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Texas’ wacky laws and everlasting myths

Commissioner Cook's Column

  • 19 August 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 2082

Oil painting of the Capitol in cubism abstract by Round Rock artist Anita de la Cruz. In 1882, the state offered  3 million acres of seemingly worthless Western plains to anyone who would finance the Capitol’s construction, and some Illinois investors took the bait plus  snared an extra 50,000 acres.

If you believe this last session of the Texas Legislature was full of unbelievably bad bills and resolutions, you may need to study Texas history. This is a state of tall tales, big lies and stellar memoirs. 

If you’ve not read the two-volume set “Texas” by James Michener, might be time to check out those tomes from the library. Weaving fiction, folklore and the truth, Michener sets the stage for modern-day Texas, its people, legislators and attitudes.

Urinating in public is probably prohibited everywhere in the United States, but if you do it on the Alamo, it becomes a state jail felony defined in the Texas Penal Code as criminal mischief of a public monument. There are restrooms there.

In Austin, evidently it is illegal to loiter anywhere in the city limits with the intention of flirting. Those heading out to Sixth Street on a Saturday night might want to take heed.

On that note, don’t go leaning on the bar when drinking beer. Apparently there was a law declaring it illegal to take three sips of beer while standing up. Perhaps that’s the reason there’s so many bar stools.

Marriage ceremonies when one or both people are serving in the military out of the country can occur with properly documented proxies. Virtual is not a new concept here – more like an out-of-body experience.

Regarding marriage, there’s more. Texas does allow for “informal” marriages. A couple can agree to live together and refer to each other as spouses without a marriage license. No state law would recognize them as married after a certain period of time. However, there is no common law divorce so should you part, division of property is not approved by the courts. One or both of the parties would need to file suit to establish the existence of a “marriage” for legal support of a divorce.

Wilco in Red Phase of COVID-19 Transmission - Commissioner Cook Urges Residents To Be Cautious & Wear Masks

Information from Wilco's Public Information Office and the Williamson County and Cities Health District

  • 21 July 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 2263

White outline image of a male wearing a mask with red background - Carnegie Mellon UniversityThe criteria set by the Williamson County and Cities Health District (WCCHD) for Williamson County to increase to COVID-19 Red Phase was reached on July 17. 

The incidence for July 19 is at 14.54 per 100k people, which has more than doubled in the past week, and has increased 6.5 times since the end of June.

The TSA Region O hospitalization has also increased daily in the past week, which is the second criteria for moving up a phase. Hospitalization rate remains fairly low at 4.65% but has more than doubled in the past fourteen days.

Age ranges with the most cases are those 18-30 years, followed by those 31-50 years.

The color-based Phase Guidelines are not changes to local rules or regulations for businesses; they are guidelines for individual actions and behaviors based on levels of risk of exposure in the community. 

It is important to note that everyone should continue to follow any additional requirements of local businesses, venues, and schools regardless of vaccination status or stage.

With the rapid increase of new cases, the following is recommended for all regardless of vaccination status:
• Wear a mask to protect yourself and others and stop the spread of COVID-19.
• Stay at least 6 feet from others who don’t live with you.
• Avoid crowds. The more people you are in contact with, the more likely you are to be exposed to COVID-19.

Emphasis on improving outcomes for those with mental illness

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 15 July 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 2181

Williamson County Commissioner Terry Cook, bottom right, visits with Assistant Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Kathleen Pokluda, bottom left, along with, from left in back, deputy Fernando Ortiz and corrections officers Terry Hargrove and Brandon McBay at the Williamson County sheriff’s office in Georgetown. I have written about the work of our Mobile Outreach Team assisting those in mental crisis situations who now works in concert with Bluebonnet Trails Community Services for 24/7 coverage throughout the county.

I’ve written about the mental health work in our courts, balancing the law with an individualized approach to best suit the accused suffering from mental illness.

Soon, coming to us all will be the response “911, do you need police, fire, EMS or mental health services?” I’ll write about this later this year.

Six months in, how has our sheriff’s office evolved to appropriately work with those suffering from mental health challenges?

Individuals with mental illness are inordinately represented in arrests and incarcerations in our country’s jails.

Mike Gleason campaigned in 2016 to be our sheriff as the candidate with a demonstrated background of compassionate mental health work both inside and outside law enforcement. Has that translated into a kinder workforce in Williamson County’s patrols and jail?

Below is a letter from an inmate with mental illness to his mom that she shared with Sheriff Gleason and allowed me to share here:

ok mama heres my letter, now just sayin, idk the sheriffs name but here we go,

to the sheriff of williamson county, ... i am an inmate of the county jail and at the time of this letter i will have been here 37 days, i must give praise where it is due sir/ ma'am, this is my 2nd stay in your facility however i am extremely surprised that it has changed so much since my 1st visit. during my st stay, which was 88 days, i witnessed 18 people get tazed, not that im able to say they deserved it or not but this time im glad to say that not 1 individual has been tazed, your CO's and deputeys have more compassion 

Commissioner Cook Presents Juneteenth Proclamation

Approved by Commissioners Court Tuesday, June 15

  • 18 June 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 2386

WHEREAS, Juneteenth recognizes that on June 19, 1865, almost three years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Union General Gordon Granger announced in Galveston the freedom of all slaves throughout Texas with these words, “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free,”; and

WHEREAS, Juneteenth has been a long-time, official state holiday honoring the courageous Black Texans who have long struggled for civil rights in the 156 years since General Granger’s proclamation; and

WHEREAS, Williamson County residents value historical truth, ethnic heritage, and culture, which accurately reflects the real lives and struggles of African-Americans past, present, and future; and

WHEREAS, let us all be reminded that our nation, state, and county have not yet achieved its full potential.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT PROCLAIMED, that the Williamson County Commissioners Court takes hereby recognizes and proclaims, June 19, 2021 as:


Courts transition from virtual to in-person

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 20 May 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 2383

At the Williamson County Justice Center courtrooms, plexiglass barriers have been placed at each counsel table, on the bar and at the podium where lawyers address the jury, which is seated in the gallery to maintain social distancing

When the state of emergency for COVID-19 was declared in March 2020, the Williamson County Justice Center, assisted by county departments such as IT and others, was able to conduct business throughout the shutdown.

“We knew that the ‘wheels of justice’ had to keep turning, so we did what you do in a desperate situation, we came together and figured it out,” said Judge Donna King of the 26th district court.

They didn’t just figure it out, they excelled at conducting daily business and holding court hearings virtually.

King also credits the support from the Commissioners Court.

This March, the emergency order permitted courts to begin holding in-person proceedings following COVID-19 prevention standards but encouraged them to continue remote proceedings through June 1.

King held her first in-person jury trial on April 13, describing it as “almost a feeling of relief to be back in a jury trial.”

Although the logistics of the proceedings looked very different from the prepandemic jury trial, they had turned a corner and their hard work of planning paid off.

She described feeling a sense of pride that those summoned to appear for jury duty honored their responsibility to the community. They showed up, participated and seemed to share in this “corporate” sense of relief that the proceedings were well-organized and COVID-protocol compliant.

While virtual jury trials were conducted during the shutdown in other counties, Wilco courts didn’t, citing a lack of control over procedure and adherence to the rules of trial, exposure to information outside the proceeding and constraints on litigants’ rights to confront their accusers fully and appropriately.

Before the shutdown, jury trials involved large cattle calls of prospective jurors and a flurry of activity to see which case would be selected, all in-person. The court now has implemented limitations on the number of cases heard per day and plans that reduce the number of people convened at the courthouse.


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