Even though the Texas Legislature only meets in regular session for 140 days each odd-numbered year to create and amend state laws, lawmakers remain actively engaged in public policy all throughout the two-year cycle. In fact, a successful legislative session would not be possible without the months of research and preparation that takes place each interim in anticipation of the next legislative session.
To help focus and prioritize this important work, House leadership recently released interim charges for the 83rd Legislature. These charges are given to each standing committee in the Texas House, and enable state lawmakers to thoroughly review, critique and recommend legislative changes for the next session. Over the next 10 months, lawmakers will be working diligently to identify key legislative priorities for the 84th Legislative Session, with many of the topics to be addressed of particularly high importance to Denton County.
Much of the 83rd Legislative Session was focused on reforming and rejuvenating our state’s education system, and I was very pleased to see that we were able to make some strong headway in this area. With the passage of several important pieces of legislation, students are now given the flexibility they need to pursue their individual interests, teachers and students have more time for meaningful classroom instruction as opposed to “teaching to the test,” and high school seniors are given more opportunities to attend some of our state’s flagship universities.
Both the House Public Education Committee and the Higher Education Committee have been charged to review and evaluate the implementation of some of these key accomplishments, while also looking at further innovative ways to continue to strengthen our state’s education system. The Public Education Committee will be looking specifically at further options for improving student achievement beyond standardized test scores, and the Higher Education Committee will be studying new strategies for funding General Academic institutions to increase focus on improving student learning and success rather than seat time.
Another top focus from last legislative session that we will continue to tackle during the interim is the importance of establishing the infrastructure in our state necessary to accommodate for future growth. While the 83rd Legislature successfully increased funding for the State Water Plan and the State Highway Fund, there is still much work to be done to ensure that our state is able to meet our growing transportation and water needs in the coming years.
In preparation for meeting this challenge next legislative session, the Government Efficiency and Reform Committee will be examining and making recommendations for expediting and creating more cost-effective and efficient methods for the construction of infrastructure projects in our state. Likewise, the Natural Resources Committee will be monitoring how well past legislation has been in providing a stable, long term funding source for the State Water Plan, and the Transportation Committee will be studying the usage of state funds by the Texas Department of Transportation for improving road quality in specific areas of our state.
To ensure that Texas remains the economic envy of the world, I believe it is vital that state lawmakers continue to prioritize economic development, job creation, and tax relief in our state. I was pleased to hear that the House Committee on Ways and Means has been charged this interim with studying recent changes to the business franchise tax, methods used to evaluate the impact of taxes on individuals and businesses, and reviewing state regulatory and tax policy to ensure that investment in technology infrastructure, goods, and services is unfettered. Additionally, the Energy Resources Committee will be researching both the incredibly positive impacts of oil and gas exploration in our state as well as how we can best address some of the challenges associated with the industry’s growth.
I was also happy to see that the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety will be focusing their interim on the state and local entities’ effectiveness in meeting the state’s border and homeland security program goals and objectives, and that the House Committee on Defense and Veterans’ Affairs will be looking at how to best assure that returning veterans have access to necessary transition assistance. Both of these topics will remain top priorities to be addressed during the 84th Legislative Session.
All counted, 32 different House Committees will be closely studying over 150 areas of public policy, looking for how we can make Texas a better place to live, work and raise a family. If you would like to see a full list of the interim charges, they can be viewed at http://www.house.state.tx.us/_media/pdf/interim-charges-83rd.pdf.
As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives and I welcome your feedback on this and any other critical state issues. If you would like to share a thought with me, please feel free to contact me at my Capitol office at 512.463.0688 or by e-mail at [email protected]