With the end of the school year around the corner and summer in sight, I know many of you are making vacation plans. If your travel plans involve passing through the Austin area or visiting your Texas Capitol as a destination, please contact my office. We will be glad to help you set up a Capitol tour, a state cemetery tour, or just help you navigate the city. And with that, on to an update from your state capitol…
Broadband Service to Rural Texas
One place that we consistently see rural Texas falling behind other parts of the state is internet connectivity. With a more sparse population spanning more miles, the cost per user for telecom companies to provide these services is higher in rural areas. For this reason, the Legislature has provided some protections for rural communities, so that our neighborhoods and schools can have the same internet access as those in the more populous areas of the state. During the last Legislative Session, I was proud to co-author House Bill 1475, which would have implemented continued protections for the prices paid for high speed internet and phone services by public schools, colleges, libraries and hospitals across rural Texas.
While the bill ultimately did not pass, this is an issue that the Texas House is continuing to look at. On May 11th, the House Public Education Committee held a hearing to investigate this issue further, specifically looking at how do we make sure that rural schools and libraries have access to affordable, high-quality internet access. I believe this connectivity is critically important, so that our students can be on a level playing field with other students around the state as it relates to learning and having access to digital information. This issue is a priority for the House Rural Caucus, of which I am a member, and I look forward to working with them, and all my colleagues in the Legislature, as we work towards expanding broadband access and connectivity throughout the state.
House Interim Charges: House Committee on Elections
The House Committee on Elections has jurisdiction over all election laws and works to safeguard our elections and to find innovative ways to increase voter turnout. The Committee members will start by examining the petition process for addressing local ordinances to determine if sufficient time is allowed to prepare a petition, and if local standards are enforced for valid petitions. They will then study and develop recommendations to improve the integrity of Texas’ voter registration rolls, including strengthening the interstate voter registration crosscheck program which eliminates voters who are registered in multiple states. The Committee will also evaluate options to improve the transparency of local bond elections by focusing on the current processes used to educate voters about how tax dollars will be spent, the time of year the elections are held, and the description of bond proposals on the ballot. The Committee will also examine instances of mail-ballot fraud and work to improve compliance with campaign finance reporting laws around the state.
On May 18th, the mobile office will be in Crockett at the Houston County Courthouse Annex from 9:00 am until 11:00 am, and then in Groveton at the Trinity County Courthouse from 1:30 pm until 3:30 pm. We will wrap up the mobile office for the month of May at the San Augustine County Courthouse from 9:00 am until 11:00 am on May 25th.
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.