School has started, the Friday night lights are back on, and the heat has yet to take a break at your State Capitol. It looks like the school funding saga is getting ready for round two, and Texas boaters will have something new to consider in their education classes.
In February, State District Judge John Dietz called Texas’ school finance system unconstitutional, agreeing with hundreds of school districts and several plaintiffs’ groups which sued the state last year, arguing the current finance system fails to provide adequate and equitable funding. Judge Dietz never issued a final ruling however, and this summer said that he would reopen the case in order to discuss what impact the actions from our legislative session earlier this year might have on his initial ruling. During the regular session, the Legislature passed a monumental education bill in HB 5, which curtailed high-stakes testing and provided flexibility in graduation plans. We also restored much of the funding to public education that was cut two years ago, and we did so using a more equitable formula. Depending on the outcome of this newly reopened case, another special session could be on the horizon in 2014.
TxDOT plans on hold
Many of you may have heard of the Texas Department of Transportation’s plans to convert some of our state Farm-to-Market roads from asphalt to gravel in parts of the state experiencing robust oil and gas production. None of our counties in House District 57 were impacted by the initial proposal, but these plans were recently put on hold by TXDoT in order to give legislators and citizens in the affected counties more time to review and consider the rationale behind their proposal. It’s unclear at this time if TXDoT will proceed with their original plans, but rest assured I will continue to closely monitor this situation.
A bill and some change: Aquatic invasion
Our state’s waterways are battling non-native invasive species that are causing serious economic and environmental damage to the ecosystems here in Texas. Several factors have led to the spread of such species in parts of the state: a lack of resources to treat infested areas, the species’ rapid reproduction rates and some species’ ability to cling onto boats that aren’t cleaned properly. Locally, our biggest fight is with Giant Salvinia, an aquatic fern that grows in chains and floats on surface water with thread-like leaves that hang underwater. Populations are known to double in as little as two weeks, and grow into dense mats in the water that affect oxygen levels and block pipes and irrigation systems. Legislation passed this spring aims to increase awareness among Texas boaters about how to prevent the spread of Giant Salvinia and other invasive aquatic species by adding related questions to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s boating education course. If we can educate boaters, fisherman and everyone out on the water, then they can be our real front line defense against the spread and introduction of these invasive species into new water bodies across Texas.
Back to School
With school starting back recently, I know our students are excited to be back in the classroom. A good education is the foundation for success, and I want to extend my best wishes to all parents, teachers, and students for a great school year.
As always, my staff and I are available during the week at 936-634-2762 or 512-463-0508.