Capitol Update

18 March 2016

Capitol Update: Funding Texas’ Community Colleges

Over the past couple of weeks, much of East Texas, and the state as a whole, has seen rain on a biblical scale. The federal government has declared more than a dozen counties across the state, including several in our district, as disaster flood zones, and I am sure many of you have felt the impacts of this heavy rain event. I am praying that each of you impacted by flooding are able to stay safe and navigate this difficult time. If these floods have severely impacted you or your family, my office will be glad to help you find the assistance that is available to you through the federal, state, and county programs for disaster response. And now, on to the latest update from your state capitol…

Strengthening Our Community Colleges

 
I am a strong believer in the fact that our community colleges are the backbone of our higher education system. Each year, thousands of students begin their collegiate careers at one of our 50 community colleges around the state, where they can receive a high quality education for an affordable price. When you combine this with the critical programs that provide workers with technical job training and trade skills, our community colleges are in many ways are the lifeblood of our economy.

On March 24th, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, which I serve as Chairman, will hold a hearing to dig into the unique funding mechanisms for our community colleges. As our Subcommittee reviews the funding formulas, it is my intent to make sure that our community colleges are being funded in a way so they can operate effectively, while also making sure that these state dollars are being utilized in an efficient manner. In most rural areas of the state, community colleges are essential to opening doors for training and jobs, as well as working with our high schools on providing dual credit opportunities.  When the economy slows, enrollment tends to climb, so this is an opportune time to examine the fiscal health of our community colleges and begin considering what changes, if any, need to be made next legislative session to ensure they continue to thrive.

House Interim Charges: House Committees on County Affairs and Criminal Jurisprudence

This week we will be covering two committees in our series on the House Interim Charges. The first is the House Committee on County Affairs, which oversees and provides support to county governments and their programs. This interim, the Committee will be tasked with analyzing programs in Texas counties which are designed to mitigate the impacts of wildfires, floods and other natural disasters and make recommendations to improve the way counties and the state respond to natural disasters. The members of County Affairs will then work to identify and address potential gaps in counties’ cybersecurity policies to ensure that personal information held by local governmental entities is secure. Additionally, the Committee will study the fees assessed by sheriffs and constables to make sure that they are not placing undue burdens on the recipients of those services.

The Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence is a very important committee, as it has jurisdiction over all matters relating to criminal laws and criminal justice issues. During the interim, this committee will be studying the use of GPS monitoring in protective orders as a tool to reduce family violence in Texas. The Committee will then examine the use of asset forfeiture in the state, and will make recommendations to improve this system in a way that balances the needs of law enforcement and private property rights while also prioritizing government transparency.

Reminders
The mobile office will wrap up for the month on March 23rd at the San Augustine County Courthouse from 9:00 am until 11:00 am. We hope to see you there!

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.

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