BI-WEEKLY Volume 24, Number 21 - May 27, 2011

Visit our website at www.northtexasjournal.net
Page 2
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Gov. Perry: The Dream of Property Ownership is Secure in Texas
Gov. Rick Perry today ceremonially signed Senate Bill 18,
which implements landmark eminent domain reforms to
strengthen private property rights. The governor designated
this legislation as an emergency item for the 2011 Legisla-
tive Session. He was joined by Texas Agriculture Commis-
sioner Todd Staples, Sen. Craig Estes, Sen. Robert Duncan
and Rep. Charlie Geren for the bill signing.
“I’m proud to sign into law stronger eminent domain pro-
visions protecting Texas landowners from local and state
government entities that might consider abusing private
property rights,” Gov. Perry said. “We’ve come a long way
in the effort to strengthen private property rights through
this legislation, and thanks to the hard work of state law-
makers, particularly Sen. Estes, Sen. Duncan and Rep. Ge-
ren, the dream of property ownership is more secure in the
State of Texas now than ever before.”
SB 18 requires local and state government entities inter-
ested in acquiring private property to frst make an offer, in
writing and based on an appraisal, to the landowner to pur-
chase the property through a voluntary sale for a fair price.
This prevents entities from making lowball offers knowing
the land can be taken by eminent domain if the landowner
doesn’t accept. The bill also requires condemnation peti-
tions to specifcally state the public use for which the land
is needed, eliminating instances where land is taken with-
out current plans for its use. Additionally, the bill makes it
clear that eminent domain may only be used for public use.
“We know that Texas is thriving as a state and property is a
valuable asset, but that growth should not come at the ex-
pense of property owners,” Sen. Craig Estes said. “This is
the most important bill to strengthen private property rights
for landowners.”
Further, SB 18 requires a government entity that takes land
to frst have a record vote stating the land to be taken and the
project for which it is being taken. It also requires entities
to provide all appraisals of the property they have during
negotiations to ensure landowners understand the fair mar-
ket value of their land. Finally, this legislation also allows
landowners to repurchase land at the price they were paid
for it if it becomes unnecessary for the project for which it
was taken, or if no actual progress is made toward the proj-
ect in 10 years, even if the project has not been cancelled.
“I am proud of the work done by members of the Texas
Senate and House of Representatives to pass this important
piece of legislation and am pleased to see eminent domain
reforms signed into law,” Sen. Robert Duncan said. “This
is a strong law that was closely negotiated by major stake-
holders across the state to secure enduring protections for
property owners.”
A former farmer, rancher and Texas Agriculture Commis-
sioner, Gov. Perry has long made private property rights a
priority. Last session at the governor’s request, the Legisla-
ture passed a measure allowing Texans to vote on a consti-
tutional amendment requiring land to be taken only for pub-
lic use, ending the seizure of property for use by a private
developer. Additionally, local governments can no longer
condemn an entire area for redevelopment by claiming it is
blighted without proving that each section is blighted. The
amendment also protects Texas landowners against further
grants of eminent domain authority by requiring each new
grant to receive a 2/3 vote in each house of the Legislature.
Texas voters passed this amendment in November 2009.
“I am proud that our private property owners’ rights are
better protected with the passage of SB 18,” Rep. Charlie
Geren said. “This is a great accomplishment and took a lot
of hard work from many Texans across the state.”
“This is a major victory for the people of Texas and a great
accomplishment by Gov. Perry and our Legislature,” Agri-
culture Commissioner Todd Staples said. “The signing of
this bill says, ‘Don’t mess with Texas, and don’t mess with
Texas land.’ SB 18 sends a clear message that here in the
Lone Star State, we hold dear to our heritage of land own-
ership.”
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Totally Disabled Veterans Property Tax Exemption Extended to Surviving Spouse
With only ten minutes remaining in the Texas House for
consideration of non-local Senate Bills, Speaker Straus rec-
ognized Representative Bonnen for an important motion.
“I make the motion to move to suspend all necessary rules
to take up and consider Senate Bill 516. Senate Bill 516 is
Representative Fletcher’s bill, and it is appropriate to get
this done tonight. It’s to support our veterans who have
given so much to us, so I move to suspend all necessary
rules to pull this bill up,” Representative Bonnen motioned.
The motion prevailed unanimously, and Senate Bill 516
passed 146-0.
This was Representative Fletcher’s frst bill he fled on
November 8, 2010, the frst day of bill fling for the 82nd
Legislative Session. Representative Fletcher asked Senator
Patrick to carry this bill in the Senate, and Senator Patrick
did so proudly and successfully. The enabling legislation
was carried by Doc Anderson in the House and Senator Van
de Putte in the Senate.
“By extending property tax exemptions for veterans to
these deserving spouses, we are recognizing, at least in
small measure, the very real sacrifces that these families
have made in the defense of our country,” stated Senator
Patrick.
Currently, a totally disabled veteran receives a 100% prop-
erty tax exemption. This bill extends the homestead exemp-
tion to their surviving spouse.
“When one of our brave soldiers becomes 100% disabled,
the family of that soldier has to make career decisions. Far
too often the spouses of these soldiers forgo career opportu-
nities and many reduce work hours, affecting their income
and retirement. The best care that can be given is from the
one you’ve exchanged vows with,” said Representative
Fletcher.
With the passage of this legislation, the spouse will retain
the total homestead exemption of their current home. If
they wish to move about the state, closer to family, or to
a different home, they will receive an exemption on their
homestead in the amount equal to the exemption they re-
ceived on their former homestead. This will provide the
spouse the fnancial peace of mind by ensuring that their
property tax exemption continues to be granted and will not
expire after the death of the disabled veteran.
Texas House of Representatives Honors U.S. Military by Passing Armed Forces Day Resolution
House Resolution 467 commemorates our Nation’s 61st Annual Armed Forces Day
The Texas House of Representatives adopted House
Resolution 467, authored by State Representa-
tive Four Price, commemorating the 61st Annual
Armed Forces Day, today, Saturday, May 21, 2011.
The Resolution recognizes the dedicated service
and immeasurable sacrifce of our nation’s military
personnel. Additionally, the Resolution extends to
all members of the nation’s military profound ap-
preciation for their steadfast and courageous efforts
on our country’s behalf.
“I encourage all Texans to join in recognition of
Armed Forces Day by saying a special “thank you”
to our current and former service members and their
families for all they do and have done to make our
country the beacon for freedom around the world,”
said Representative Price
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How To Avoid Cellphone ‘Bill Shock’
(ARA) - Some 30 million Americans have experienced cel-
lular bill shock, a surprise that comes along with receiving
unexpected - and expensive - charges when it comes time
to pay their monthly wireless bill.
Consumers are increasingly relying on wireless voice and
data devices to keep in touch with family and friends and,
of course, to conduct business. For this reason, the Federal
Communications Commission has launched an industry-
wide investigation into wireless billing practices that may
require carriers to notify users of overcharges and sudden
increases in their cellphone bills.
The investigation comes on the heels of an FCC survey that
indicated one in six mobile device users had experienced
unexpected increases in their bills that weren’t caused by
a change in service plans. The FCC also reports that of the
764 bill-shock complaints fled in the frst six months of
2010, 67 percent involved amounts that were $100 or more
than the user’s normal monthly cellphone bill.
Certain providers like Consumer Cellular are also doing
their part to help customers avoid expensive charges by of-
fering free mobile alerts when customers reach a certain
threshold of usage. Consumer Cellular users can choose
the usage level at which they would like to be issued an
alert and whether they’d like to receive the message by
email, text message or both.
In addition to fnding a provider that notifes its custom-
ers as they approach their monthly voice or data allotment,
following are additional steps consumers can take to avoid
bill shock:
Shop smart. Choose a wireless service that allows you to
change plans (both upgrading and downgrading) in the
middle of a bill cycle. This can help you avoid expensive
charges if you absolutely need to go over your minute or
data allotment.
Use minutes wisely. Listen to voicemails once and then de-
lete, since you’re using minutes each time you access your
voicemail from your cellphone. Retrieving your message
from a landline can also be a benefcial way to save on
minutes.
Consider free alternatives to 411. 411 can cost up to $2 per
use. Save 411 alternatives, such as 1-800-FREE-411 and
1-800-BING-411, in your phone so you can easily access
them when you need information.
Monitor your cellphone use. If you’re unsure about where
you stand on your minutes, check your account online.
Many companies also have a number you can text for up-
dated usage numbers or a toll free number you can call for
updates. Be aware of times that your voice and date usage
may spike such as holidays, birthdays, unexpected illness-
es, and other special times of the year.
The FCC also identifed the following common scenarios
where consumers incur unexpected extra charges:
* Making international or roaming calls without realizing
that you will be charged signifcantly more for minutes
used during those calls.
* Incurring charges for data plans when you are unaware
that you have such a plan.
* Being charged taxes and fees that were not made clear
when you signed up for your plan.
Taking the proper precautions to monitor your cellphone
use and enrolling with a provider that will help you stay
within your limits can end up saving hundreds of dollars in
overage fees. Take a minute to review your plan and fgure
out the best ways to monitor your usage. For more informa-
tion on how to avoid overage fees, visit www.consumercel-
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Page 11
The Smart Way To Go From Renting To Owning
(ARA) - If you’ve paid attention to any news media over
the past few years, you know that the housing market has
dropped off. From a seller’s perspective, that makes life a
lot harder. But for a buyer, it can mean a wider world of
options and opportunities. For those want to become own-
ers rather than renters, it’s vitally important to make smart
decisions - as the markets have shown.
Many factors contribute to the real estate market’s current
sluggishness, and one of them is the fact that lenders are
reluctant to give loans to homebuyers. After the housing
market crisis, it’s not surprising that they would be more
demanding in their lending practices, but for those eager to
buy, it means that you need to present a pristine fnancial
profle.
There’s no limit to the amount of real estate browsing you
can do - either online or in your ideal neighborhood - but
before you get serious about purchasing a home, take these
tips into consideration.
* Pay down your debt. Before you even apply for a mort-
gage, it’s important that you reduce your debt load. The
smaller it is, the better for your debt-to-income ratio, which
lenders use to determine how much they’ll allow you to
borrow. Items like car loans, child support and alimony,
credit card bills and student loans are all factors that the
lender will consider. Paying down debt can have the added
beneft of improving your credit, as well.
* Check up on your credit. Having good credit is another
essential element in smart home buying - it can affect how
lenders view you, and the terms of your mortgage. The bet-
ter shape your credit is in, the better your potential to get
the mortgage of your dreams. Every year, you’re entitled
to a free credit report from one of the three major reporting
agencies, like Equifax. Use it as a starting point that will
give you an idea of your overall credit picture. Look for
areas that can be improved upon and track your progress by
checking your credit again after you’ve put in some work
to bring it up.
* Make the biggest down payment possible. The era of
zero-down is over, and for good reason. A down payment -
and a sizeable one - can help ease the strain of a mortgage
in coming years. A minimum of 20 percent down is a good
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idea, and if you can do more than that, so much the
better. If you don’t think you can afford a down
payment of 20 percent or more on a house you’re
considering, it might be time to shop around for a
less expensive home that is more budget friendly.
* Be an informed buyer. There is a seemingly end-
less list of things to know about buying a home,
and the faster you want to buy, the faster you’ll
need to learn it all. One of the best things you can
do is take a first-time homebuyer class offered by
a reputable organization - some cities even offer
them for free. Be sure you know the ins and outs
of items like closing costs, adjustable rate versus
fixed rate mortgages, how your credit report af-
fects mortgage rates and the documentation you’ll
need to get a mortgage. The more you know, the
better equipped you’ll be to make smart decisions
that will make you a happy homeowner for years
to come.
Page 13
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Clearing Clutter And Going Green Go Hand In Hand
(ARA) - These days, we’re all trying to make small chang-
es in our everyday habits to live a little more “green,” from
switching to energy-effcient light bulbs to carrying reus-
able shopping bags and composting kitchen waste. But
many don’t realize that one of the easiest ways to be more
eco-friendly is by de-cluttering and donating gently used
items that you’re no longer using.
“We know millions of families across the country are al-
ready clearing out their clutter with spring cleaning,” says
Tony Shumpert, vice president of recycling and supply
chain operations for Savers, Inc., a thrift store chain. “By
donating these items, instead of simply throwing them
away, you can give back to the community and save quality
goods from polluting the earth. In fact, we operate one of
the largest recycling programs in the world, keeping more
than 500 million pounds of goods out of landflls last year
alone.”
But if the thought of going green has you turning red in
exhaustion, consider some of these tips to make the task
easier:
* Bring a friend in to help with spring cleaning. Not only
can the two of you spend a great afternoon together, but
your friend can also give you an objective opinion as you
sort through items to keep or donate.
* Be organized about getting organized. Start in one cor-
ner of one room, and make your way around the room in
a circle. Don’t move on to the next room until you are fn-
ished with the frst. If you need to take a break, go for it, but
always return to where you left off.
* Designate a specifc place for donations. Your “clutter
corner” should be in a handy, but out-of-the-way location
in your home. Encourage family members to place items -
clothes, toys, housewares - that they aren’t using any longer
into the bin. For parents, your children will see that gently
used items shouldn’t be thrown away, and something they
don’t want any longer can have a new life with someone
else.
* Be realistic about what you think you want to keep. If you
haven’t worn that shirt in more than a year, it’s ready to go.
Another way to determine what to donate is to put items
you’re not sure about into a box. Seal it and store it. If you
haven’t opened that box a year later, donate the entire thing.
Chances are, you don’t have a clue what’s in the box and
don’t need it.
* Know your nearest donation drop. Once you’ve designat-
ed items to donate, you don’t have to spend hours tracking
down a location to drop your items off. Simply visit www.
communitydonationcenter.com to fnd a nearby Commu-
nity Donation Center where you can drop off your goods.
This site also provides a list of nonprofts in your area with
donation home pick-up service where they’ll come straight
to your door to collect donations.
“Even donations not suitable for resale, or that just don’t
sell on our shelves, fnd a second life with Savers,” says
Shumpert. “A portion of these goods are sent to developing
countries where they support micro-economies and help
improve the lives of people in other parts of the world. Re-
maining items are sold to domestic material wholesalers
who recycle the products into new materials such as wiping
rags, car insulation and much more.”
Another bonus to donating your gently used goods - Savers
partners with more than 140 nonprofts and pays these or-
ganizations for every item they collect. These partnerships
turn otherwise unused goods into sustainable funding that
supports the nonprofts’ programs and services.
When you donate your unused items to Savers’ nonproft
partners, another person can put them to use, which helps
save space in landflls, and charitable organizations in your
area will beneft as well. And you can feel good about tak-
ing one more step toward living a little greener.
Page 16
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3.99%and $33.69 at 12.99%. Offer good only in the U.S., excluding the state of Hawaii. Dress properly for your ride with a helmet, eye protection, gloves and boots. Do not drink and ride.
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