Now that the string of special sessions has come to an end, I’ll be writing my column on a bi-weekly basis. But my priority will be to pack as much information into each column as I can, so that you stay informed about the new state laws that will affect us, as well as other pertinent issues that affect our District. I thought we would start this week with a look at some of the proposed constitutional amendments that will be on the ballot this November.
HJR 62: Military Widow Exemption
The surviving spouses of service members killed in action are as deserving of a residence homestead property tax exemption as the surviving spouses of totally disabled service members, who were extended such an exemption just two years ago. Existing benefits for military widows and widowers can be inadequate, particularly for a single parent having to adjust to the loss of a husband or wife and to an uncertain future.
HJR 79: Shrinking Government
This proposed amendment would afford an opportunity to shrink state government by eliminating an obsolete governmental office and simplifying an ever-expanding state constitution. It was the recommendation of the Sunset Advisory Commission that the obsolete and inefficient State Medical Education Board be abolished, along with its attendant fund. The goals and objectives of the SMEB can be met by more effective means, while the elimination of this board and its fund would help cut waste and promote fiscal responsibility.
SJR1: The State Water Plan
It’s no secret that this is the big one. Water has been a priority of the 83rd Legislature from day one, and this proposed amendment is a critical one. The current ongoing drought, coupled with the water needs of the state’s growing population, has raised the specter of devastating shortages in the state’s water supply, making it of paramount importance that the state invest in water infrastructure to ensure Texas’ continued prosperity. If the state’s growing water needs are not addressed, we stands to suffer from the loss of over a million jobs, billions of dollars in lost income, reduced economic activity and decreased tax revenues in the coming years. SJR1 is the financing method from which key projects from the state water plan will be funded and in no way does it affect our current water rights laws. The amendment calls for $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to be used, with a built in percentage of that money going only to rural areas, making sure water-related projects in rural Texas are treated fairly. With more than $436 million worth of projects in the state water plan that will directly benefit our district, it is imperative that we work to secure this funding and continue to strengthen East Texas water infrastructure.
A complete list of the proposed amendments for 2013 and analysis of each can be found at www.hro.house.state.tx.us/
A Bill and Some Change: SB 181
There were more than 1,500 bills passed in the House and Senate this year. During the interim, I will pick some to highlight and explain how these new laws will impact Texans.
Thanks to Senate Bill 181, motorists will be able to pull up proof of insurance on their phones to show officers. Over half of the United States already have such a measure in place, and this an opportunity to make use of technology and make life a little simpler for many Texas motorists. Traffic stops will occur the same as before, but instead of the driver handing the officer a paper copy of the insurance card, the officer can note the pertinent data off of the mobile device. The impact of the new law on Texas drivers and law enforcement is convenience and efficiency, which also means less time for law enforcement officers standing in a dangerous positions on the side of the road. Of course, whether the insurance is presented on paper or electronically, the officer will still run it through a verification database; so if somebody tries to counterfeit an electronic proof of insurance, they will be subject to that verification and they will still be caught.
As always, my staff and I are available during the week at 936-634-2762 or 512-463-0508.