Mon02082016

Last updateFri, 22 Jan 2016 2pm

Back You are here: News

News

Veterans Land Board Announces Changes at Texas State Veterans Cemeteries

Spousal fees waived, visiting hours extended, and flower policy relaxed

 

AUSTIN- Today the Texas General Land Office and Veterans Land Board are happy to announce changes to a handful of policies. The State Veterans Cemeteries are a special resting place for our veterans and their families. And now it will be easier than ever for those families to stay together. As of November 1st the GLO and VLB will be waiving all fees for the burial, ash spreading or columbarium interment of military spouses. 

 

"Sometimes the right thing to do is an easy choice, and this is one of those instances," said Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush. "Texas is home to over 1.7 million veterans. At the Veterans Land Board we're proud to be a big part of making this the best state in the country for our military, whether active duty, reserve or veteran. By waiving all spousal fees at our State Veterans Cemeteries we're doing right by our veterans, and taking another step to ensure we continue to give our best for the men and women who represent the best of us." 

 

The State Veterans Cemeteries will now also have longer visiting hours and relaxed rules about flowers. Visiting hours will be extended to run from 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. to better accommodate those wishing to visit the grounds. Artificial flowers may now be placed at grave sites year-round and flower pick ups will now take place once a month instead of twice a month. 

 

"This is the common sense, right thing to do," said Eric Brown, director of the State Veterans Cemeteries program. "It's about doing the right thing for our military veterans and their families to honor their service and sacrifice, and all three of these policy changes help accomplish our efforts to do that."

 

All military veterans and spouses are eligible to be laid to rest at Texas State Veterans Cemeteries, regardless of their home state when joining the military.

NOVEMBER 2015 CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT ELECTION TODAY


The Texas Constitution has been amended 484 times since its adoption in 1876. On November 3, 2015, Texas citizens will have the opportunity to add an additional seven amendments to the document. In order to qualify for the ballot, each proposal passed both chambers of the Texas Legislature by at least a 2/3 vote. They now must be approved by a majority of the voters to go into effect.
A short synopsis of each proposal is below: 

Proposition 1: Proposes an increase in the constitutionally mandatory homestead tax exemption for school districts from $15,000 to $25,000. Additionally, it would allow the Legislature to prohibit the reduction or elimination of optional homestead exemptions established by non-school district taxing entities and would prohibit the enactment of a real estate transfer tax.
Pro: Supporters say this change would give property owners some necessary relief from their ever-increasing tax liability.
Con: Opponents believe the tax relief is minor and the reimbursement of the lost revenue by the state will result in little, if any, benefit to many homeowners.

Proposition 2: Proposes to amend the Constitution to authorize the Legislature to provide a homestead exemption to the surviving spouses of 100 percent or totally disabled veterans who would have qualified for the exemption if it had been available to them when they died.
Pros: Supporters say the change would put an end to the two classes of surviving spouses created under current law and treat all surviving spouses the same regardless of the date of death of a totally disabled veteran.
Cons: Opponents fear this practice could reduce tax money exponentially, causing the government to be lacking necessary funds for other projects.

Proposition 3: Proposes to change the constitutional requirement that all Texas Government Officials reside in Austin.
Pros: Supporters say that with changes in transportation and technology statewide elected officials no longer have to be present in Austin in order to perform their duties. Current limitations even prohibit an elected official from living in the suburbs of Austin.
Cons: Opponents point out that current policy has been in effect for 140 years without problems. All statewide elected officials know of the requirement prior to election and should be willing to live in Austin as a condition of their service. Statewide officeholders should be present in their offices daily to be accessible to their staff and constituents.

Proposition 4: Proposes to amend the Constitution to authorize the Legislature to enact laws to permit professional sports team charitable foundations to conduct charitable raffles.
Pros: Supporters believe this opportunity would increase the funds pro sports teams are able to donate to charities and do some good for the community outside the stadium.
Cons: Opponents of the proposal do so for reasons ranging from the argument that the practice would increase gambling in the state to an objection that the proposal is too narrow and does not go far enough in allowing anyone to have a raffle.

Proposition 5: Would propose to raise the constitutional population cap from 5,000 to 7,500 for a county to begin maintaining private roads.
Pros: The supporters of this proposal believe that since the overall population of Texas is growing, even some of the the smallest counties are larger than 5,000. Some counties that qualified when the provision was inserted in the Constitution in 1980 no longer qualify due to an increase in population. Population caps are necessary to prevent competition with private industry.  
Cons: Opponents believe there should be no constitutional population cap. Any county should be able to maintain a road as long as the private owner agrees and pays for the service. 

Proposition 6: This proposal would amend the Constitution to guarantee the right of Texans to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife. The right would be subject to laws or regulations to conserve and manage wildlife and preserve the future of hunting and fishing.
Pros: Supporters believe this amendment would seek to protect Texan’s right to hunt, fish, and tag more animals, which in return would also aid in the overpopulation of certain animals.
Cons: Opponents consider this amendment as vague and worry that it will be a causeway for inhumane methods of hunting game.

Proposition 7: This proposed constitutional amendment would dedicate certain sales and use tax revenue and motor vehicle sales, use, and rental tax revenue to the state highway fund to provide funding for non-tolled roads and the reduction of certain transportation-related debt.
Pros: Supporters believe that a constant dedicated stream of revenue for road construction will help to fund our urgent transportation needs. There is a provision for a 2/3 vote of the Legislature to lower the set aside in times of economic downturn.
Cons: Opponents are concerned that the dedication of $5 billion to transportation will further limit the choices legislators have to address pressing economic needs. Currently, the Legislature has control of only about 17 percent of the state budget for discretionary purposes. The additional dedication would reduce that even further.
The proposed amendments, if passed, will take effect on January 1, 2016.

JUDGE RESCINDS CONTEMPT ORDER

GILMER--115th District Judge Lauren Parish last week rescinded her controversial ruling finding Upshur County Treasurer Brandy Vick in contempt of court for sitting in a different place than the judge ordered her to sit to pay jury panelists.

Vick had been placed on six months probation of a 10-day term in county jail Oct. 12 and ordered to pay a $100 fine by 5 p.m. the next day. But the following day (Oct. 13), Parish issued an order rescinding the finding and sentence in what she termed "the interest of justice and spirit of cooperation."

In the order finding the treasurer in contempt, Parish said Vick twice refused to move and that she had been warned she could be held in contempt of court if she did not. The judge wanted Vick to sit by the courtroom's side door, near the district clerk's office, at the Upshur County Justice Center to pay excused jury panelists the $10 cash each received for jury service.

The judge's order, issued in May 2014, was aimed at preventing noise and congestion while court was still in session.

But Vick told this newspaper she had not felt safe at the assigned spot and had moved to a different nearby location outside the courtroom. She also said (before news of the order's recission) that while she currently intended to pay she fine, she was seeking an attorney to try to overturn the contempt finding, and that while "I'm embarrassed, very upset," she would repeat her actions if she had it to do over.

"I did not feel comfortable or safe" sitting by the side door as the deputy sheriff manning a metal detector nearby had his back turned to her, Vick said. So she said she discussed with Sheriff Anthony Betterton "if I could maybe move to a safer location where the deputy could be in my line of sight. . .He (Betterton) had the deputies move the table and he put me right beside" the deputy manning the metal detector, she said.

Parish came out and "she told there was an order on the table (where it would be located). And she wanted it over there by that back (side) exit and she wanted it moved now. And I explained to her why I moved for the safety reasons of the cash. . .that me and the sheriff had discussed it. 

"She told me I would be in contempt of (her) order if I did not move it right now, and again I explained the safety issue of the cash and that I was in charge of the cash. . .(and) I felt more safe there by the deputy," Vick continued.

The treasurer said she and Parish had a discussion and that the judge left. Shortly after lunch, said Vick, an officer (Gilmer police Captain Ron Benge) told her "I would come to the courtroom right now and I told him no, that I couldn't come right now, but that if she (Parish) needed to speak to me, she could come out and speak with me."

Vick said the officer replied no, "grabbed my arm and yanked me out of my chair and drug me through the foyer into the courtroom, shoved me into the courtroom, and they locked the door behind me. . .my feet were just like dragging the floor."

Parish then presented the order to her, said Vick.

Betterton told this newspaper that after Vick was held in contempt, Gilmer police dragged her in the lobby "like a damn dog" and that she was taken in the courtroom where "she had nobody to represent her." He deferred further comment to Vick.

Gilmer Police Chief Mark Case said Benge escorted Vick into the courtroom. Case said Benge told him that Vick was in a chair and that "basically he had asked her numerous times to go inside with him. She wouldn't do it, at which time he grabbed her arm and moved toward the courtroom, at which time she got up and went in with him."

In finding Vick in contempt, Parish wrote that she (Parish) issued an order in May 2014 showing the treasurer "exactly where she was to be set up in the hallway to pay jurors if she opted to pay cash. The treasurer has chosen to pay cash instead of mailing checks to jurors."

Parish said her order "was necessary for this Court so as to regulate our jury empanelment and procedures." A copy of the 2014 order showed that "Those jurors excused for qualifications, exemptions or hardships shall be paid as they exit into the hallway from the courtroom. For this purpose, the treasurer shall set up in that hallway to pay those jurors as they leave the courtroom. The remainder of jurors shall be paid when excused for the day by the court. For this purpose, the treasurer shall set up in the foyer to pay jurors as they exit the building."

The metal detector and deputy sheriff manning it are a short distance around the corner from the courtroom's side door.

Parish's contempt judgment stated that "The treasurer and her deputies have followed the Order for Jury Empanelment until today. This Court, with potential jurors yet empaneled and seated inside the 115th District Court, went and advised the Treasurer, Brandy Vick, to move. She refused by shaking her head no and stating the Upshur County Sheriff had told her it was ok to move" (to a spot other than Parish instructed.)

The contempt order continued, "This Court advised the defendant Treasurer that she could be held in contempt for failing to follow this Court's Order for Jury Empanelment. This Court, after giving the defendant time to comply with the Standing Order, again went out and asked the defendant to move. She refused to comply.

"The Court is of the opinion that such conduct is contrary to the established and prevailing standard of conduct required of persons dealing with said Court, demeans the honor and dignity of said Court, interrupts the orderly administration of justice, and interferes with the ability of the Court to conduct its affairs."

Parish's judgment then found Vick in contempt and "hereby orders her arrest and confinement until she may be brought before this court." However, she was not jailed.

In rescinding the order the next day, Parish wrote that "It appears from news reports that the Upshur County Treasurer met with and conferred with the Upshur County Sheriff two weeks prior to October 12 (the day the contempt finding was made). . .concerning 'security issues' regarding her disbursement of juror payments. . .Neither the County Treasurer nor the Sheriff brought these concerns to the Court's attention prior to the jury selection on October 12. . .even though both officials were aware of the court's standing order."

She also said her May 2014 order "has proven to be an efficient and effective way of empaneling juries and there have been no security issues raised up to this point.

"As it relates to the court and the judicial process, this court has, and always has had security as a top concern. Any matters concerning the safety and welfare of the public or county employees relating to court proceedings in the 115th District Court should be brought to the court's attention immediately," Parish wrote.

After maintaining that her May 2014 order was necessary, the judge said she was rescinding the contempt finding "with the expectation that this will insure future compliance with this court's orders."

Vick, who was elected treasurer only last year and took office Jan. 1, said the order concerning the payment location was issued to her predecessor, Myra Harris, and that it says the payments must "be in the hallway/foyer."

As for her actions, "I would do the same thing (again) 'cause I'm acting for me and my office, for their safety and mine," Vick said. "I wouldn't put my girls (her office's employees) by that back door, either."

 

Vick, whose husband Thomas Vick is an Upshur County juvenile probation officer, was employed in the treasurer's office prior to and at the time of her election. Upshur County District Clerk Karen Bunn said two persons who had posted $100 bond on Vick's behalf received their money back.

 

FOOTBALL GAMES MOVED UP 1 DAY

Gladewater ISD officials have decided to move all football games up 1 day, due to expected bad weather.

The Varsity will play Thursday at 7 p.m. at Spring Hill.

Gladewater's 9th Grade and JV will play Wednesday at Gladewater, while the 7th & 8th Grade teams will play Wednesday at Spring Hill.

 

Union Grove officials also have decided to move their Friday night home game against James Bowie up to Thursday with a 7 p.m. kickoff.

COMMISSSIONERS CONSIDER JAIL PHONE SYSTEM

GILMER--Upshur County Commissioners Court last week approved requesting proposals for a phone system to be used by county jail inmates.

Sheriff Anthony Betterton told the court Oct. 14 meeting that his office will submit whichever vendor's proposal it recommends the court accept. He said his office was trying to ensure inmates and their families "get the best deal possible," and would recommend the vendor it believes "best represents the county." 

Whoever the inmate phones pays for the call, Betterton said Monday.

County Judge Dean Fowler had opened discussion of the issue by saying the county had not taken proposals for such a system in "quite a while," and that sheriff's Captain James Grunden and Chief Deputy Bobby Sanders wanted to.

Deadline for submitting the proposals to Sanders is 5 p.m. Nov. 13.

In other business last week, the court nominated three current members for reelection to the Upshur County Appraisal District Board of Directors. They are Huey Mitchell, Jim Ragland and Jared Maddox.

Governmental entities which levy taxes on property in the county (such as city councils, school boards and the court) will actually elect the board from the field of entities' nominees.

In other action, the court discontinued paying Able Term for computer software support after Pct. 1 Commissioner Paula Gentry said she thought the county was paying roughly $32,000 quarterly for "products we're not using."

The cutoff is effective by Dec. 31.

On Monday, Gentry explained the money will eventually be paid to another vendor for help on the county's new software, and that she hoped the amount will be slightly less.

Gentry added she hoped the county could save up to $32,000 for a quarter of the year by stopping funding to Able Term.

County Auditor Brandy Lee told the court she agreed the county did not need to keep paying that firm since "most of these calls (for support) are related to daily use. . .What we're talking about is support calls."   

The court also voted to table a proposal to add a $2 transaction fee to court costs for justices of the peace's I-Ticket transactions, and to contract with NetData for the I-Ticket program.

Fowler said the system moves tickets, written by state troopers, into a clerk's computer system. He said the county would pay the $2 transaction fee even on tickets which are dismissed, but Betterton said he believed a JP could charge the $2 transaction fee as part of a dismissal fee, and Lee agreed it could be collected if there is a dismissal fee.

However, Pct. 3 Commissioner Frank Berka asked the matter be tabled because Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Lyle Potter, who put it on the agenda, was not present.

In other business last week, the court approved paying $935 for 10 new computer monitors for District Clerk Karen Bunn's office.

Fowler said the court had budgeted $2,000 for the purchase. However, Bunn received a quote for the $935.

She told the court the current monitors are "very old," and her chief deputy, Nicole Hernandez, added their age makes them incompatible with other equipment.

Also last week, the court:  

--approved the annual resolution to receive funding under the Indigent Defense Grant Program.

--approved a state-required non-financial contract and signature authority designation for child welfare services.  

--approved plats for the Saddlewood and Rolling Meadow Estates subdivisions.

--took no action on putting Eagle Ridge Road on the two-year waiting list for county maintenance. County Road Administrator Andy Jordan asked the court delay action so he could change specifications involving the road.  

--approved buying chairs at up to $200 per chair--one for the commissioners court's administrative assistant, Ruth Whiteside, and another for County Treasurer Brandy Vick's office. 

--approved moving the postage meter in the Upshur County Justice Center and assigning the vacant law library in that building to District Attorney Billy Byrd's office to accommodate new crime victims coordinator Yecenia Vargas.

--approved the Barbwire Halo Cowboy Church's request to use the courthouse lawn for an Oct. 20 gathering.

 

 

 

OBITUARIES - OCT. 28, 2015 EDITION

BILLY RAY EUDY

 Funeral services for Billy Ray Eudy, 71 of Big Sandy, were Thursday, October 22, 2015, at Church of Power in Upshur County with Bro. Mark Huffhines officiating with interment to follow at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Upshur County.

 Mr. Eudy passed away Tuesday, October 20, 2015 in Longview. He was born April 21, 1944 in Cisco, TX to Marvin and Alma Jo Owens Eudy.  Mr. Eudy was a machinist at Smith International and attended Church of Power.

 Mr. Eudy was survived by his wife, Betty Eudy; Sons, Robert Eudy and wife, Christy of Longview, Ronald Eudy of Pritchett; brother, Marvin Eudy; grandchildren, Adam Eudy, Amber Cannon, Alyssa Eudy, Lonnie Grooms, Devin Eudy, Ashlie Hightower, Kaylan Eudy, Adrianna Eudy; great grandchildren, Hayze Cannon, Brantley Cannon, Layken Cannon, Ethan Grooms, Kaylee Grooms, Heath Hightower, Jase Hightower, Addison Eudy, Kyleigh, Paisley Eudy; cousins, Michelle Pabron, Michael Castro, and Steve Clark.

 He is proceeded in death by his parents and sisters, Nancy Kelly and Christine Eudy.

 Please leave online condolences at www.croleyfh.net

 

EARL A. ZENTZ

 Services for Earl A. Zentz, 59, of Gladewater were held, October 24, 2015 at Croley Funeral Home with Pastor Ken Davis officiating and interment to follow in Gladewater Memorial Park.  Services were under the direction of Croley Funeral Home.

 Earl Andrew Zentz of Gladewater went to be with the Lord October 22, 2015 at a Tyler hospital. Earl was born March 30, 1956 in San Pedro, California to Santford and Vivian Zentz. Earl served in the US Navy from 1977-1982. It was while he was stationed in Hawaii that he met the love of his life, Nancy Burgess.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy, his children, Andrew Eugene Zentz, Samantha Jo and husband, Benton Randle, and Emily Sue Zentz; father, Santford Zentz; brothers, Fritz Zentz and Jeff Zentz; sisters, Sandi Fritchley, Teeny Zentz, and Jackie Fedyshyn; grandchildren, Chase, Jack and Cole; and many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and friends.

Pallbearers are Andrew Zentz, Benton Randle, Burke Lyons, Randy Kernohan, Jim Morton, Jr., and Nick Kernohan

 Online condolences may be left at www.croleyfh.net.

 

PEARL JANE BUMGARNER

 Pearl Jane Bumgarner, 93, of Big Sandy, will be laid to rest beside her late husband of 62 years, Joe Bumgarner, on October 28, 2015. Jane passed away on October 24, 2015.

 Funeral services will be held at 2 P.M., Wednesday, October 28, 2015, at Croley Funeral Home Chapel in Gilmer, with Pastor Daniel Friz officiating. Visitation will be at 1 P.M. prior to service. Interment will be at Pleasant Hill Cemetery on Lemon Road in Pritchett.

 

 Jane was born in Talala, Oklahoma on May 22, 1922. She was the oldest of seven children. She had a real passion for birds, and thoroughly enjoyed keeping her feathered friends well fed.

 

STATE HOUSE CANDIDATES MEET

GILMER--The two announced Republican candidates for District 7 state representative, Jay Dean and David Watts Jr., both billed themselves as conservatives in a joint appearance last week before East Texans for Liberty.

They seek to succeed David Simpson, who is vacating the seat representing Upshur and Gregg Counties, to run for the Texas Senate. More than 50 persons heard them speak and answer questions at the Disabled American Veterans post Oct. 12.

Asked the main difference between them at the end of an hour-and-15-minute long joint presentation, Watts said he was the only one who had discussed "the need to aggressively restrain government." Dean, a past Longview mayor and onetime city councilman, noted that unlike Watts (who has never held elective office), "I have a record. I dealt with federal and state mandate(s) and we fought it back every time as mayor."

Another key difference which emerged between the two during the discussion was that Watts said he would not support reelecting Republican Joe Straus as speaker of the house, while Dean would not commit to that.  

Watts complained that Straus is a liberal  who appointed Democrats to 30 percent of committee chairmanships although the GOP holds 98 of the House's 150 seats. Dean said he would "vote for the most conservative speaker" who best represents the ideals of his district and that it is not yet known who all will run for the post.

 

Watts reiterated his campaign theme of "less government and more liberty" while Dean said "I'm going to rely heavily on the district to help me make the decisions.'