By Roxane Kolar

General Assembly veterans can’t remember a more difficult session.

With revenue crimped to a trickle, legislators have a Solomon’s chore in trying to maintain our state’s core values. For most of us, that’s good jobs, quality schools, access to health care and a clean environment. But some lawmakers want to break in line with another priority: more guns.

The legislature is now considering proposals that would allow concealed weapons in family restaurants, bars and neighborhood parks. Another proposal circumvents business owners’ rights by forcing them to allow guns in their parking lots – as well as in hospital and church lots. Then there's the one that would allow legislators to carry concealed firearms anywhere in the state.

Why is there such a rush to get more guns in more public places?

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By Scott Chase

As a small business owner, I am worried our Legislature is going to make unnecessary and deep cuts to public services that local businesses and all Texans need. Yes, our state has a revenue shortfall, but we also have choices about how deal with the shortfall. We can take a balanced approach that uses our Rainy Day Fund.

My fellow business owners in the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce are concerned about unnecessary cuts too. Our chamber includes over 600 small business owners in the Dallas area. We were the first local chamber in Texas to call for the State Legislature to use the Rainy Day Fund to help balance the budget instead of the irresponsible “cuts-only” approach that the Legislature is considering.

The cuts-only approach of the Legislature is wrong for many reasons. All businesses, but particularly small businesses, such as the members of the Oak Cliff Chamber, know that spending on education, health care, roads and bridges, job training and the environment is an investment in the economic future of Texas. This investment will result in a more educated, healthier workforce and a modernized infrastructure. The large cuts in these areas being presented by reckless legislators will lead to a less competitive business climate in Texas, lower wage jobs and economic stagnation.

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By Susan Shaer

As Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.” It costs money to make this country hum. Anyone can see that it would be impossible to have roads crisscrossing the country, federal jails and courts, national parks and monuments, environmental protection that has no boundaries, and a whole raft of other essential services without a nationwide system in which we all have a stake.

Right now, our debt, the deficit and the spectacle of a narrowly averted government shutdown have focused attention on federal spending of tax dollars. To that, I say hooray. I hate looking at my own spending budget, but I know what my priorities are, and what money I have to use, save or borrow against. When we examine our personal finances, we recognize our personal values. Such a magnifying glass aimed at the federal budget will expose priorities of our “civilized” society.

So what are our federal values? We have two sides to the spending budget; one non-discretionary (required spending by law or interest on the debt), and the other discretionary. The discretionary side is where our priorities are displayed full frontal. The current budget allows for 56 percent on the Pentagon, wars and nuclear weapons.

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By Rick Weidman

When I served as an Army medic in Vietnam, I often saw a 19-year-old solider whose job was to spray an herbicide called Agent Orange on anything green inside my base. The same was true around the perimeter, to deny cover to any enemy intruders and to ensure a clear line of fire in case of enemy attack.

As I visited numerous American military bases in Vietnam during the war, they all looked like moonscapes. They were stripped of grass and foliage by the same chemical for the same reasons.

Now, more than 40 years after the war, we know that Agent Orange contained dioxin, which is among the world’s most lethal toxins. American veterans of Vietnam fought a long, hard postwar struggle to get our Veterans Administration to compensate troops for a dozen diseases associated with Agent Orange/dioxin. But what about the Vietnamese who were also exposed? And what about the leftover “hot spots” of dioxin that still exist there and continue to harm people to this very day?

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By Volkan Topalli

At each stage of the criminal justice system, the proposed Arizona-style legislative initiatives in Georgia represent a substantial and potentially devastating cost to its citizens, and significant unintended consequences for public safety. The new law would require peace officers to attempt to verify a suspect's immigration status when the suspect is unable to provide legal identification.

The proposed legislation stipulates that, “A peace officer shall not consider race, color or national origin in implementing the requirements of this [law].” But research demonstrates that it's nearly impossible for individuals to discount attitudes about race when engaging in such tasks. T
Hence, the legislation likely would lead to racial profiling. It would put police officers in a nearly untenable situation, one where they'd be expected to decide not who “looks like” a foreigner (bad enough), but who “looks illegal,” leading to a spate of unnecessary and costly court proceedings when they get it wrong.

Also, the proposed legislation mandates poor policing. Remember, every time a peace officer pulls over or arrests someone because the officer is mandated to determine whether they're illegal, that's time he could be spending looking for or dealing with more serious criminal activity. Despite scandalous anecdotes pitched on radio and TV, academic research reveals that the foreign-born are far less likely to break the law than are average nativeborn citizens -- After all, they fear being unjustly deported or otherwise caught up in the justice system. Also, having local law-enforcement implement this legislation would undoubtedly impair community policing strategies, which would harm law enforcement’s efforts to ensure public safety for all residents. Many law-enforcement officials around the nation strongly oppose this type of legislation. They and many of the citizens they protect prefer to focus scarce public resources on fighting crime and promoting public safety, not on tackling immigration enforcement.

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By Chandelle Summer

The evening of Jan. 18 began ordinarily enough, my husband and I engaging in our usual, bedroom channel-surfing along with the attendant full-scale, courtroom-worthy debate over which program was to be selected. With 1,150 channels, it's a long and arduous process. Then it happened.

"Two-four-six-eight, we don't want to integrate." Grainy, black-and-white images of throngs of fresh-faced angry teen-agers dressed in crisp white shirts standing at the Arch of the University of Georgia repeatedly screaming in unison, "Two-four-six-eight, we don't want to integrate." We were watching "Eyes on the Prize," a PBS series about 1960s civil-rights struggles.

Five decades ago, young African Americans endured the wrath of the white establishment and subjected themselves to close-range, fire-hosing at water pressures so strong they could rip the bark right off a tree. They endured rock-throwing, face-smashing and arm-twisting arrests. A young woman walked proudly onto the campus of the University of Georgia to the jeers and taunts of an angry mob. Fifty years later, here we go again.

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By Doug Pibel

So far, agriculture has kept up with population -- there's enough food in the world to feed everyone. But not everyone's getting fed -- at least a billion people live with hunger, according to the U.N. World Food Program. And the world is in the midst of yet another spike in food prices. As long as we keep diverting grain from human mouths to animal ones, people will go hungry. It's simple market economics: It's more profitable to produce meat -- even though the meat that results from feeding grain to animals has less food value than the grain itself.

Which is why there's hunger even when there are no grain shortages: The wealthy of the world are willing to pay more to feed animals than poor people can pay to feed themselves.

So must we all become vegetarians in order to avert world hunger? Not necessarily. The spring issue of YES! Magazine suggests another route to food sufficiency.

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