FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 3, 2011
Austin — Almost two months into the session, the Legislature is approaching the first of many deadlines, including the last day to file most bills. As of this writing, more than 1,000 bills are filed in the Senate and more than 2,000 in the House. Look for these numbers to increase during the last week of filing.
In the meantime, here are five things that happened at your Texas Capitol this week:
1. Celebrating Texas Independence Day
On Wednesday, the Senate marked the 175th Anniversary of Texas Independence by reading the text of the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico. Additionally, we were able to view the original 1836 document. As Texas faces a number of challenges this year, it is good to reflect on the courage and bravery exhibited by Texas' founders. They left a legacy of freedom, self-reliance and ingenuity that still inspires our state today.
2. Better news for school funding
On March 1 of each session the state comptroller releases revised property value estimates. This year's estimates might be good news for Texas schools. The drop in commercial property values is less than originally expected and will likely result in more money for the state's Foundation School Program than first expected. While the direct impact to Texas' school is still unclear, this may prove to be one step in closing the education funding gap.
3. Cracking down on human trafficking
It is a problem that no one likes to think about, but human trafficking, including child sex trafficking, is a nightmare that still happens here in the United States and in Texas. While it is impossible to know just how widespread the problem is, 480 trafficking victims have been reported in Texas with thousands more unknown to authorities.
The Texas Legislature has worked to end this especially vile crime in our state, and I am proud to co-author Senate Bill 24. The proposed bill extends the statute of limitations and increases penalties for trafficking. It requires those convicted of sex trafficking to register as sex offenders and extends special protections for victims of child sex trafficking. With improved legal tools, state and local law enforcement can better stop and prosecute these crimes while providing justice for victims.
4. Watching out for unfunded mandates
One risk when a state faces budget challenges is that many financial burdens will be passed onto county and local governments as unfunded mandates. In order to help prevent such abuse, Gov. Rick Perry formed a bipartisan task force on unfunded mandates, which will identify burdensome unfunded mandates that have been passed down from the state to cities, counties and school districts.
Two of the nine members of the task force are from Senate District 3. They are Mary Ann Whiteker, the superintendent at Hudson Independent School District, and Brett Ligon, District Attorney for Montgomery County. Having worked with both of these individuals before, I know they will serve the taskforce well and help prevent state costs from being unfairly being passed down to the local level. The task force will make their recommendations to the governor in March.
Stealing timber is a clear violation of private property rights. Current law restricts the amount a timber owner may recoup in court based on the market price of timber. However, this does not account for the actual damages that occur in timber theft including damage to other property such as fences or roadways and does not account for the costly timber survey needed prior to seeking criminal charges. In order to let timber theft victims pursue actual losses, I filed Senate Bill 584 which allows courts to award all reasonable expenses incurred as a result of theft.