02 October 2017

3 Issues Texas Legislature Needs to Consider

In my most recent column, I discussed with you the specific items that committees in the Texas House will consider as the entire state recovers from the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. In addition to these items, the Speaker of the House asked for input from all members on items that we wish to see committees raise over the interim as we work into the next legislative session.

Member input usually includes items of great importance, but issues that sometimes get lost in the shuffle behind higher profile items that we regularly face. Recently, I submitted a letter to the speaker urging him to consider three items that may not be on his radar.

Potential interim charges. To start, I am asking the speaker to review the formulas used to fund certain programs, such as adult probation and community supervision, within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. For decades these formulas have gone unchanged. As this critical state agency progresses, and its employees and programs face new challenges in different areas, it is important that the methodology for fund distribution aligns best with their ever-evolving needs. In prior legislative sessions, this same topic has been studied, but I am committed to finding a permanent, fiscally sustainable solution that will provide the best opportunity for this agency.

The second issue I raised for consideration pertains to common law marriage — an antiquated practice that has been outlawed in more than 40 states. In studying this issue over the last year, and becoming aware of the abuse that takes place in probate and estate cases throughout Texas, I believe the Legislature must enact some reform measures to crack down on lawsuit abuse, if not abolish the practice. It is clear why a common law marriage would have benefited Texas citizens a century or more ago, but in today’s modern and accessible world, I believe a study and recommendations to reform this practice would be helpful.

Finally, I recommended the Legislature continue to study further improvements to TRS-Care for our state’s retired educators. Throughout the regular and special legislative sessions, I fought hard to broker the best deal possible for teachers and school employees. However, for the long-term benefit of TRS-Care participants, the Legislature should move away from a funding structure that considers active teacher payroll, in favor of one that considers the true cost of healthcare nationwide. These public servants do not deserve a broken promise on healthcare after years of educating the future of our state.

Executive Commissioner Charles Smith’s visit. Please help me welcome Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Charles Smith to Lufkin on Monday. He will hold a town hall meeting at Angelina College’s Community Services Conference Room at 6:30 p.m. to hear directly from the people affected by his agency’s services and talk about how to improve the system’s work in Lufkin and Angelina County. Smith leads the state’s largest agency with a $30 billion annual budget, and directly serves more than seven million people every month, while indirectly touching the life of almost every Texan, every day. Hope to see you there.


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