Paxton: Capitol Christmas Tree

By Ken Paxton
State Representative

Like last year, the Texas Speaker of the House provided each Representative a plain, clear-glass ornament and requested us to have the ornaments decorated in a manner that represents our districts. The ornaments from the 150 House districts in Texas will adorn the Christmas tree at the Capitol building in Austin until January 4, 2011.

This year, I commissioned Natalie Clark, a fifth-grade student at Legacy Christian Academy in Frisco, to create the ornament for my district. Natalie was recommended by her teachers, Mrs. Dyer and Mrs. Mayberry. I asked Natalie to use her creativity to illustrate the true, historical meaning of Christmas. She decorated the ornament with a cross to represent Jesus Christ and flowers to represent all people. She was inspired by a garden she had seen at Easter time.

Natalie’s favorite subject is, of course, art. She has loved to draw, paint and engage in creative activities since she was able to hold a crayon. Natalie was awarded a gold medal at the Association of Christian Schools International Art Festival in 2009 for drawing and in 2010 for painting.

Natalie is thrilled that she was given this special opportunity to represent the 70th district and glorify God with her artwork. She really enjoyed creating the ornament and is looking forward to visiting Austin to see the state Christmas tree decorated with ornaments from around Texas.

Glendy Valdez of Frisco, Texas, made the ornament for District 70 in 2009. These ornaments are seen and enjoyed by thousands of visitors who enter the Capitol during the holiday season, and every ornament helps showcase the diversity and grand history of Texas. The ornaments from 2009 and 2010 have been photographed and catalogued so that visitors to the House Chamber and House website will learn about each ornament’s story, and a permanent record of each year’s tree will be maintained. To view all of the ornaments on the Capitol Christmas Tree this year and for 2009, please visit

Vet to Vet USA Christmas

Vet to Vet USA and the Rotary joined the McKinney Courier-Gazette in feeding and clothing injured Vets in Bonham on Dec. 22, Dallas on Dec. 23 and across the state at the VA hospitals. Thanks for your donations of winter coats, gloves, caps and phone cards for the injured who are a long way from home for the holidays. Look for Vet to Vet USA on and at

Rep. Paxton gaining endorsements for Speaker of Texas House

East Texas Conservative Members Flynn, Hughes, Berman, and Christian Endorse Ken Paxton for Speaker

State representatives Dan Flynn, Bryan Hughes, Leo Berman, and Wayne Christian today declared their intention to support conservative State Rep. Ken Paxton for Texas House Speaker.

In announcing his support, Rep. Dan Flynn said, “As Speaker, Ken Paxton will allow each of us to support the conservative agenda that we have been elected on. Ken is a solid fiscal conservative who was here in 2003, so he has important experience in addressing a budget shortfall without raising taxes. Working with him over the last 8 years, I’ve learned he’s a man of integrity who will make an excellent Speaker.”

Rep. Bryan Hughes stated, “Ken and I came into the House together as part of the Republican majority back in 2002. Ken is smart, hard-working, and completely trustworthy. He has a fair, even-handed style, and his conservative credentials are beyond question. Ken is uniquely qualified to be Speaker at this time in our history, and I fully support him.”

Rep. Leo Berman said, “I promised my voters that I would advance legislation to protect ballot integrity through voter ID, secure the Texas border, and reign in illegal immigration in Texas. Ken Paxton believes in these very principles and will work tirelessly to stand up for Texas, which is why I publicly support him as Speaker of the Texas House.”

Rep. Wayne Christian stated, “As President of the Texas Conservative Coalition, I have fought for a conservative agenda of lower taxes, fiscal discipline, putting Texans to work, and a growing economy. Ken Paxton gives the Texas Legislature the best opportunity to advance the platform that my constituents have elected me to support. Our current speaker was elected overwhelmingly with support of Democrats, and I believe conservatives deserve better.”

In receiving these latest endorsements, Paxton responded “I have been encouraged and inspired by members and members-elect who, despite enormous pressure to make a politically expedient decision, have demonstrated tremendous courage in standing up for the principles upon which they were elected. Today, I’m honored to have the support of Wayne, Leo, Bryan and Dan, as they join our growing team.

We are witnessing a truly transforming moment in Texas politics, as citizens across the state are demanding that debate on the race for Texas House Speaker continue. Powerful forces who have a vested interest in the re-election of the current Speaker wish for the process to be ended, conservative voices be silenced, and the status quo be maintained. Texans across the state, however, have said very clearly: ‘Let the Debate Continue.’”

State Rep. Dan Flynn was first elected in 2002 and represents District 2 including Hunt, Rains and Van Zandt counties. District 5 State Rep. Bryan Hughes was elected in 2002 and represents Wood, Camp, Upshur and Harrison counties. Rep. Leo Berman has represented portions of Smith County in the Texas House since his election in 1998. District 9 Rep. Wayne Christian, first elected to the House in 1996, represents the counties of Nacogdoches, Shelby, San Augustine, Sabine and Jasper.

Hall votes to cut spending, taxes

WASHINGTON, DC … As the 111th session of Congress prepared for adjournment, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX/4) applauded House Republicans’ solidarity in voting to cut taxes for all Americans and cut federal spending levels. “Creating jobs, cutting spending, and changing how Congress does business are the goals for the Republican Majority in the House next year, and these votes are a good first step,” Hall said.

Today Hall joined a nearly unanimous Republican Conference in voting against a resolution that would continue to fund the federal government at current high levels, but the bill passed by a vote of 193 – 165. “We needed a bill that cuts spending and puts our nation on the path for a balanced budget,” Hall said. “Republicans were not able to offer an alternative bill with spending cuts, but we were able to extract a short-term funding bill, through March 4, 2011, instead of a year-long funding bill at elevated spending levels.”

“Republicans will have the opportunity to eliminate wasteful spending as early as March of next year, and as the Chairman-Elect of the Committee on Science and Technology, I will work with my Committee Members to suggest some of those cuts,” Hall noted. “House Speaker-Elect Boehner is proposing a plan to cut spending back to pre-bailout and pre-stimulus 2008 levels, which would save taxpayers nearly $100 billion a year, and the Republican Conference also has adopted a ban on earmarks in the next Congress.”

Last week, the House approved H.R. 4853, a bill to prevent the January 1st tax hikes that would have affected every taxpayer and would have further weakened the economy. “Republicans in the House and Senate made sure that extension of the Bush tax cuts applied to all Americans – from the lowest to the highest income brackets – to help boost the economy and prevent more job losses,” Hall said. “With almost one in ten Americans out of work, we need to stop all tax hikes and provide incentives for small businesses to stay in business. We also need to work to permanently eliminate the death tax that affects small businesses, farmers, and families.”

Specifically, the tax bill provides a two-year extension of all current tax rates, as well as the 15 percent rate on capital gains and dividends. It also extends the child tax credit, the earned income tax credit, marriage penalty relief, and the American Opportunity tax credit.
The bill sets the death tax rate at 35 percent with an exemption amount of $5 million and provides a one-year payroll-tax reduction, a two-year AMT patch, 100 percent expensing for small businesses, extension of the R&D business tax credit, and continues a number of refundable tax credits. It also provides additional unemployment insurance benefits.

“Republicans made a Pledge to America in the last election, and we will work to honor that pledge to create jobs, reduce the deficit, and change how Congress works,” Hall said. “House Republicans have adopted new rules to increase transparency and accountability and ensure that the 112th Congress is focused on the priorities of the American people – especially reducing spending.”

A new Cut-Go rule will prohibit consideration of any suspension bill that creates a new program unless it eliminates or reduces a program of equal or greater size. Republicans also will prohibit any suspension bill that increases authorizations, appropriations, or direct spending unless fully offset, as well as bills that are commemorative or congratulatory in nature. In addition, bills and votes will be posted on-line for the American people to review.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues in the 112th Congress to strengthen the economy, create jobs, and return the federal government to fiscal responsibility by cutting spending and working towards a balanced budget,” Hall said. “I also look forward to repealing the disastrous health bill passed by this Administration.”

“The American people expect – and deserve – the best from their elected representatives. We have been given an opportunity to meet their expectations in the next Congress.”

What’s your advice on holidays, decorations?

By Carrie T. Brazeal, CFCS


QUESTION: I will soon be taking down my holiday decorations. How is
the best way to store them?

ANSWER: Many of our seasonal decorations represent a great investment
in time, money and fond memories. They deserve proper care and storage
and should be cleaned and organized each year in a way that will best
preserve them.

According to Linda Adler, Extension Specialists for Home Furnishings,
look decorations over as they are taken down from display. Some
washable decorations, such as tablecloths, should be laundered before
storing. Dusty ornaments or other decorations should be wiped clean.
Tree lights should also be wiped clean but be sure to disconnect any
electrical items before doing so. This is also a good time to check for
and replace burned-out bulbs.

Since many holiday decorations are fragile, be sure they are well
packed and stored properly. Use large, sturdy cardboard boxes for
storing bulbs, ornaments and lights. Select boxes that are fairly
shallow but large enough so that two or three boxes hold all tree

Wrap fragile bulbs and ornaments in tissue paper. Stack the remaining
ornaments (from heavy to light) on layers of tissue paper. Angel hair
and tinsel can be stored between ornaments for added protection. Remove
hooks and hangers from each ornament and store them separately in a
small box or envelope. Gather strings of tree lights carefully to avoid
tangles. Wrap loosely around a large, flat piece of cardboard. Store
the tree stand in its original box.

After the boxes are packed, clearly label the contents on the outside
of each box and then fill the box with the same items from year to year.
You will consider the time used in carefully packing the boxes as well
spent when you get the ornaments out for the next holiday season.

Designate an area in a closet, attic or garage as holiday storage and
use the same space each year. Clean the storage area thoroughly each
year before returning the decorations to it. Keep boxes off the floor to
keep moisture out. If stored in an attic or outside garage, be sure
that extreme temperature and humidity changes will not harm any of the
items in the boxes. Your holiday candles will not survive a summer in
the attic – trust me!

QUESTION: Why do Southerners eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day?

ANSWER: Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s has been a Southern
tradition for over a century. There are countless tales explaining the
reason for eating this cream-colored pea (actually a bean) with a
black-eye in the center. One theme runs throughout all the folklore:
the pea is supposed to bring good luck. The early stories center around
post-Civil War days when a band of Sherman’s Northern invaders left
most of the South’s countryside bleak and bare. Many a Southern
family considered themselves lucky to have black-eyed peas, cornbread
and a bit of hog jowl. Folklore also promises that a person will earn a
dollar for every pea that he eats on New Year’s Day. At this rate,
even if you ate a dozen tablespoonfuls, you would only earn $1000 per
year. When this tale started, many a Southern planter would have been
glad to have this type of annual income.

Carrie T. Brazeal is the County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer
Sciences for Texas AgriLife Extension Service-Collin County. She may be
reached at or 972.548.4233 or metro 972.424.1460,
Ext. 4233.

Surveillance camera catches Christmas present thief in act

Know this Grinch? McKinney Police are looking for a man who put a decoy package at the front door and then took off with freshly delivered Christmas gifts. Please contact McKinney Police if you have information on this man before he does it again.

McKinney ISD All-Region Band

McKinney ISD high school band students recently
competed against students from Sherman, Denison, Love Joy, Wylie, Allen
and Plano, for a spot in the TMEA Region 25 All-Region Band. To audition
and be selected into the All-Region Band is a great honor and reward for
outstanding musicianship.

A total of 1,700 high school band students from across the region
participated in the auditions with 225 of those students selected to the
All-Region bands. A total of 71 band students from McKinney ISD high
schools were selected to the All-Region bands making up 31 percent of
the total students selected to the All-Region bands. Twenty-seven of
these students also qualified to move on to Area “C” auditions for
the chance to become an All-State Band Member, which will be held in
Tyler on January 8, 2011. If a student does well at Area auditions they
become a member of the All-State Band, which is the ultimate honor that
can be bestowed upon a high school band student in the state of Texas.

“Students who participate in the All-Region band tryout process must
prepare three pieces of music that are very difficult and perform them
in front of three judges,” said Roy Renzenbrink, Director of Fine Arts
for McKinney ISD. “By preparing and going through the process they
cannot help but become better musicians. We are extremely proud to have
so many musicians selected to be part of the Region 25 All-Region Band.
Region 25 is full of very talented high school musicians. It is a
tribute to their hard work and the excellent teaching of their fine band
directors. Their concert will be magnificent.”

Students participating in the regional auditions are rated by a panel
of judges and then placed in one of five regional bands, Wind Ensemble,
4A Honors, Symphonic, Concert, or 9th Grade Honors, based on their
overall performance. Wind Ensemble is the highest placement a student
musician can receive. All TMEA Region 25 All-Region bands will perform
in concert on Friday, January 28, 2011, starting at 6:30 p.m. in the
auditorium at McKinney North High School.

McKinney North High School had a total of 13 band students selected to
the TMEA Region 25 4A All-Region Band. In addition eight of those
students advanced to TMEA Area C competition.

McKinney High School had 26 students selected to the TMEA Region 25 4A
All-Region Band. 16 of those same students advanced to the TMEA Area C

McKinney Boyd High School had a total of 32 band students selected to
the TMEA Region 25 5A All-Region Band. In addition seven of those
students advanced to TMEA Area C competition.

Below are the 2010 High School All Region Band selections from McKinney

McKinney Boyd High School
Mandi Sadler – Flute
Michelle Dulock – Flute
Maya Kaul – Flute
Charleen Morrison – Oboe
Gretchen Eggers – English Horn
Ryan Brinkman – Bassoon
Caitlin Champiny – Eb Clarinet
Jessica Piechotta – Bb Clarinet
Nick VandenBush – Bb Clarinet
Parker Lessman – Bb Clarinet
Ivan Ley – Bass Clarinet
Ethan Muckelbauer – Bass Clarinet
Tim Britt – Bass Clarinet
Rajat Suresh – Alto Sax
Rajiv Suresh – Tenor Sax
Carlton Adams – Bari Sax
Kindle Pierce – Trumpet
Conor Wagner – Trumpet
Ryan Sinclair – Trumpet
Sean Wagner – Trumpet
Mitchell Wassom – Trumpet
Nick Aller – Trumpet
Tim Morrison – French Horn
Cameron Price – French Horn
Will Griffith – Trombone
Ryan McMullin – Trombone
Josh Yancey – Euphonium
Jobin Mathew – Euphonium
Hunter Heinrichs – Tuba
Ben Reed – Tuba
Tyler Johnson – Percussion
Praveen Satarasinghe – Percussion

McKinney High School
Connor Hampton -Alto Saxophone
Ben Johnson -Alto Saxophone
Rachel Bennett -Clarinet
Cody Gajak -Clarinet
Ryan Gonzalez -Clarinet
Kailey Kelly -Clarinet
Maggie Korte -Clarinet
Lauren Reagan -Clarinet
Samantha Early -Clarinet
Zach Friesenhahn -Trumpet
Caitlin Roberts -Trumpet
Andrew Buikema -English Horn
Mark Bakke -Euphonium
Drew Mills -Euphonium
Kenny Baird -Horn
Katie Morris -Horn
Ashley Salazar -Horn
Kayla Crowley -Flute
Carly Prince -Flute
Kyle Richter -Oboe
Jacob Essy -Trombone
Daniel Hutchinson -Tuba
Alec Kelly -Tuba
Michael Raibick -Tuba
Austin Prince -Tenor Saxophone
Matthew Roberts -Percussion

McKinney North High School
Ana Viramontes -Piccolo
Katie Waller -Flute
David Saul -Bassoon
Emily Moreland -E-flat Clarinet
Gbohunmi Fawehinmi -Clarinet
Felipe Vargas -Clarinet
Brandon Parrent – Alto Clarinet
Jamie Lanagan -Bass Clarinet
Tia Sales -Contra Clarinet
Osmar Marroquin -Trumpet
Garrett Holton -Bass Trombone
Wyatt Boyer -Tuba
Kyle Kotasenski -Tuba

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