting Kool-Aid and become a convert to the cause championed by gun-rights activists. Indeed, he ought to heed law enforcement officials who oppose this nutty notion. Newly hired Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia was among those speaking against the legislation, along with members of the clergy and veterans.

https://www.texastribune.org/2021/04/15/texas-constitutional-carry/

Texas has more than enough guns out there already. We already have a concealed-carry law that seems to work well enough.

The U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment guarantees our right to “keep and bear arms.” The state’s provisions requiring Texans to take a test to demonstrate that they know how to handle a firearm ought to be enough to help keep these weapons out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.

NOTE: A version of this blog was published originally on KETR.org.

Texas AG’s office needs a pro

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

What follows is a brief response to an earlier item I published on this blog.

A social media friend responded via Facebook that he doesn’t think much of Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush’s legal credentials as he considers whether to run for Texas attorney general.

George P. might run for AG? Yes! | High Plains Blogger

My friend wrote this, which isn’t his entire comment, but which deals with a key point in his rejoinder: It would be nice to have a state AG who is a professional — a prosecutor, a judge, a law professor — after the embarrassments of Paxton and Ted Cruz, who never missed an opportunity to sue (and lose) over any federal action they didn’t like, contributing to the image of Texas politicians as right-wing clowns.

I am going to agree with him on this point: The state’s top legal official ought to be someone with notable legal experience. Ken Paxton, before he was elected to the Texas House, was a mediocre lawyer with a Collin County practice. Then he ratcheted up his game to run in 2014 for Texas AG. He won. He was re-elected four years later, but between his election and re-election, he got his sorry behind indicted by a grand jury in his home county.

My friend notes that P’s legal experience is pretty limited, too.

He is, however, a fellow of impeccable integrity, as near as I can tell … which to my way of thinking is a huge step forward from who we have now in the AG’s office.

‘Infrastructure’ needs redefining

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Here’s a thought or two about “infrastructure.”

If we’re going to talk about it, let us broaden its scope beyond simply roads, bridges, highways, airports, seaports and rail lines.

Let’s also talk about energy production, not to mention the development of new sources of energy and Internet research to broaden our power infrastructure.

President Biden is trying to sell a $2.2 trillion infrastructure package that he is calling a “jobs bill.” He intends for it to produce millions of jobs over the next several years. Biden calls it a “generational” approach to improving our nation’s infrastructure.

To no one’s surprise, he is getting hammered from both political extremes. Republicans dislike the bill because it raises corporate taxes to help pay for it. Progressive Democrats don’t like it because it doesn’t go far enough; they want to spend even more than what the president is proposing.

Both extremes are all wet. They are mistaken.

Joe Biden says no one who earns less than $400,000 a year will see a tax increase. That doesn’t satisfy the GOP caucus in Congress, which rammed through a huge corporate tax cut during the first year of the Trump administration. What they never tell us is that President Biden’s proposed corporate tax rate — 28 percent — is still less than what it was before the Donald Trump tax cut took effect. Fiddlesticks!

On the other side, the far lefties among the Democrat want to spend $10 trillion. That’s 10 trillion bucks, man! Where in the world are they planning to come up with the revenue to pay for that kind of price tag? If they intend to tax middle-income Americans as well as the richest of us, well, good luck with that one.

I am growing weary of hearing Republicans say that too little of the president’s plan deals with “infrastructure.” I differ with them on that complaint. If you factor in all the jobs created by developing clean energy and, oh yes, broadband Internet capability then the infrastructure package seems about right.

Republicans remain too wedded to an outdated notion of what comprises “infrastructure.” I am willing to redefine the term to fit a growing and changing 21st-century world.

‘Earmarks’ coming back?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Phil Gramm used to speak with pride about all the “pork barrel projects” he brought home to Texas, which he represented in the U.S. Senate from 1985 until 2002

“I’ve brought home so much pork,” the Republican Gramm would boast, “that I have contracted trichinosis.”

The euphemistic term is “earmarks.” Congress banned them in the early 2000s when earmarks became tied to scandal. They might be coming back and Texas might be set to benefit materially from their return, according to the Texas Tribune.

The Tribune reports: There’s no legal definition of earmarks. You know them when you see them. A lawmaker wants a bridge or post office or some other project built in their district. They write a small proposal committing federal funds for the job and try to to inject it into one of Congress’ massive spending bills each year. They shop the idea around to colleagues, and with the right cajoling and horse trading, their small request is granted and that new post office is on the way, perhaps even to be named after the lawmaker who wriggled it through.

I’ll be candid. I am filled with terribly mixed emotions when I consider earmarks. When do earmarks become pork barrel? When is the process necessarily a bad thing?

As the Tribune noted: Before their demise, earmarks shepherded by Texas legislators supported cybersecurity education at the University of Texas at San Antonio, the dredging of the Port of Houston, wind energy studies at Texas Tech University, desalination in El Paso and cancer research at MD Anderson Cancer Center, among other things.

If Congress restores earmarks, will Texas partake? | The Texas Tribune

Those are worthwhile projects, right? Yes. They are. However, earmarks can be scandalized and used for nefarious — even criminal — purposes. The Tribune reports: Back in 2006, the Republican-controlled Congress was mired in scandal. On the House side, prosecutors charged a war hero who claimed to have inspired the fictional movie “Top Gun” — U.S. Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham — with taking bribes in exchange for earmarks, including $2 million, prostitutes and even a French commode. Then we had the infamous “bridge to nowhere” pushed by GOP Sen. Ted Stevens, which received $223 million for a span to an island in Alaska that was home to fewer than 50 people.

We elect our senators and House members to benefit us at home. Earmarks are one way for lawmakers to demonstrate their ability to help the people they represent. They also can be abused.

I will remain on the fence as to whether earmarks should be allowed. They do plenty of good for states and congressional districts. They also provide opportunities for abuse. If they do return, then let’s be sure the congressional watchdogs are alert to any effort to corrupt the system.

Welcome back, DST

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The grumbling has begun.

About what? Oh, the annual switch from Standard Time to Daylight Saving Time. We’re going to make the change on Sunday, “springing forward” to DST just as we do every year. We “fall back” to Standard Time in the autumn of the year.

If only the complaining would stop.

I might be the only American around who has no particular problem with this time-change deal. It doesn’t bother me.

Folks gripe about it every year, right? They bitch about losing that hour of sleep at night. Then they moan that their bodies cannot adjust to the time change. Please, man.

If the Texas Legislature can get through its more important matters, such as finding solutions to our state’s power grid problem, perhaps it will try once again to decide how to repair this time-change thing … as if it needs repair.

The 2019 Legislature came within a whisker of putting a time-change issue on the ballot. It ran out of time. The thought was to let Texas voters decide (a) whether to go to Standard Time all year long, (b) go to Daylight Saving Time all year or (c) keep it as it is.

My choice, if I had been given the chance to vote, would be to switch to a year-long DST regimen. Why? I like the extended daylight in the evening. I cannot explain precisely why that is the case. It just is … you know?

Absent that choice, I generally do not complain out loud about the time change. I won’t do it this spring. I don’t plan on doing so when we switch back again in the fall to Standard Time.

Wanting a GOP revival … really!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It doesn’t make a damn bit of difference to me whether you choose to believe what I am about to say, but here goes anyway …

I want the Republican Party to pull its head out of its a** and rejoin the mainstream American political movement that pits its ideas squarely against the ideas offered by the Democratic Party.

What we used to know as the Grand Old Party has been desecrated, perverted and prostituted by the cult developed by the immediate past president of the United States, Donald John Trump.

I don’t know what ever became of the once-great political movement, but I am not yet willing to write it off, consign it to history’s trash heap.

I consider myself a good government progressive. I am not a flaming left-wing ideologue. I like the notion of compromise. Good governance requires a bit of give and take and for both sides to seek common ground.

The recent partisan vote in the Senate and  the expected partisan vote in the House of Representatives on the COVID relief package pushed by President Biden illustrates and symbolizes what has gone wrong with our political process. The Trumpster Wing of the GOP has grabbed that party by its genitals and is making it scream loudly and incoherently. 

Donald Trump campaigned for the presidency as a populist. He said he wanted to stand with the little guy, only to persuade the GOP-dominated Congress to give trillions of dollars away to rich Republicans in the form of tax cuts.

Then the GOP caucus opposed the COVID relief bill because, it says, it is “too expensive.” Huh? What about  that tax cut, ladies and gentlemen? The price tag on the the tax cut exceeded the $1.9 trillion contained in the COVID relief bill. That didn’t bother them at all. Good government? That ain’t it!

Come back, Republican Party. I miss you!

Old hotel site coming back to life?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

One of my sons occasionally serves as my eyes and ears in Amarillo, Texas, where my wife and I lived for 23 years before we moved to the Metroplex.

He posted something today that piques my interest greatly: Well, I passed by the old Ambassador Hotel site today and noticed a banner for some construction and remodeling company on the fence. Could it be that someone is finally going to resurrect that place? About time!

Texas Panhandle residents might be interested in this little bit of news. You see, the Ambassador Hotel once was the place to see and be seen. It was that place when my wife and I arrived in Amarillo back in early 1995. It was located on Interstate 40 and served as a way station for motorists traveling through the city, not to mention for artists who performed in Amarillo or just those artists who were passing through. It served as a meeting place for conventions.

It closed its doors a few years ago after going through some changes in names and ownership. It has been laying fallow ever since.

Now, according to my watchdog son, someone has posted some signage on the property, preparing to resurrect the structure.

This is a good thing for the city. Yes, there has been an enormous hotel construction boom along the I-40 corridor for many years. None of the hotels, as near as I have been able to see, has provided the kind of “full service” that was available at The Ambassador.

With all the commercial and entertainment activity that has sprung up downtown, it appears our former city of residence is getting new life pumped into an old structure that once was the place to go.

Who knows? It might retrieve some of its old glory.

Rename that bridge!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Marchers today marked the 56th anniversary of what has become known as “Bloody Sunday,” when civil rights activists marched across a bridge in Selma, Ala., demanding equal rights for all Americans.

What absolutely, categorically boggles my noggin is why this span continues to carry the name “Edmund Pettus,” and why it hasn’t been changed to honor the heroism of those who marched for civil rights and for an end to the oppression of many Americans.

Edmund Pettus was a Confederate military officer, a lawyer, a senator from Alabama — and a staunch advocate of slavery.

Today’s march across the bridge marked the first such event without the presence of the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who suffered a terrible beating on that day in 1965. Lewis went on to serve a distinguished career in Congress, where he became known as the “soul” and the “conscience” of that legislative body.

I know I am far from alone in advocating this, but the Edmund Pettus Bridge needs to be renamed after John Lewis, who admittedly didn’t favor changing the name of the bridge. He said, “Keeping the name of the Bridge is not an endorsement of the man who bears its name but rather an acknowledgement that the name of the Bridge today is synonymous with the Voting Rights Movement which changed the face of this nation and the world.”

Rep. Lewis is no longer around to object. Perhaps others will object in his honor. I happen to believe that the Edmund Pettus Bridge is a historical landmark that pays tribute to someone who symbolized a disgraced political philosophy.

John Lewis likely wouldn’t say so himself, but putting his name on that bridge also would be “synonymous with the Voting Rights Movement which changed the face of this nation and the world.” 

Legislature feels the heat from the storm

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

What do you suppose is on the minds of the 181 men and women meeting in the State Capitol for the next few weeks? I think I know.

One of those things has to do with electricity, and whether Texas can avoid the problems it encountered when a monstrous winter storm blew in over the state in the middle of February. Millions of Texans lost their electricity, the ability to heat their homes. What’s more, the water went out in millions of other homes and businesses.

Legislators convened their session in early January and Gov. Greg Abbott tasked them during the storm to get busy looking for solutions to the crisis, which he deemed “unacceptable.”

I have set out trying to learn what Northeast Texas legislators are thinking about how to solve the problem. One possible – albeit preliminary – idea comes from freshman state Sen. Drew Springer, who has filed a Senate bill requiring that all members of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas actually live in the state where ERCOT manages the electrical grid.

Springer, a Republican from Muenster, moved to the state Senate from the state House of Representatives after winning a special election in Senate District 30 to replace former state Sen. Pat Fallon, who was elected to the U.S. House.

Seven members of the ERCOT board have quit; six of them live outside the state. Springer wants to invoke a residency requirement, a notion endorsed enthusiastically by state Rep. Scott Sanford, a Republican from McKinney.

At issue are ways to prevent catastrophic failure, which ERCOT said could have happened, that the state electrical grid was literally minutes away from complete collapse.

Solutions will cost money. They might involve investment of huge sums of money to winterize the power generating system. Sanford is open to dipping into the state’s Rainy Day Fund. “Whatever we decide,” Sanford said, “Texans are going to pay, either through taxes or utility costs.” The Rainy Day Fund, though, could be available to help defray some of that cost. “It didn’t rain, but we had an emergency on a large scale,” Sanford said.

State Rep. Bryan Slaton, a Royse City Republican, said he isn’t terribly concerned about the price tag associated with the repair of the grid, declaring that the state simply has to get the job done.

Slaton, serving in his first legislative session, said he lost power at his Royse City home “for just a little while,” but added that the apartment where he lives during the session with his wife and children lost power and water for several days. “I wasn’t in Austin when the power went out,” Slaton said, adding that “it took me six hours to drive from Austin to home,” noting that it usually takes a lot less time.

Slaton said he is willing to work “as long as it takes” to find a solution to the electrical grid problems.

He said the failures were across the board and all the energy sources need attention. As for whether “green energy” was a major culprit, as suggested by Gov. Greg Abbott, Slaton said “green energy has proven to be unreliable.” He said wind and solar plants froze up, as did natural gas stations. Slaton believes nuclear energy, which provides even less power to the grid than solar or wind energy, is “the most reliable source” that Texans can use.

“A lot of things went wrong with the grid,” Slaton said. He said that in 2019, state Sen. Bob Hall of Van Zandt County and state Rep. Tony Tinderholt – both Republicans – commissioned a study to look at ways to “harden the grid.” Slaton said he is unclear on the status of the report they submitted but suggested it might provide a good starting point for the 2021 Legislature to consider.

He also said that he has filed a bill to require that the Public Utility Commission of Texas become an elected rather than an appointed body. “That way, when things go wrong, we can hold the PUC board accountable at the ballot box,” Slaton said.

Sanford, who is executive pastor (which he said is akin to being business manager) of Cottonwood Creek Church in Allen, is serving in his fifth legislative session after winning election in 2012. He said, “The first thing we have to do is understand what happened and examine the policies that contributed to the crisis.” He said the state hasn’t yet “reached that point” of determining which policies to change.

Indeed, Sanford experienced some personal misery at his home in McKinney, which he said suffered from a burst water pipe. So, it is safe to presume that the lawmaker also has some skin in this legislative game of looking for solutions to the state’s electrical grid.

Sanford did say that ERCOT and the PUC need to develop greater ability to “send up red flags” and then communicate to Texans in advance of these weather events how to deal with them. “The warning system needs to be transformed,” Sanford said.

Slaton and Sanford seem to disagree – if only a little a bit – on whether Gov. Abbott was correct to blame the Green New Deal for the failure of the electrical system, although Sanford is reluctant to get into a partisan battle. “The last thing we need to do is get into a Democrat vs. Republican deal,” Sanford said, imploring the Legislature to “put Texans first.” Sanford did say that he prefers “reliable” energy over “renewable” energy, which he suggested has proven so far to be an unreliable source for Texans.

Sanford said he is “intrigued” by the idea that Slaton has pitched, making the PUC an elected body, and he “absolutely” believes the state should require ERCOT board members to live in Texas.

Slaton said he is willing to work “for as long as it takes” to find solutions to the disaster that the state came within minutes of experiencing.

It seems a safe bet to presume that Rep. Slaton’s legislative colleagues are willing as well to stay on the job until they fix the problem. Millions of Texas residents will demand it.

Rest assured I will be among them.

BLOGGER’S NOTE: A version of this blog was published initially on KETR-FM’s website.

What about small towns?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A headline in the Texas Tribune speaks loudly about some mayors’ response to Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to pull back his mask-wearing mandate.

It said: Texas’ largest cities will keep requiring masks in municipal buildings even after statewide mandate ends

I have no problem with what those mayors are doing, saying and how they are reacting to what I believe is a premature decision by Gov. Abbott.

My question is this: What are small-town and smaller-city mayors doing? Are they going to have the same reaction?

I live in a small town. Princeton, Texas, is home to about 13,000 residents, give or take a few hundred. We are perched along U.S. Highway 380 between McKinney to the west (population 200,000) and Farmersville to the east (population 5,000). I am acquainted with the mayors of Princeton and Farmersville. My strongest hope is that they, too, will invoke mask mandates in municipally owned buildings.

The Texas Tribune reports: Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and El Paso’s leaders announced Wednesday and Thursday that masks will be required to enter city-owned indoor spaces like libraries, police and fire department headquarters, convention centers and transportation hubs.

“I am going to issue an order mandating masks at all city-owned buildings. We have to do what we are legally allowed to do to get people to wear masks,” Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said on Twitter Thursday morning. “We also still need to practice social distancing. And we still need to avoid taking unnecessary risks. The pandemic is not over.”

Texas’ largest cities will require masks in municipal buildings | The Texas Tribune

No. It is not over. It is not yet close to being over. I will acknowledge, though, that the arrival of a third vaccine — from Johnson & Johnson — means that the end of this horror might be approaching.

Given that our smaller communities don’t get the kind of media attention that the big cities get, I want there to be a significant push by those city halls to get the word out immediately to their constituents. They need to let them know through any means necessary.

Of course, this strategy should apply to small cities and towns all across our vast state. Gov. Abbott can declare, I suppose, that state-owned buildings need not carry “Mask Required” signs. A state governed by politicians who adhere to the “local control is best” mantra should have no trouble allowing city halls to set their own rules regarding the best way to battle the COVID virus.

Let us not forget that President Biden has ordered masks and social distancing in all federal buildings at least for the first 100 days of his administration. My gut tells me he likely will extend that mandate well beyond that artificial deadline.

I will await word from my mayor, Brianna Chacon, on what she intends to do. I hope she stays the mask-wearing course.