Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Monday's January 9th County Commissioners Court meeting minutes had some comments from Judge Barkemeyer about a letter he received from some group on the prayer on the agenda. As a Christian I am pro prayer and prayed before each meeting for twelve years. Prayed a lot after the meetings too.

According to the letter from the organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State we can pray before court it just has to be done in the proper manner. They state, "… the practice is in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."

Their letter continues in the next paragraph to state, "The U.S. Supreme Court has concluded that prayer in the opening of legislative sessions are constitutionally permissible if-but only if-they do not use language specific to one religion."

So we can pray we just can't say Jesus, Christ, Allah, Buddha, Lord or any other word that indicates one specific religion. The letter from this group cites many legal cases that have been decided in the courts to support their position.

They request that the court bring their prayer practice into constitutional compliance. They suggest that the prayer be replaced with a moment of silence, revise the prayer to allow only nonsectarian prayer or injecting religious diversity into the prayers so that prayer opportunity is not solely dominated by Christians.

They have their options and I have one that worked for Judge Blake, Judge Hashem and myself. While they refer to the constitution, and I am strong supporter of the constitution, I believe that there is an answer to their suggestions. Judge Hashem and myself as well always said the prayer before the opening of the court meeting.

Secondly, prayer was not listed as an agenda item. Listing prayer on the "official county business agenda" probably crosses the line of separation of religion and government. I would say it does as only county business should be listed on the agenda.

As a Christian I believe in prayer and can testify it has worked for me. On the other hand I am also a strong supporter of our constitution. It was written by men who followed those that came here for freedom of religion. My belief is that they wrote the Constitution to prevent the same thing from occurring in the Colonies that sent the first settlers to this continent.

Point here is that prayer probably does not belong on the agenda of any governmental meeting. However, if the prayer occurs before the meeting is called to order those that do not agree can step out of the room, or maybe go back to where they came from.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone. Sure hope everyone had a great holiday…that would be Christmas and New Year… season. Guess it is time for all of us get back to work and try to make this year better than 2011. In some ways it certainly could not be worse.

Looking back over the year many of you can remember the dire financial straits the county was in. In January I believe the Judge's comment was somewhere a million plus over budget. Well, the year is over and the facts are in.

While all the elected officials and department heads deserve credit for staying within budget it is something that they are used to doing. Not a new characteristic for Milam County's leaders. Been something that has been going on for many years, and you might also give some credit to the court that approved the 2011 budget.

According to Monday's Court minutes the county ended the year with a surplus of 400,000 dollars in the general fund and all the precincts wound up with sizeable reserves as well.

Another bright spot in the 2011 budget was the Sheriff's office. Sheriff Greene came in under budget in the jail operations by over 200,000 dollars, and in the law enforcement by over 100,000 dollars. Sheriff Greene's outstanding management of the department is the primary reason for this excellent performance.

I was unable to attend Monday's Court meeting, but I sure hope the year end synopsis was clearer in court than in the minutes. One interesting note to me was that figrues were stated for some offices that were represented as revenue, but half went to the state. Sounds to me like the revenue for the county should have been half of the amount represented in the minutes. Half is half, not whole.

As I have said many times before county budgeting is difficult at best. 2012 will be no different. The minutes pointed out that Judge Barkemeyer stressed the Liminant suit and capital murder trial as two concerns for 2012. I have to agree. It is just sad that the leadership was not there to plan for the Liminant suit as did the Rockdale ISD.

I guess the bottom line is that Milam County Government is not going to go away. However, it could get hammered hard during the upcoming year. What does that mean in the end? County taxpayers are the ones that will pay the bill. As an optimist I just have to pray that Judge Barkemeyer's logic will prove accurate, but at this point in time Ijust can't bring myself to bet on it.