Last week marked the official halfway point of the 85th Legislative Session. With throngs of college basketball fans watching the playoffs, I was recently reminded that we have our own version of March Madness happening right here in Austin. With hundreds of bills being heard in committees, and voted upon daily on the House floor, there is plenty of excitement and suspense at your Texas Capitol. With that as a backdrop, here’s your latest update from Austin…
First Responders Day
The State Firefighters and Fire Marshals Association of Texas recently hosted their 2017 First Responders Legislative Day. A memorial service honoring firefighters who died in the line of duty was held on the South steps of the Capitol. The service was particularly touching for me, as we celebrated the life and service of one of my constituents, John Kendall Reynolds of the Buffalo VFD, whose family was in attendance and whose name was added to the Capitol monument honoring fallen firefighters.
House Natural Resources
A number of my colleagues on the House Natural Resources Committee and I had a spirited discussion about legislation that would allow for an exemption to the existing junior water provision on transferring water from one river basin to another, often referred to as an interbasin transfer. While plenty of interbasin transfers have occurred, and have all gone through the appropriate regulatory process, I vehemently oppose any legislative attempt to circumvent this process by allowing certain entities to take priority over other permit holders in the river basin. Protecting existing permit holders in river basins from having too much water siphoned out, as well as updating the water availability models that dictate whether any surplus water exists, seems like a prudent and responsible approach to me.
We have had a few recent legislative developments that I want to bring everyone up to speed on. I recently had a hearing in the House Committee on Public Education where I was able to lay out one of my bills, HB 1776, which would replace the end of course exam for United States history with the civics test that is administered to those applying for citizenship in the United States. This bill was met with great enthusiasm as it would help students and teachers provide for local flexibility on administering the test, and most importantly, promote a more engaged and informed citizenry. Another one of my bills, HB 2995, was referred to committee and aims to assist local hospitals in our rural region that are unable to draw down available federal dollars to assist with previously unreimbursed uncompensated healthcare costs by creating a Local Provider Participation Fund. This measure would in no way create a new fee or tax on local citizens. It would simply allow local hospitals the ability to draw down additional federal dollars to provide reimbursement for the care they provide.
The mobile office is back on the road in April and looks forward to seeing you around the district! Here’s this month’s schedule: April 5th from 9am – 11am at Leon County Courthouse in Centerville or from 1:30pm – 3:30pm at the Madison County Courthouse Annex in Madisonville. You can also visit us on April 19th from 9am – 11am at the Houston County Courthouse Annex in Crockett or from 1:30pm – 3:30pm at the Trinity County Courthouse in Groveton. Finally, you can come see us on April 26th from 9am – 11am at the San Augustine Courthouse in San Augustine. As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. My district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762, or you can call my Capitol office at (512) 463-0508.