Texas is very unique in that our state legislature only meets for 140 consecutive days every other year. Our system creates the limited government atmosphere that Texans have long enjoyed. However, it also means that when we are in session we have only a short period of time to address our priorities or else we must wait another 18 months for the next legislature to convene.
The 82nd Legislative Session has now crossed the halfway point and I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on the accomplishments made, my own legislative package and the work left to do before session ends on May 30th.
The Governor’s Emergency Items
I am pleased to report that the Texas House of Representatives has already passed legislation requiring photographic identification to vote in public elections and an informed consent bill that instructs women seeking to have an abortion to first have a sonogram procedure performed. Each of these initiatives were priorities of mine coming into this session, and with two months left to go, the legislature simply needs to address the small differences between the House and Senate passed versions for each to reach the Governor’s desk.
Eminent domain reform, ending the practice of “sanctuary cities” and passing a resolution expressing Texas’ desire for the federal government to adopt a balanced budget amendment remain as emergency items that the Texas House still must address. I am hopeful that in the weeks to come that these key items will be brought before the Texas House so that we will have a chance to make meaningful improvements to private property rights, illegal immigration and fiscal policy.
The State Budget
While the emergency items are very important, the most critical, immediate issue to address is the state budget. The Texas Legislature is tasked with addressing our state’s revenue shortfall by striking the necessary balance between fiscal prudence and providing necessary public services. The House Appropriations Committee has presented a draft budget to the full membership and I look forward to representing you in the upcoming budget debates. There is still much work to be done on this important issue but I am confident that lawmakers will ultimately craft a budget that meets our core spending priorities and continues Texas’ time honored tradition of not raising taxes and living within our available means.
Every ten years our state lawmakers are tasked with redrawing our legislative, congressional and State Board of Education districts. This process, known as redistricting, must occur during this legislative session in order to ensure that we maintain equal representation across our vast state. Denton County of course, has much to gain through this redistricting process. Our tremendous growth in population has earned Denton County an extra seat in the State House, will increase our presence in each of our three State Senate districts and possibly see part of Denton County join a new North Texas Congressional District.
My friend and Denton County colleague, Representative Burt Solomons, is tasked with chairing the House Redistricting Committee and he has done an excellent job of navigating this complicated process and keeping our legislature on schedule for adopting new maps in time for the 2012 election.
This session I filed a collection of bills along the lines of: economic growth, greater government efficiency, improving our children’s well being, lake recreational safety, effectively managing urban drilling. Just recently, I presented before house committees legislation that will: change our state procurement practice to save millions of taxpayer dollars each year, improve foster care and promote more efficient adoption processes, prioritize gas well inspections in urban counties, double the fine limits of gas well environmental non-compliance in urban counties, encourage new manufacturing facilities to come to Texas and better educate water enthusiasts as to how to safely enjoy our public waterways. In the days to come, I look forward to presenting these bills to the full House of Representatives, as well as other bills I authored that have already been reported favorably from their respective committees.
As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives. Please feel free to contact me at my Capitol office at 512.463.0688 or by e-mail at [email protected] if I can ever be of service.