FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 10, 2011
Austin — This week the pace at the Legislature picked up as almost all Senate committees are now meeting and House committees were announced. Bills now begin the long process of being referred and then heard in committee. The legislative process kills more bills than it passes, which I consider a good thing. Only the best legislation that has survived the hearing process and has had significant time for public input should become law.
Five things that happened this week at your Texas Capitol are:
1. State of the State
Gov. Rick Perry delivered his State of the State address on Tuesday to a joint session of the House and Senate. As a response to Texas' budget challenges, Perry proposed consolidating some state agencies. These agencies include the Texas Historical Commission, the Texas Commission on the Arts, the Board of Professional Geoscientists and the Board of Professional Land Surveying. The governor also outlined his priorities for the 82nd Legislative Session, including balancing the budget without raising taxes, preserving essential services, and strengthening Texas' position as a national economic leader.
2. Eminent domain reform
On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed eminent domain legislation aimed at protecting private property rights. Senate Bill 18, of which I am proud to be a co-author, requires a governmental entity intending to take private land for public use to make a good faith offer in writing that meets appraised value of the property. It also permits an owner to purchase back the land at the price the government paid for it if the public use purpose is not advanced within 10 years.
While there is still more work needed to reform the use of eminent domain, Senate Bill 18 is a good start. This issue will only become more and more significant as Texas' population continues to grow quickly. This legislation was one of the issues placed on the emergency call by Gov. Perry and now heads over to the House of Representatives for their approval.
3. Upholding the 10th Amendment
I am a co-author on Senate Concurrent Resolution 14 which calls for the federal government to respect the rights of states, which are spelled out in the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. As the Senate sponsor for a similar resolution from last session, I believe this is an issue on which the Legislature should take a strong stand. The need to protect the rights of states is nothing new, but in light of the rules and regulations coming from Washington, now is an especially important time to reaffirm the independence of state governments.
4. Investigating rolling blackouts
Following statewide power outages last week, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst said Monday that two Senate panels will review the event and determine what changes need to be made to ensure the reliability of electricity in Texas. Very cold weather was blamed for more than 80 generation stations in Texas going down last Wednesday, causing periodic blackouts around the state due to the loss of capacity. The Senate's Business and Commerce and the Natural Resources Committees will hold a joint session to hear testimony regarding the issue next week. As a member of the Natural Resources Committee, I will be working with my colleagues to find the root cause of the problem and what Texas power generators can do to prevent future outages.
5. Counseling for homeowners facing default
This week while listening to testimony in committee, I learned about an important program in Texas. The Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation has a counseling program which has great success helping Texas families avoid foreclosure, especially when people begin working with the group early in the process. While ideally no family would ever find themselves in a home they cannot afford, when individuals face job loss or other challenging circumstances they need help to understand what options are available. If you or family is facing the possibility of foreclosure I encourage you to call 1-888-995-HOPE or visit www.tsahc.org to help find free and reliable financial counseling.