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Early voting to begin Oct. 23 on amendments

LIVINGSTON -- Texans will have the opportunity to vote on seven possible amendments to the Texas Constitution Nov. 7 for items pertaining to taxes, housing and state executives.

Those in Polk County will have five locations to fill ballot boxes. Voting boxes 3, 4, 7, 16, 18, and 21 will vote at the county courthouse. The Onalaska Sub-Courthouse at 14111 U.S. Highway 190 West will host voters for Voting Boxes 5, 6, and 17. The Escapee’s Care Center at 159 Care Center Drive in Livingston will hold voting for Voting Boxes 1, 2, 15, 19 and 20. Voting Boxes 8, 9, 10 and 11 will vote in Sechrest Webster Community Center at 100 West Front Street in Corrigan. Soda Baptist Church at 8135 U.S. Highway 190 West in Livingston will host Voting Boxes 12, 13 and 14.

Early voting will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday on Oct. 23-27 and Oct. 30-Nov. 3. Voting locations will include the first floor of the Polk County Judicial Center in Livingston, the Polk County Subcourthouse in Onalaska and the Sechrest Webster Community Center in Corrigan. All three locations will remain open during the lunch hour.

The Propositions are as follows:

Proposition Number 1 (HJR 21)
HJR 21 proposes a constitutional amendment that would permit the Texas legislature to expand the circumstances under which a partially disabled veteran or their spouse may qualify for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the veteran’s residence homestead. Currently, the Texas legislature may provide that a partially disabled veteran or their spouse is entitled to an exemption from ad valorem taxation of a percentage of the market value of the disabled veteran’s residence homestead only if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization at no cost to the veteran. The amendment would allow the Texas legislature to provide that the exemption also may be taken when the residence homestead was donated, sold, or transferred to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization for less than the market value of the residence homestead. The amendment also harmonizes certain related provisions of the Texas Constitution.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the residence homestead of a partially disabled veteran or the surviving spouse of a partially disabled veteran if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization for less than the market value of the residence homestead and harmonizing certain related provisions of the Texas Constitution.”

Proposition Number 2 (SJR 60)
SJR 60 proposes a constitutional amendment to require that certain conditions be met for the refinancing of a home equity loan to be secured by a voluntary lien on a homestead. The amendment also would: redefine what is excluded in the calculation of the cap on fees associated with a home equity loan, lower the cap from 3% to 2% of the original principal amount of the extension of credit, and specify that such fees are in addition to any bona fide discount points used to buy down the interest rate. The amendment would further specify the list of authorized lenders to make home equity loans, change the threshold for an advance of a home equity line of credit, allow agricultural property owners to acquire home equity loans, and update technical terminology in the Texas Constitution. The amendment would be effective on January 1, 2018, and applicable only to a home equity loan made or refinanced on or after that date.

The proposed amendment would appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment to establish a lower amount for expenses that can be charged to a borrower and removing certain financing expense limitations for a home equity loan, establishing certain authorized lenders to make a home equity loan, changing certain options for the refinancing of home equity loans, changing the threshold for an advance of a home equity line of credit, and allowing home equity loans on agricultural homesteads.”

Proposition Number 3 (SJR 34)
SJR 34 proposes a constitutional amendment that would prevent certain office holders from serving indefinitely beyond the expiration of their term. Office holders who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate and receive no salary would only be able to serve until the last day of the first regular session of the Texas legislature that begins after their term expires.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment limiting the service of certain officeholders appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate after the expiration of the person’s term of office.”

Proposition Number 4 (SJR 6)
SJR 6 proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow the Texas legislature to require any court that is hearing a challenge to the constitutionality of a state statute to notify the attorney general of that challenge, if the party raising the challenge notifies the court that the party is challenging the constitutionality of such statute. Additionally, the amendment would allow the Texas legislature to set a period of not more than 45 days following the notification to the attorney general that the court must wait before rendering a judgment that a state statute is unconstitutional.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to require a court to provide notice to the attorney general of a challenge to the constitutionality of a state statute and authorizing the legislature to prescribe a waiting period before the court may enter a judgment holding the statute unconstitutional.”

Proposition Number 5 (HJR 100)
HJR 100 proposes a constitutional amendment to provide a more detailed definition of “professional sports team” for purposes of their charitable foundations, which the Texas legislature may permit to hold charitable raffles. The amendment also deletes a requirement that an eligible professional sports team charitable foundation permitted by the Texas legislature to hold charitable raffles had to be in existence on January 1, 2016.

The proposed amendment will appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment on professional sports team charitable foundations conducting charitable raffles.”

Proposition Number 6 (SJR 1)
SJR 1 proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow the Texas legislature by general law to provide that a surviving spouse of a first responder who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty is entitled to receive an exemption from ad valorem taxation from all or part of the market value on the surviving spouse’s residence homestead, as long as the surviving spouse has not remarried since the death of the first responder. It would also allow the Texas legislature to provide that the surviving spouse, who qualifies and receives the exemption and then qualifies a different property as the surviving spouse’s residence homestead, receive an exemption from ad valorem taxation of the different homestead in an amount equal to the dollar amount of the exemption of the first homestead for which the exemption was received in the last year in which the surviving spouse received the exemption for that first homestead. Like the initial exemption, this benefit will only remain available if the surviving spouse has not remarried since the death of the first responder. The proposed amendment would apply only to ad valorem taxes imposed for a tax year beginning on or after January 1, 2018.

The proposed amendment would appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a first responder who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty.”

Proposition Number 7 (HJR 37)
HJR 37 proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow the Texas legislature to make an exception to the law regarding the award of certain prizes. Currently, the Texas Constitution requires the Texas legislature to pass laws prohibiting lotteries, raffles, and other programs where the award of gifts is based on luck or chance. The proposed amendment would make an exception to this general rule to allow the Texas legislature to authorize credit unions and other financial institutions to institute programs which, in order to encourage savings, would award prizes based on luck or chance to the credit union’s or financial institution’s customers.

The proposed amendment would appear on the ballot as follows: “The constitutional amendment relating to legislative authority to permit credit unions and other financial institutions to award prizes by lot to promote savings.”

No injuries in two pickup collision

Two-pickup-collision-by-Shell

COLLISION -- No injuries were reported after a two-pickup collision near the intersection of FM 2457 and U.S. Highway 190 on Monday. Shortly after 3 p.m., the driver of a silver Chevy pickup was traveling eastbound on the shoulder on FM 2457 and attempted to turn into the corner Shell gas station. In the process, the man reportedly cut-off another driver traveling eastbound in a tan GMC pickup. Texas Highway Patrol, along with deputies from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and local EMS units, were dispatched to the scene shortly after. Traffic was temporarily slowed down during investigation and cleanup. Both vehicles were later transported by wrecker. (Albert Trevino Photo)

Rescue teams recover victim

victimGOODRICH – Rescue teams recovered the body of a Livingston man inside the Trinity River, nearly two days after he went missing in the water at River Lake Estates.

On the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 10, Jesus Robles, 32, reportedly stepped-off inside the water near Riverview Road and was unable to escape. Shortly after Robles went missing, law enforcement from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, along with local Texas Game Wardens, conducted a preliminary search of the area that night.

Rescue teams continued their search in the water the following morning and later discovered Robles’ body after 8 a.m. Thursday morning down the Trinity River, near the same area he went missing.

Funeral services for Robles took place on Tuesday, Oct. 17, at Cochran Funeral Home in Livingston. A fundraiser has also been organized to help cover expenses for Robles to be buried back at his home in Mexico. Those who would like to donate can visit www.youcaring.com/jesusrobleschuy.

Sex offender given 99-year prison term

sexoffenderLIVINGSTON -- Follow-ing two days of testimony in the 258th District Court, a Polk County jury deliberated only about 20 minutes Wednesday before finding Ricky Ray Martinez, 42, of Onalaska guilty of the aggravated sexual assault of a child.
A punishment hearing on the first-degree felony conviction immediately following the guilty verdict and, after a short deliberation, the same jury assessed Martinez’ punishment at 99 years of confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ).
Evidence presented at trial established that during 2014 Martinez had repeatedly sexually abused his 11-year-old stepdaughter at a Livingston residence while the victim’s mother was at work. The victim, who testified during the trial, had originally reported the sexual molestation to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department in January 2016 while living with her grandparents and was interviewed by a forensic interviewer at Children’s Safe Harbor, a Children’s Advocacy Center in Conroe.
The matter was subsequently referred to the Livingston Police Department where a follow-up investigation was conducted by Detective Leon Middleton and a Polk County grand jury indictment was returned in April 2016.
In addition to the testimony of the victim, Polk County assistant district attorneys Kari Allen and Nicole Washington presented testimony regarding the child’s outcry of abuse from the victim’s grandparents and mother; as well as expert testimony from the forensic interviewer.
Under Texas law, Martinez will not become eligible for parole consideration until he has served a minimum of 30 years in prison. He will also be subject to lifetime registration as a Sex Offender.
Following the verdict and sentence, Allen commended the young victim for “having the courage to come forward to report the abuse,” and thanked the “police officers and child victims’ advocates who worked hard to obtain justice in this case.”
Allen also expressed gratitude to the Polk County jurors who “sat through this difficult testimony and returned a verdict which will hopefully send a loud message that the citizens of Polk County have no tolerance for the victimization or sexual exploitation of our children.”

County sales tax income up 6.7 percent

LIVINGSTON – Polk County’s sales tax income once again climbed above totals received last year, with September’s figure rising 6.7 percent over the amount collected in September 2016.

The $204,508.25 payment received in September was up by $12,905.48 from the $191,637.74 received one year earlier. It also was the largest sales tax payment received by the county during the month of September.

The September increase followed a 1.7 percent drop in August and a 19.4 percent gain in July.

The comptroller collects the sales taxes for all governmental entities and then rebates the local share to counties, cities and other political subdivisions on a monthly basis. The September check represents taxes collected in July by local merchants that file monthly reports.
So far in 2017, the county has collected more than $1.62 million in sales tax revenue, a total that is down by $48,764.32 or more than 2.9 percent from the more than $1.83 million received during the first nine months of 2016.

The September total also represents the 12th and final payment the county received under its FY2017 budget which ended on Sept. 30.

During the fiscal year, the county collected almost $2.41 million in sales tax income, which was up by $4,628.35 or almost 0.2 percent from the more than $2.4 million received during the 2016 fiscal year.

Under the FY 2017 budget, the county projected it would collect $2,342,305 in sales tax income during the fiscal year. The final total represented 102.9 percent of the projection and exceeded the budget total by $66,905.37.

Polk County collects a 0.5 percent tax on sales while the cities of Livingston, Onalaska and Corrigan assess a 1.5 percent tax. Goodrich and Seven Oaks each have a 1 percent sales tax.

Of the county’s five cities that collect a sales tax, all reported increases when compared to the September totals of one year ago.
Livingston’s latest sales tax rebate of $315,608.72 was up by $21,079.27 or almoast 7.2 percent from the $294,529.45 received in September 2016. So far this year, he city has collected almost $2.8 million from the tax, which is up by $45,806.71 or almost 1.7 percent from the more than $2.7 million received during the first nine months of 2016.

With a rebate of $50,446.69, Onalaska’s sales tax check was up by $2,697.39 or 5.6 percent from the $47,749.30 reported one year earlier. Since Jan. 1, the city has collected $423,223.07 from the tax, a total that is down by $2,290.21 or 0.5 percent from the $425,513.28 received during the same period last year.

Corrigan’s September sales tax rebate was $38,931.71 which was up by $2,017.67 or almost 5.5 percent from the $36,914.04 received in September 2016. So far this year, the city has received $324,587.80, a total that is up by $35,389.38 or 12.2 percent from the $289,198.42 collected during the first nine months of 2016.

During September Goodrich received $2,881.92 in sales tax income, which was up by $235.61 or 8.9 percent from the $2,646.31 received one year earlier. The total for the year now stands at $25,401.14 which is up by $5,508.24 or 27.7 percent from the $19,892.90 collected during the same period of 2016.

Seven Oaks received $852.85 in September, which was up by $536.60 or more than 169.67 percent from the $316.25 received one year ago. Since Jan. 1, the city has received $5,659.92 from the tax, a total that is down by $259,.60 or about 4.4 percent from the $5,919.52 received during the first nine months of 2016.

In his report, Hegar said Texas counties received $40.1 million in rebate checks, which was up by 9.3 percent compared to one year ago. Cities collected $436.6 million in rebates, which was up by 6.1 percent from September 2016.

In the latest report, Houston received the state’s largest check for over $50.04 million, which was up by 0.03 percent from the more than $50.03 million delivered one year ago.

San Antonio’s sales tax allocation was $26.8 million, which was up by 8.7 percent from the $24.6 million received one year ago.
The $23.1 million issued to Dallas reflects a 5.6 percent increase from the $21.9 million received one year earlier.

The Austin sales tax allocation for September was $16.5 million, which was up by 7.3 percent from the $15.4 million received one year earlier.

Other area counties that received September rebates included:
• Angelina, which collected $445,626.97, up by 0.4 percent from September 2016.
• Liberty, which collected $276,060.68, up by 4.1 percent from one year ago.
• San Jacinto, which collected $35,783.36, up by 8.5 percent from September 2016.
• Tyler, which collected $48,862.49, up by 13.4 percent from one year ago.
• Walker, which collected $279,531.61, up by 13.7 percent from September 2016.
Other East Texas cities that received September rebates included:
• Huntsville received a payment of over $629,045.66, which was up by 14.7 percent from one year ago.
• Lufkin received a payment of over $1.1 million, which was up by 0.6 percent from one year ago.
• Diboll received a payment of $54,268.34, which was up by 44.7 percent from September 2016.
• Cleveland received a payment of $244,301.55, which was down by 1.9 percent from one year ago.
• Liberty received a payment of $202,388.99, which was down by 6.8 percent from September 2016.
• Woodville received a payment of $95,481.94, which was up by 28 percent from September 2016.
• Chester received a payment of $1,766.12, which was up by 56.5 percent from the total collected one year ago.
• Trinity received a payment of $57,007.51, which was up by almost 22 percent from one year ago.
• Shepherd received a payment of $22,196.48, which was up by 22.5 percent from September 2016.
• Coldspring received a payment of $25,434.74, which was up by 35.9 percent from one year ago.
• Point Blank received a payment of $4,785.05, which was up by 20.2 percent from September 2016.

One killed, two hurt in Goodrich rollover

MEDICAL EVACUATION -- A medical helicopter lifts off with two patients bound for Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston following a one-vehicle accident Sunday in Goodrich. A passenger in the car, Esperanza Ramirez, 71, of Goodrich was pronounced dead at the scene. (ENTERPRISE PHOTO BY ALBERT TREVINO)MEDICAL EVACUATION -- A medical helicopter lifts off with two patients bound for Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston following a one-vehicle accident Sunday in Goodrich. A passenger in the car, Esperanza Ramirez, 71, of Goodrich was pronounced dead at the scene. (ENTERPRISE PHOTO BY ALBERT TREVINO)

GOODRICH – A 71-year-old woman died and two others were flown to Houston following a rollover accident that occurred Sunday afternoon on U.S. 59 in Goodrich.

Esperanza Ramirez of Goodrich was pronounced dead at the scene after a white 2003 Chevy Suburban rolled over while going northbound on U.S. 59 near the south end of Loop 393. Two others, including the driver, were transported by helicopter to Houston with serious injuries.

According to reports, Alberto Martinez, 47, of Goodrich was driving the Chevy SUV north on the inside lane of U.S. 59. He reportedly drove off the road to the left, then over-corrected right and left again, entering the center median and rolling across the southbound lanes.

The SUV came to a stop, flipped over in the grass along the right side of U.S. 59 South. No other vehicles were involved in Sunday’s accident.
First responders were dispatched to the scene, including Livingston Volunteer Fire Department and local EMS units. Law enforcement with the Texas Highway Patrol and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office blocked all southbound traffic during their investigation and cleanup.

A landing zone was set up on the southbound lanes for a Life Flight helicopter to transport Martinez, along with a 17-year-old passenger identified as Gabriel Garcia, to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. Ramirez, pronounced dead, was taken from the scene by Cochran Funeral Home.

The accident remains under the investigation of Texas Highway Patrol.