CAPITOL UPDATE

Bill proposed to help small charities
Rep. Trent Ashby

Another busy, but productive week is in the books at your State Capitol. This week was a big one, as we crossed the halfway point of the session, heard our first Sunset bill on the Floor, and voted a responsible, fiscally conservative budget out of our House Appropriations Committee.

Strengthening Our Communities

Current legislation requires official audits for charities in Texas with budgets over $100,000 to qualify for receiving contributions from the Texas Employees Charitable Campaign. This week I laid out HB 2252 in front of the State Affairs Committee. The bill would raise that threshold to $250,000, in order to provide some relief to smaller non-profits with smaller budgets. This would save smaller charities, like some that exist in our District, between $3000 and $4000 per year– allowing them to use that money for the great work they do in their communities.

Another staple of the communities in our District are our volunteer fire departments, made up of the brave men and women who serve their neighbors and help keep us safe. This week I was proud to coauthor HB 7, a bill which dedicates funds to the Texas A&M Forest Service for the sole purpose of providing grant assistance to our volunteer fire departments. I remain committed to helping our volunteer fired departments across the state, as they prepare for what I fear will be another active fire season.

On the Floor

The House voted on our first Sunset bill of this session, passing HB 1600 by an overwhelming margin of 139 to 6. The bill would transfer authority over water rate regulation from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to the Public Utility Commission, and it would place constraints on power companies’ abilities to distribute information gained from their customers’ smart meters. I also voted against a number of amendments to this bill that would have weakened the rights of consumers.

Appropriations

While our Senate counterparts passed their version of the budget this week, myself and the other House Appropriations members voted our version of the budget out of committee on Thursday. The budget, which could be voted on by the House sometime in the next two weeks, is one that advances the priorities of our great state while maintaining our commitment to fiscal responsibility.

Speaking of Budgets

Once the House budget is passed, the Senate Finance Committee and the House Appropriations Committee will create a conference committee that will work to merge the two plans and come up with a practical, efficient and balanced budget for Texas. The contrast between our great state’s economic policies and what we are seeing in Washington, D.C. makes HCR 46 even more needed. The resolution, which I filed last month, would urge Congress to propose and submit to the states for ratification an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require a federal balanced budget. This would be the first step in eliminating the unstable economic policies that continue to create downward pressures on states like Texas.

Mobile Office

Our District Director Linda Parker will wrap up this month’s mobile office at the Houston County Courthouse on March 27 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and then be at the Trinity County Courthouse that afternoon from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

As always, my staff and I are available during the week at (512) 463- 0508 or (936) 634-2762.