At the beginning of the new year, I always pause and take a moment to reflect on my responsibilities from the prior year and those of the new year upon us. One year ago, I was getting ready to begin my second legislative session as your State Representative. I love the thrill and excitement that comes with beginning a new legislative session. One hundred and fifty elected members gather together in the House Chamber to debate and decide on state policy that will directly affect our families, friends, business colleagues, and neighbors. Each Representative comes to session armed and ready to pass his or her legislative agenda that encompasses what he or she believes to be the key ingredients for sustaining and improving the great state of Texas.
This past session not only allowed me to take on new significant roles in my committees, but also provided me the opportunity to pass legislation from my bill package. Looking back over 2009, I am filled with gratitude for my experiences in the State Legislature and I now realize how these past experiences shape my expectations for the future. With the arrival of 2010, one of my major initiatives is assuring the success of legislation I passed during the 2009 Legislative Session.
Among other accomplishments, my legislative package created three exploratory committees. Each committee is comprised of Texas citizens that are experts in the specific field that the legislation focuses on; and the members of each committee will meet to discuss the challenges with our current state policy and formulate recommendations for improvements.
I authored a bill creating the Adoption Review Committee so that adoption experts from the private and public sector may conduct a full review of the state’s adoption process to identify opportunities that will accelerate the permanent placement of Texas’ foster children. With statistics concluding that children who “age out” of the system make up 88% of all incarcerated youths and young adults, there is a great need to move children out of the state’s care and into permanent homes. This committee will target methods to improve adoption efficiency in Texas so that we no longer have approximately 6,000 children in the state’s custody.
Part of why so many children are in the state’s care is because between 2001 and 2005 the number of children placed in foster care due to child abuse increased by thirty percent. In an effort to attack the problem from both ends, I also authored the creation of the Task Force to Reduce Child Abuse and Neglect. This task force will look at ways to treat and reduce child abuse and neglect while improving child welfare in Texas. The committee is responsible for developing innovative ways to protect our children so that a child will no longer be abused or neglected every eleven minutes in Texas.
Lastly, I was also privileged to create the Advisory Panel on Recreational Boating Safety. In Texas, our number of boating fatalities per number of registered water vessels is double the national average, and non-fatal boating injuries have risen by 71 percent since 2005. This appointed panel will have the opportunity to thoroughly study these issues across Texas, and make recommendations to the Legislature as to how to improve upon our current state of lake recreational safety.
You can rest assured that I will be following the progress of these citizens’ committees closely and looking for ways to translate their recommendations into meaningful legislation next session.