In debates about the southern border, it’s easy to overlook our native plants and animals, which cannot speak for themselves even though they’re deeply affected. The plants and animals of Texas are our heritage and our legacy to our children, grandchildren and future generations. The existing walls and fences harm them, and additional walls and fences will increase this harm. Surely there are ways to deal with border issues without leaving such a legacy of damage.

A dozen Methodists from Bentonville, Arkansas, disembarked al fresco at the Cartagena, Colombia airport one sunny Saturday afternoon last month. Leaving the narrow confines of a stretched Delta 737 inbound from Atlanta, I was the first in the group to descend the open staircase and to feel the airiness and warmth of historic New World seashores.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Thursday that President Trump would declare a national emergency as a pretext for building The Border Wall™ — Sponsored by Mexico (disclaimer: wall will not be sponsored by Mexico). It’s a broken campaign promise that’s right up there with classics like “Read my lips, no new taxes” (George H.W. Bush) and “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it” (Barack Obama).

Before I was elected Texas’ lieutenant governor in 2014, I served on the Senate Education Committee for eight years, including as chair during the 2013 legislative session. Making our public schools better has long been a top priority for me. Working first as a senator and then as lieutenant governor, we have reduced standardized testing, reformed graduation requirements and created new career tech partnerships between public schools and businesses to help ensure we provide training that will lead to jobs in the 21st century economy.

Beto O’Rourke held a raucous, uplifting rally in El Paso on Monday evening, reminding admirers why they were drawn to his message in a razor-close but ultimately losing Senate race. He had eschewed public events since his defeat. Now the question is: Can he recapture the energy and excitement he generated during his Senate race after other presidential candidates — who may be just as inspirational — have made a splash and begun their campaigns?

It is almost the one-year anniversary of one of the most heinous acts ever in the history of our country. On Feb. 14, 2018, a former student entered Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida with an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle and shot and killed 17 students and staff. It sent school officials around the country into a state of panic, leaving them to question if this could happen in their districts. Yet a year later, our schools remain vulnerable to active shooter situations. The reality is many campuses across the country remain open targets. Our children are not safe.

With the passing of former Michigan Congressman John Dingell Jr. on Feb. 7, our nation lost one of its greatest public servants. His selfless work helped to shape our country’s laws, policies and programs for more than half a century. It was an honor for me to have served with John and to witness daily his, unrelenting commitment to the finest principles America stands for — and to see the passion he displayed while serving people who came to know, respect and admire him.

Senators as politically disparate as Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders recently inveighed against corporate-stock buybacks and suggested they’d like a law that limits share repurchases to those companies that pay a minimum wage of $15 or more an hour. This idea, however well-intentioned, would replace management’s judgment on matters of corporate capital allocation with that of Congress’. No thanks.

The Supreme Court has just handed down a pair of decisions that illustrate an important truth: Chief Justice John Roberts is not, as many conservatives believe, some kind of traitor to their cause, an unreliable ally who will stab them in the back whenever he gets the chance. In his own way, he’s as devoted to the fortunes of the Republican Party as any of the other conservative justices. But unlike Samuel Alito (generally recognized as the most partisan judge on the court) or Brett Kavanaugh (who will almost certainly challenge Alito for that distinction), Roberts is playing a longer game. He’s trying to save the GOP from itself.

Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring of Virginia, both Democrats, have admitted they wore blackface as students in the 1980s in imitations of famous African Americans. News broke Thursday that the Virginia Senate majority leader, Tommy Norment, a Republican, was an editor of a 1968 college yearbook filled with such blackface photos.

Recently at the Davos Forum, the New York Times reported on anxieties that men had about mentoring women. Perhaps it’s because of continuing fallout of the #MeToo movement in which more than 200 prominent men have been removed from their positions. There appears to be an emerging concern that cross-gender mentoring should be approached with caution. Yet this conflates the serious issue of harassment with boundary setting. Effective and impactful mentoring should be cognizant of gender identity but not limited by it.

Because of hardworking Texans in Waco and beyond, Texas leads the nation in job creation. We have the fastest-growing economy in America, our statewide unemployment rate is at a record low and wages are rising. And I am especially proud that the Lone Star State is No. 1 in jobs created by African-American business owners and Hispanic women business owners. To put it simply, the State of Texas has never been better.

As the numbers for 2018 begin to trickle in, it is becoming increasingly obvious that Texas had a banner year in terms of job creation. Overall, the state economy added 391,800 jobs through the 12 months ending in December 2018. That amounts to well over 1,000 jobs each day. The mining and logging sector (which is almost entirely oil and gas in our neck of the woods) grew by 18 percent during the past year, adding 41,300 net jobs. The largest numerical gains were seen in the trade, transportation and utilities (82,700 jobs) and professional and business services (75,600 jobs) market segments. It is also worthy of note that construction employment in Texas is at an all-time high.

President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address was not a great speech — he can no more deliver a great speech than his bargain-basement aides can craft one — but it was greatly revealing. What it showed is how little his views have in common with what used to be known as American conservatism. There was, in fact, almost nothing conservative about it save for his cheap-shot attack on socialism (which he equated with Venezuela rather than, say, Denmark) and his evangelical-pleasing call to ban late-term abortions.

Politicians’ circle-the-wagons mentality when one of their own is attacked for a misstep, unsustainable position or scandal sometimes works in the short run to keep political opponents and the media at bay. However, unless party leaders, activists and operatives make perfectly clear in public or in private when a party member cannot or should not be saved or when a position is indefensible, the entire party can become the victim of one politician’s political malpractice.

Every White House in the modern era has sought to be prepared in case a vacancy arises on the Supreme Court. President Donald Trump’s legal advisers don’t know much more than anyone else about the likelihood of a vacancy this year, but they are making contingency plans. Those plans center on the possibility that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, at 85 the oldest justice, will leave the court.

Mark Twain once observed that no one would try to play a fiddle in public without some prior instruction on the instrument, but no one had such hesitation when it came to writing. Clearly, many candidates these days think you can run for president without any political experience or with precious little. The unqualified and the marginally equipped seem to believe they are uniquely gifted to be president of the United States.

The nation’s top intelligence officials told Congress last week that President Trump is wrong about the success of his diplomacy with North Korea, that Iran is not attempting to manufacture a nuclear bomb and that the Islamic State is unlikely to be destroyed as quickly as the president claims. And they barely mentioned, in an annual report to Congress on threats facing the United States, the “crisis” on the U.S.-Mexico border that Trump says is a national emergency.

One topic dominated last week’s Texas Senate Finance Committee hearings: Lawmakers didn’t disguise concern over the complaints they hear budget cycle after budget cycle from angry constituents who fritter away their lives at Texas Department of Public Safety driver license offices, waiting for some clerk in a half-staffed office to help them to obtain or renew a driver’s license.

The truth in all this: If these advertisers charged the viewer a dime to listen to their spiel, they might realize nobody wants to pay for their shtick. And even more true…nobody wants to get it free either. The only thing good about the whole situation is that we have much more time than ever to get a snack or check out the “loo.” Which rather defeats the purpose of the commercial.

During Sunday’s Super Bowl, some viewers will tune in to watch every play by the Patriots and the Rams, while others might wait eagerly for the halftime show or the commercials. As it does at nearly all sporting events, “The Star-Spangled Banner” will mark the start of the proceedings — a dutiful and supposedly dull ritual. Unless it ends in disaster, it will almost certainly go unremarked upon by most viewers.

In 2018, provisions of the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act went into effect. The act simplified some aspects of the federal tax code and restructured tax rates with the purported goal of enhancing economic growth. In particular, the act reduced the U.S. corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. For U.S. companies, which have historically faced some of the highest levies of any developed nation, the reduction strengthened competitiveness in global markets. The hope was the act would also encourage additional capital investment.

A year has passed since I took issue with state leaders who blamed out-of-control property taxes on local governments. With the 86th Texas Legislature now in session, public education and school finance have emerged as top priorities. And as with any high-profile issue, we will witness a lot of posturing, sound bites and finger-pointing in coming weeks and months.

It was expected that President Trump would receive some backlash from his supporters when he agreed to reopen government without first securing funding for the border wall. But the ferociousness of some conservative commentators’ attacks was surprising. Perhaps parts of the loyal Trump commentariat are using the president’s capitulation on the wall to reorient to an honest place with the Trump presidency. Specifically, they need to create some distance from Trump World in order to establish credibility, reasonably disagree with the president and express dismay at his outbursts and behavior.

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly approved the constitutionality of the Ten Commandments monument that has resided on the grounds of the state Capitol since 1961. Now, Texas House Bill 307, filed by East Texas legislator, businessman and rancher Dan Flynn, would allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed in classrooms in public schools by preventing school boards from banning the displays.

Texas Secretary of State David Whitley’s press release last month contending that 95,000 non-U.S. citizens with driver’s licenses or ID cards also had voter registration records in Texas — and that some 58,000 had voted in at least one election — has by now proven one of the most botched debuts of any state official in recent memory. To compound matters, in last week’s Senate confirmation hearing, the interim secretary displayed stunning ignorance about matters he should have definitively nailed down, given the certainty of state senators’ questions.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Thursday that President Trump would declare a national emergency as a pretext for building The Border Wall™ — Sponsored by Mexico (disclaimer: wall will not be sponsored by Mexico). It’s a broken campaign promise that’s right up there with classics like “Read my lips, no new taxes” (George H.W. Bush) and “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it” (Barack Obama).


What were we talking about one year ago? Take a look back.

I feel the need to offer a response to Trib opinion editor Bill Whitaker’s Feb. 1 column, “Will GOP memo caper on FBI make your toes curl?”, on Republican Congressman Bill Flores, his concerns about the integrity of the FBI and Department of Justice and, finally, a conservative constituent who fears Flores and other Republicans are attacking federal law enforcement in order to rally around their president and party.

The March 6 primary election is right around the corner with early voting beginning Tuesday. One issue fellow McLennan County voters will do well to examine carefully is fundamental honesty and integrity in government. At the most basic level, we don’t want our elected leaders putting their fingers into the public treasury — outright corruption. That goes without saying. But we should demand even more. We should want — and expect — the execution of all functions of our elected government to be consistent with the rules of the road. Citizens are expected to obey the law; so must our public officials. They should set shining examples of scrupulous adherence to the law and principles of integrity.