Archive for February, 2017

Prioritizing State Funding

February 24, 2017

By Rep. John Kuempel

The State of Texas is facing a tight budget this biennium. Comptroller Hegar issued his budget revenue estimate to the legislature in early January with a total of $104.87 billion available to build budgets for 2018 and 2019. That is approximately $3 billion less than what was available in 2016 and 2017 when the total revenue available for general spending was $107.73 billion. The decrease in money allocated for general spending is not due to a drop in the amount of money coming in, in fact, the Comptroller is projecting revenue growth. However, the state will start budgeting with less money as some of it is already dedicated to other things.

In 2015, voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 7 to dedicate portions of revenue from the state’s general sales and use tax, as well as from the motor vehicle sales and rental tax to the State Highway Fund for non-tolled projects. A deposit of $5 billion is expected to be made over this biennium. While this infusion of money over the next biennium reduces what the legislature has to fund other programs, it is important to remember that the voters made investing in our state’s infrastructure a priority with the passage of Proposition 7 and we intend to follow through with that commitment.

Balancing the state budget will be challenging but that does not mean that money for public schools and foster care will be ignored. Working to improve the school finance system and reforming the broken state foster care system will be a top focus for the House this session. Texans expect their government to live within its means so it is imperative that we fund our priorities this session while constraining the size and growth of government.

As the Chairman of the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee, I plan to do my part to ensure fair and efficient regulation of all occupational licenses. The state oversees 38 licensing programs under the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and a total license population of 704,154. With our state’s dynamic economic environment, it is vital that we reduce the administration and regulation costs and reduce barriers to entering into these licensed professions.

Working for Mental Health Reform

February 8, 2017

By Rep. Walter “Four” Price

Mental health impacts virtually every aspect of our society. Texans spend almost $3 .4 billion in state taxes each year on direct mental and behavioral services not including the billions of local dollars spent combating mental health concerns in hospitals, jails, and on our streets. As a result, Speaker Straus formed a select committee to study every aspect of mental health services in Texas.

I had the honor of chairing this committee and with 12 colleagues traveled this state to hear from everyday citizens, mental health experts, and law enforcement officials. In countless site visits, staff interviews, and more 40 hours of direct hearings, we found a patch work system where best practices are not shared among providers and may even be discouraged. In short, we found an inefficient system in need of reform.

During the 85 th Session, I will make the reform of our mental health system a priority. The expansion of the mental health delivery system will take more money, but reforms to increase the sharing of ideas and best practices will go a long way toward improving the system. Any successful reform will ensure we deliver better services earlier in the patients’ life and that we are spending Texans’ tax dollars efficiently.

Reform of our mental health system is not only the moral thing, it is the conservative thing to do. Many of the reforms our committee witnessed were locally managed and coordinated with religious organizations. My efforts will strengthen those local partnerships and ensure communities can address their unique mental health challenges.

Walter ‘Four’ Price (R-Amarillo) serves five Texas Panhandle counties in District 87. He was Chairman of the Select Committee on Mental Health during the 84th Interim.

Defending Life and Women’s Health

February 5, 2017

By Rep. Jodie Laubenberg

Protecting the lives of the unborn has been a calling since I was first elected and nothing – not even an activist Supreme Court – will deter me from that cause while I am in office. As the author of HB 2 (83rd Session, 2013), I have been proud to be a part of the Texas House of Representatives which has led the fight to protect the lives of the unborn and the 85th Session will be no exception.

Unfortunately for defenders of life and women’s health, the ruling in the Hellerstedt decision makes the job of protecting women and children more difficult. In that decision, the Supreme Court changed the standard for developing sound pro-life laws to a ‘rational basis’ test. This change will allow the pro-abortionists to seek out liberal judges and strike down the laws to preserve life and protect women.

While President Trump has signaled his intent to appoint Justices to the Court who will defend life, the cause of the unborn cannot wait. The Texas House of Representatives will act this session to pass laws scientifically demonstrating that better equipped medical facilities and better trained staff provide better health care; we can ban the sale of a baby’s body parts and tissues after an abortion; we will prove there is a rational basis for advancing the cause of life; and we will continue to ensure taxpayer dollars are not used to fund abortion services.

To be sure, the road to protect life is steeper and a little harder after Hellerstedt but I have never been afraid to walk the path of life. I know you will help me on this journey and continue to support the principled leadership provided by the Texas House of Representatives.

Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker) is in her seventh term serving the citizens of District 89, representing parts of Collin County. She currently serves as Chair of the Committee on Elections.

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