By State Representative Tan Parker
As I look back on the past year, I am reminded at how quickly time passes, especially when we allow ourselves to get swept up in the hustle of life. I often wish for time to slow down in order to allow me the ability to take it all in and appreciate my many blessings. Time keeps moving however, and we try our best to keep up.
This past year was particularly busy in the Texas Legislature as we convened in January for the 85th Legislative Session. As you may know, the Texas legislature convenes every two years for 140 consecutive days to consider changes to our laws and updates to our state agencies. The only constitutional requirement of your legislature each session is to write and pass the state budget for the next biennium, which is the two-year span following the legislative session. The budget that was passed this session totals approximately $217 billion and provides funding for education, mental health care, veterans assistance programs, securing our border, public safety, transportation and a much needed overhaul of the foster care system to name a few major categories.
After the 85th Regular Session came to a close, Governor Abbott called a special session in which we were able to take up additional legislative items such as extending the expiration date of many critical state agencies, establishing a framework for further reforms to our public school finance system, advancing the cause of life, and addressing the current budget shortfall for the Teachers Retirement System of Texas (TRS) to reduce premium costs for retired teachers.
Together we accomplished many legislative victories for the betterment of our great state that have resulted in a strong growing economy while protecting the Texas way of life. As we close one legislative year, we must immediately begin to establish our priorities and address the needs of a state that has now surpassed 28 million people. Therefore, I would like to make you aware of some challenges and opportunities that will face our great state as we ramp up preparations for the 2019 legislative session.
Each committee within the Texas House has been given their interim charges directing them on what they should study in the year leading up to the next session. There will be public hearings and discussions regarding each of these charges, and then the committee will complete an interim report. These reports play a pivotal role in shaping policy for the coming legislative session.
A major issue that has broad implications is the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, perhaps the most costly natural disaster in our nation’s history. Millions of people were affected and the rebuilding process is ongoing. The impact of Hurricane Harvey has been felt in industries and communities throughout the state, and because of this almost every House Committee has an interim charge related to it. We will examine the preparedness and effectiveness of the various state agencies in a time of natural disaster that will provide an opportunity to address vulnerabilities. We will also review Hurricane Harvey’s impact on the Texas workforce, schools, courts, public sector markets, and the environment, as well as many other aspects of our state.
As Chairman of the House Committee on Investments and Financial Services, I will be holding hearings and preparing to further address the impact of Harvey as well as possible, future natural disasters on our financial institutions. My committee will also be involved in enhancing financial services innovation, researching security breaches related to consumer credit reporting, and reviewing mortgage licensing to name a few topics.
Overall, legislators will also be exploring more options for how best to lower property taxes, a much-needed remedy for homeowners. We will also focus on funding education, implementing strategies for addressing opioid and substance abuse, and many other important policy areas that affect the everyday lives of Texans. I encourage you to stay involved in the policy discussions occurring throughout the next year because your voice is critical in shaping the laws in Texas and keeping it the best state to live and work in the nation. You can read more about interim charges, follow committee hearings, and find other information related to the preparations being done in 2018 on the Texas House of Representatives website, www.house.texas.tx.us.
As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives, and I truly welcome your feedback. If you would like to share a thought, please feel free to contact me at my Capitol office at 512.463.0688 or by email at [email protected].