Editor’s Note: This is the second of two reports by Senator Nelson on the accomplishments of the legislative session.
One of the greatest things about representing Denton and Tarrant Counties in the Texas Senate is that the people of our community are very clear in their priorities. We want state government to meet our basic needs by providing quality education to our children, protect our most vulnerable citizens, and fix our highways. We expect these objectives to be met within the confines of what we can afford. And we appreciate it when our elected leaders actually listen to the people we represent.
Over the years, some of my best pieces of legislation come from ideas shared by you — my constituents. This session was no different, and — after sharing my thoughts on the major issues of the 82nd legislature in the last column — this is what I worked on personally this session. At the beginning of the session, I filed 77 bills — 68 percent of which eventually became law. And before you say that we don’t need a lot of new laws (I agree!), understand that it takes a new law to get rid of an old one. Here are the highlights:
NTTA fines: In the last 18 months, I heard from 160 constituents who were being charged exorbitant fees after missing tolls on roads operated by the North Texas Tollway Authority. As a result, I filed and passed a new law limiting NTTA to one $25 invoice fee regardless of how many missed tolls for drivers who pay within 30 days of receiving notice.
Barnett Shale: Those of us living in the Barnett Shale are grateful for the economic benefits of natural gas drilling. We also have concerns about the environmental impact. That is why I worked hard to make Texas the first state in the nation to require oil and gas operators publicly disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing liquid. This disclosure requirement demonstrates our commitment to maximize the economic benefits of the Barnett Shale in a way that also protects our environment and the public health. I also co-authored a new law that adds up to 20 air monitors in the Barnett Shale.
DCTA: Transportation is one of our region’s top issues, and the A-train is the latest tool to improve mobility. This session I passed legislation giving the Denton County Transportation Authority flexibility to expand its rail service to other interested communities.
Government Efficiency : Reducing waste and fraud was a big priority this session, and I passed two bills to eliminate redundant reporting requirements for state agencies and higher education. Some of these reporting requirements were decades old, and ending them will save millions of dollars for our colleges and universities.
Foster care/guardianship : As Chairman of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee, it is my responsibility to make sure government programs are serving the most vulnerable, including children and the elderly. That is why I worked to redesign the state’s foster care system to help children displaced due to abuse and neglect remain in their home communities where they have access to valuable support networks. We also strengthened protections against the exploitation of seniors and increased protections of wards in guardianship.
Food safety : In recent years, outbreaks of food-borne illnesses in fresh produce spotlighted the need for greater consumer protections. Texans will be protected because of my legislation closing a loophole in the inspection process for entities that harvest, wash, package or ship raw produce.
These are examples of the Legislature responding to the needs of Texans. Now that we have finished our work, the 181 citizens who make up the Legislature can fulfill the vision of our state’s founders — to go home and live under the laws we make.
Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, is Chairman of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee.