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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - June 27, 2001, New Braunfels, Texas Page 6A — HERALD-ZEITUNG — Wednesday, June 27, 2001Forum Contact Managing Editor Margaret Edmonson at 625-9144 ext. 220. Ni:w Braunfels Herald-Zeitung New Braunfels Zeitung was founded 1852; New Braunfels Herald was founded 1890. The two papers merged in 1957 and printed in both German and English until 1958. Doug Toney, Editor and Publisher Margaret Edmonson, Managing Editor Jo Lee Ferguson, News Editor (830) 625-9144Other Views On June 27, 1950, President Truman ordered the Air Force and Navy into the Korean conflict following a call from the U.N. Security Council for member nations to help South Korea repel an invasion from the North. Odessa American on the importance of roadside memorials: Most motorists have noticed the occasional memorials erected along Permian Basin highways to honor those killed in traffic accidents. They come in a variety of sizes and styles, but most have crosses in one form or another. In a way, this could be considered an exercise in freedom of religion. But all of that un-regimented behavior was just a bit too much for some state bureaucrats, who have attempted to put controls on the grieving. Since 1986, the state has had a law that permits memorials only at the sites of fatal crashes that involve driving while intoxicated. The law was the result of lobbying by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Although blatantly discriminatory, does a non-DWI accident make the loss of a loved one any less painful? Nobody raised much of a fuss because enforcement was sporadic. But last year state transportation officials in East Texas posted removal notices on roadside memorials that were not DWI-related. Many family members refused to take down the memorials. One of them, June Hatfield, whose son died in 1997 on a farm-to-market road near Lindale, began a crusade to expand the state’s guidelines. Transportation officials at first produced a typically bureaucratic plan: Allow memorials at the sites of all fatalities, but forbid homemade memorials in favor of standardized metal plaques sold by the state. The plaques, costing $100, would resemble historical markers and would be taken down after 30 months. Families balked at all elements of the plan: The cost, the time limit and, especially, replacing their intensely personal tributes with cold, nonreligious plaques. The proposal was shelved and revision continued. The jury is still out on a new policy manual, which is expected out at any time. A good rule of thumb would be the remarks made by Texas Transportation Commission member Robert L. Nichols this past November when the commission put the one-memorial-fits-all proposal on hold: “Should the state even be involved in that? Very likely not. but that remains to be seen. Our time and effort might be better put into just guidelines for families and leave a lot of flexibility.” Roadside memorials once were primarily a Southwestern phenomenon. Their popularity here probably reflects cultural influences from Mexico and Latin America, where erecting spontaneous memorials to loved ones is a widespread tradition. The practice has proliferated and so, too, has controversy, with Oregon and Pennsylvania among the states that have debated whether to permit roadside memorials. Arguments against them that they are a distraction to motorists and extra work to crews that maintain the right-of-way pale in comparison to the comfort they bring to the family and friends of accident victims. And they act as reminders to drive safely. The fact that each one is a little different from the rest is just one of the pleasures of living in a free country with a dynamic culture. That quality should be relished, not restricted.Today in History- By The Associated Press Today is Wednesday, June 27, the 178th day of 2001. There are 187 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: THtefeiteESlweWW teen m lavLSo QivB ourself up ii $ 1.24 billion appropriation will help 500,000 teachers A daily apple for the teacher might not keep the doctor away, but the 77th Legislature’s $1.24 billion appropriation for a statewide health insurance plan will help 500,000 active school employees pay their doctor bills. House Bill 3343 by Rep. Paul Sadler, D-Henderson, creates a health-care partnership that calls for participation by the state, local school districts and school employees. Districts, for example, must contribute $150 per month for employee health insurance, and if the district does not already contribute $150, the state will make up the difference. In addition, the bill gives employees $1,000 annually to purchase additional insurance coverage or dependent coverage, or to deposit into a health care reimbursement account or a medical savings account. Employees may also elect to divide this money among these options or receive it as additional compensation. I voted for this bill when it came to the Senate for a vote; it will result in every school district in Texas and every full-time public school employee receiving additional funds for health care benefits during the 2002-03 budget cycle. Math teachers could add up to $5,000 to their bank accounts as a result of House Bill 1144 by Rep. Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington. The bill estab-Jeff Wentworth fishes math academies to better prepare teachers and reward well-trained teachers with bonuses. This bill is part of Governor Rick Perry’s initiative designed to improve math teachers’ skills. The governor’s initiative and HB 1144 reflect the Legislature’s efforts to address the critical shortage of trained math teachers. HB 1144 allows school districts to provide intensive after-school and summer math programs for teachers. In addition, the bill establishes master math teacher certificates for all grade levels. In addition to benefits for current school employees, we passed legislation that is good for retired teachers. Senate Bill 273 by Sen. Ken Armbrister, D-Victoria, increases the Teacher Retirement System’s (TRS) multiplier from 2.2 to 2.3 percent for each year of service credit. The bill also includes a $50 increase in the monthly survivor’s death benefit. The omnibus TRS bill expands the return-to-work provisions for retired teachers. SB 273, for example, permits retirees to return to the classroom without losing their retire ment pay if they have been separated from service for at least 12 months and they are teaching in an acute shortage area as determined by a school board. Retirees may also return to work as bus drivers without losing their retirement payments. Even if a large number of retirees decide to return to work in our public schools and all of the education majors elect to teach, there will still be about 30,000 unfilled classrooms. HB 704 by Rep. Dianne Delisi, R-Temple, takes an innovative approach to solving the shortage of qualified teachers. Her bill targets private-sector professionals who have lost employment due to large-scale layoffs or who desire a career change by establishing a program to assist them in obtaining state certification and public school employment. It is my hope that these bills will help attract teachers to fill the state’s 41,400 public school teaching vacancies while retaining and rewarding the half million dedicated public school employees involved in our children’s education. In next week’s column I will focus on other educational issues, such as charter schools, recommended academic plans and school starting dates. (Jeff Wentworth represents District 25 in the Texas Senate.)Letter To The Editor— The case of the lonely park ranger Dear Editor: Sometimes I have to shake my head in wonder. I went to the Prince Solms H-E-B tennis courts Friday morning to practice a few serves. The Parks Department has increased the parking fee at Prince Solms Park to $5. A park ranger sits in a booth to collect the fees. His park ranger car is parked nearby. All day. All week. I would guess that when the city budget review time comes, the Parks Department will not have a park ranger or a park ranger car (including insurance and other associated costs) they can^pTJssibly do without. Well, I and almost everyone renting tubes from across the street, parked on Liberty Street and walked into the park. Meanwhile, our poor park ranger sat in his booth... hot, lonely and bored. His car sat likewise. All day. All week. Bottom fine: Hardly anyone parks in the park. Ranger and car sit. Tennis players can’t park at the courts. All day. All week. Sometimes I have to shake my head... Dick Buhl New BraunfelsWrite ’EmPRESIDENT George W. Bush 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20500U.S. SENATORS Phil Gramm Room 370, Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510 (202) 224-2934 Fax: (202) 228-2856 404 E. Ramsey Road San Antonio, TX 78216 (210) 366-9494 Kay Bailey Hutchison Room 284 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510 (202) 224-5922 Fax: (202) 224-0776 E-mail: senator® hutchi- 8023 Vantage Drive, Suite 460 San Antonio, TX 78230 (210) 340-2885 Fax: (210) 349-6753President remains strong standing behind big business AUSTIN — Look at it this way: The good news is theres at least one tiring about which George W. Bush is consistent. George W. Bush does not believe in doing anything to hurt big business. He especially doesn’t believe in letting anyone sue business. He is opposed to a patients’ bill of rights for that reason; he tried to keep the lawyers who won a $17 billion case for the state of Texas from getting their fees for that reason; and tort reform, which is another way of saying you can’t sue corporations that injure or kill you or your family, is a burning passion with him. So it should come as no surprise that the federal government has decided to settle its case against the tobacco companies. According to anti-smoking groups, in the 2000 elections the tobacco companies gave $8 million in campaign contributions, 80 percent of it to Republicans. Bush certainly knew when he appointed John Ashcroft attorney general that Ashcroft was one of the leading senators inMolly Ivins stopping anti-smoking legislation in 1998 that would have toughened regulations and increased prices. Administration officials have been saying they don’t think they can win the case, even though one state after another has won, which means the tobacco companies go into settlement negotiations with little reason to pony up. The government was claiming $20 billion in damages for money it has spent on health care for its employees, veterans and those on Medicare with illnesses caused by smoking. Knowingly making and marketing a poisonous, addictive product could be considered of dubious legality. I fail to see the difference between that and Murder Inc. (As one who has quit smoking many, many times, I speak with some feeling on the issue.) The idea that smokers have a “choice” about the habit seems to me a legitimate argument: I can’t imagine suing a tobacco company because I was stupid enough to start smoking. But an addiction you already have is not a problem that can be solved by just saying no. The government was suing to recover the cost to everybody else of treating smoking illnesses and would then have used much of the money to educate young people about why they shouldn’t smoke. Given the amount the tobacco companies spend on marketing their poison, it makes some sense to have a counter-force out there, unless we all want to continue paying these staggering health costs, while the tobacco companies make billions. Nothing in the world is easier to make fun of than an overreaching lawyer, but this is not a case of trial lawyers versus big business. It’s a case of our right to get recompense when we have been hurt by corporate behavior. I’m not defending lawyers — though I know some righteous ones. Just the other day, a few Texas lawyers were found to have been keeping quiet about unsafe Firestone tires for a couple of years to guard their clients’ interests, possibly costing additional fives. But the patients’ bill of rights and tort reform in general are not about the rights of lawyers — they’re about our rights. The media love to focus on outrageous verdicts, of which we have seen many over the years. What is almost never reported is the nutty verdicts are almost invariably overturned on appeal. The system of civil litigation actually works quite well — for example, in the famous case of the 81-year-old woman who suffered third-degree burns after spilling a cup of McDonald’s coffee on her lap. The jury first awarded her $2.9 million, after learning that McDonald’s had ignored 700 such complaints during the years. But the judgment was reduced to $480,000 on appeal and was later settled out of court for an undisclosed sum (she had initially sued for $200,000). And McDonald’s no longer heats its coffee to a point that produces third-degree burns, thus improving the public safety. For hilarious straight talk, I hope you did not miss Bush this past week explaining that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission did not impose price caps iii the West. The official administration fine is that this is a “market-based mitigation plan.” Herewith Bush’s version: “They’re not talking about firm price controls. They are talking about mechanism to — as I understand it, a mechanism to mitigate any severe price spikes that may occur, which is completely different from price controls.” Glad he understands it. (Molly Ivins is a syndicated columnist.) ;