I want to start my column by wishing you a Happy New Year, from my family to yours. As we all settle back into our routines now that the holidays are over, please enjoy the first update of 2016 from your state Capitol…
Important Committee Hearings on the Horizon
Over the course of the next two weeks, the House will hold a couple of important committee hearings which could draw attention and have an impact on rural East Texas. First, on January 20th the Select Committee on Transportation Planning will convene to hear an update from the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) as it develops new criteria for project selection and prioritization. This is very important to our district, as the final results of these criteria can have a huge impact on the flow of critical state tax dollars to different parts of the state for highway construction and maintenance projects. I have been working closely with my fellow Texas House colleagues who represent other rural parts of the state, as well as leaders at TXDOT, to ensure that rural Texas receives the funding we need to keep our state highways and Farm to Market roads safe and in good condition.
Following this, on January 21, the Joint Committee on Border Security will convene to hear an update on the implementation of House Bill 11, which provided many new tools for the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to fight illegal immigration and border crime. DPS has done an incredible job managing a fluid situation, and I expect this hearing will shed some light on how our investment in border security is paying off in terms of curtailing drug trafficking, human smuggling, and a number of other crimes associated with our border.
House Interim Charges: House Committee on Appropriations, Part 1
Continuing our series looking at the House interim charges, we will touch on the issues that the House Appropriations Committee will be studying. These are some of the most critical topics, as the Appropriations Committee writes the state budget, and touches every aspect of state government. This Committee, on which I’m proud to serve, has so many charges, it will take two column segments to hit all the highlights. Below are a few items of note that will be looked at.
The Committee will evaluate the potential challenges facing state tax collections, including the price declines in the oil and gas industry, and prepare to address any fiscal implications resulting from this decline. It will also examine how to make further progress reducing the use of dedicated accounts in the state treasury, which will have the ultimate effect of making our budget process more transparent and accountable. The Committee will then develop recommendations for instituting a stronger Strategic Fiscal Review process, which is where the House dives deep into the budgets of state agencies to find inefficiencies and trim any fat from these agencies’ budgets.
The Committee will also be evaluating the effectiveness of the funds appropriated for border security operations. With the sizable increase of state funding for border security funding, we need to make sure we are getting the most bang for our buck and that this investment is reducing crime and border crossings.
The mobile office will not be hitting the road during the month of January, but you can mark your calendars for the following dates in the month of February. On February 3rd, we will be in the Leon County Courthouse from 9:00 am until 11:00 am, and then at the Madison County Courthouse Annex from 1:30 pm until 3:30 pm. Then, on February 17th the mobile office will be at the Houston County Courthouse Annex from 9:00 am to 11:00 am, and then at the Trinity County Courthouse from 1:30 pm until 3:30 pm. We will wrap up the mobile office at the San Augustine County Courthouse on February 24th from 9:00 am to 11:00 pm.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. We look forward to the opportunity to hear your concerns and help you navigate state government. My district office may be reached at (936)-634-2762 or you can call my Capitol office at (512) 463-0508.