Archive for March, 2017

Producing Results that Matter

March 24, 2017

By Rep. John Cyrier

Over the past decade, Texas Republicans have provided a great example of how government can be limited, efficient, and also effective at solving problems.

During the previous legislative session, Republican leaders pioneered a buildup of manpower and technology for border security, slashed a burdensome business tax to create more jobs and investment in the Texas economy, and defended religious freedom.

There are many more success stories like these, and I want to share about one that is near and dear to my heart.

In 2011 and 2015, wildfires burned 39,000 acres in my House district and destroyed 1,700 homes. As a pilot, I flew aerial observation during the first wildfire and had a bird’s eye view of the devastation.

Following the most recent disaster, I was honored to work with a grassroots effort of citizens who studied the wildfire and our response. Together, these citizens produced a thorough study, which outlined key recommendations. One of the most significant was to establish an air base to equip heavy tankers with fire retardant.

This February, we did just that. Bringing together different state agencies, we found a way to use existing public resources to establish a tanker base at minimal cost to taxpayers and use existing personnel to train area firefighters on its use. As only the second such base in Texas, this provided much needed resources to combat wildfires throughout the state.

This is one more conservative success story of what happens when citizens and elected leaders work together to solve problems that really matter.

In this same spirit, Republican leaders in the Texas House are mapping out solutions to the pressing challenges that face our state. My colleagues and I are committed to reforming Child Protective Services, improving our public schools by investing in excellence and accountability, defending the sanctity of human life, continuing the important work of border security, and resolving a budget crunch in a responsible way that pairs spending reductions with long-term investment to protect our economy and essential services.

The challenges are great but I have never been more optimistic about what we can accomplish. We’re Texans. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again.

John Cyrier (R-Lockhart) represents District 17 in the Texas House. He is founder and CEO of a commercial construction company that is consistently ranked among the Best Places to Work, and was twice nominated for CEO of the Year.

Health care (or lack thereof) in Rural Texas

March 17, 2017

By Rep. Gary VanDeaver

It won’t come as a surprise to many people, but hospitals in rural Texas are struggling to keep the doors open. The Texas Organization of Rural and Community hospitals (TORCH) reports that 15 hospitals in Texas have closed over the last four years. Also, the University of North Texas Health Science Center published a report in 2016, that said there are 35 counties in Texas that lack a practicing physician (https://www.unthsc.edu/newsroom/35-tx-counties/). Having spent all of his life in rural Northeast Texas, Rep. Gary VanDeaver (New Boston) knows firsthand the struggle to keep affordable, high quality health care available to area residents.

VanDeaver said “I have heard too many stories of families not only struggling to pay for doctors and hospitals but to even find any health care services nearby. Texas policymakers cannot forget that not every Texan lives in the Metroplex or in Houston and that every Texan deserves quality health care services.”

In a November 6, 2013 story by Lauren Silverman and produced by KERA (Dallas) it states that in Texas, “rural hospitals treat 15 percent of the population, but cover 85 percent of the state. In rural areas, patients are generally older, less healthy, and have less access to health insurance.” Here is a link to that story: http://breakthroughs.kera.org/rural-hospitals-struggling-in-texas/

The Washington Post published a story (“Rural hospitals, beset by financial problems, struggle to survive”) on March 15, 2015, citing the closure of a hospital in Mount Vernon, Texas, which is in VanDeaver’s House District. Mount Vernon and other rural communities across this state are struggling with how to provide needed medical care for their residents. Plus, there are no guarantees that additional hospital closures are not just around the corner as they struggle with a declining and aging population coupled with lower federal and state reimbursement rates.

In the 84th Legislature in 2015, Rep. VanDeaver passed House Bill 2280 and sponsored Senate Bill 1587 (Eltife) in the House to help address some of the funding challenges experienced by our smaller and more rural communities in trying to secure affordable access to health care. These bills allowed counties in Northeast Texas to take advantage of the Texas Transformation and Quality Improvement (1115) Waiver for health care funding to provide more health care options.

Now that we have a new president along with a Congress committed to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, VanDeaver went on to say that “we cannot miss this opportunity to restore sanity to our nation’s health care system because Obamacare has failed. We must strike a balance in reducing costs and administrative burdens while protecting access to health care for all Texans. Not only are lives of Texans at risk, the very viability of many small, rural communities are also at stake.”

Ending ‘Catch and Release’ Immigration Policies

March 14, 2017

By Rep. John Raney

For some states, illegal immigration is an academic debate, in Texas, it is a frontline reality. As a State Representative, I have focused on border security, illegal immigration, and human trafficking. As a House Appropriations Committee member, I am proud we stepped up and funded border security when Washington failed to do so.

Funding border security is only part of the solution, we must have the policies in place to deal with the detention and processing of illegal immigrants, victims of human trafficking, and drug smugglers. Under the Obama Administration, many illegals were given a free pass when they crossed the border. According to research, the failure rate of defendants showing up to their hearing was, at one point, as high as 98%.

The alarmingly high percentage is why I have filed House Bill 2225, to work with the new administration and help return to the “catch and detain” policies of President Bush. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is authorized to maintain immigration detention facilities, but current state law prevents Texas from doing the same. This puts us at odds with federal law, and frankly, our own security interests.

House Bill 2225 allows for the inspection and approval of the facilities so ICE can return to a detention policy, and practice sound border security policies. This will allow federal officials to determine those immigrants who are genuinely victims of the criminal element, and those who seek to do us harm. Since these facilities are federally run, my bill will not add financial obligations to our budget, and keeps federal responsibility where it belongs.

Immigration will always require vigilance, and it is good to see Washington join Texas in that mindset.

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