The deadline to file bills in the 83rd Texas Legislature is Friday and Henderson County’s representatives have been busy with legislation addressing a wide range of issues.
Fourth District Representative Lance Gooden, 10th District Representative Jim Pitts and 3rd District State Senator Robert Nichols are the county’s voices in Austin. Each has bills that will be studied by committees to determine whether they reach the floor for a vote.
Gooden said he’s confident the House needs to increase funding for public education and ease the burden brought about by mandatory testing.
“I’m going to be filing a bill that eliminates the requirement that 15 percent of the final course grade be based on the STAR test,” Gooden said. “We’re trying to get rid of the tests that are costing the state money serving no purpose other than burdening teachers and local school districts.”
Gooden said the STAR test has been a complete failure and constituents in Henderson County have asked for relief from its requirements.
“They’ve committed state funds to this test that has grown and grown and grown,” Gooden said. “Somewhere along the line someone convinced the legislature, in the last decade, that testing was the answer and it has failed miserably.
Noteworthy bills Gooden has already filed include House Resolution 1082 which adds the term “intoxication assault causing bodily injury” to the penal code. If passed, the driver of a vehicle that inflicts any degree of physical pain on another in an accident, could be charged with intoxicated assault. The change would be a state jail felony with a penalty of up to two years.
The legislation was filed Feb. 7 and referred to the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on Feb. 19. If passed, the law would go into effect September 1.
Gooden has also introduced a bill to place some regulations on the use of drones for unmanned surveillance.
“It says law enforcement can’t just place drones in the sky and film every move,” Gooden said. “It’s about protecting privacy as technology develops.”
As drones get less expensive, they are starting to be purchased by law enforcement agencies around the state.
“There’s a sense that as they get more prevalent, if there is no guidance they’ll be so widely used it’ll be impossible to place any restrictions on their use in years to come,” Gooden said.
Nichols, chairman of the Senate’s Transportation Committee, has filed a bill concerning the allocation of sales tax revenue to the state highway fund. Senate Joint Resolution 20, filed in tandem with House Transportation Chairman Larry Phillips, proposes dedicating the 6.25-percent sales tax levied on new and used vehicle purchases to the Texas Department of Transportation. The money raised would help the Texas Department of Transportation build roads, bridges and maintain infrastructure.
The bill was sent to the Senate Finance Committee on February 5. No further activity has been reported.
Nichols also co-authored Senate Bill 567, filed February 14, to transfer the functions relating the economic regulation of water and sewer service from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to the Public Utility Commission of Texas. Nichols said transfer of the responsibility offers potential benefits by aligning most state utility regulation within one agency.
Nichols said the proposed legislation is the result of Senate subcommittee hearings held to discuss steep increases in water and sewer rates imposed by investor-owned water and sewer companies. Orville Bevel of Chandler and C.A. Cockrell III of Murchison were among the citizens who testified concerning rapidly escalating rates in rural Henderson County.
Pitts, as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has the General Appropriations Bill at the top of his list of legislation. HB1 will appropriate $89.1 billion in general revenue and a total of $187.7 billion when all other funds are included. The bill offers a small increase over the 2011 budget which was passed when legislators were looking at a projected $27 billion dollar shortfall.
Legislation aims at water, education
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Fighting for life
Family and friends have rallied around 20-year old Aaron Jenkins.
Three weeks ago Jenkins, a Mabank resident and former Trinity Valley Community College student, was diagnosed with liver cancer.
Aaron's Aunt Sheila Guill said, “He's pretty sick, but Aaron has a high pain tolerance and doesn't complain.”
Lake Palestine, Athens above levels, CCL close
Lakes Athens and Palestine are above their normal levels, while Cedar Creek Lake to the west still needs a good downpour to close the gap.
On Monday, when the average Texas lake stood at just 64.3 percent of full. Lake Athens had a reading of 440.06 feet, just above its average.
Three arrested for drugs
Drug offenses led to three Athens Police Department arrests over the weekend according to reports.
The first incident on Friday night resulted in the arrest of Joshua Paul Rogers, 25, for evading arrest and possession of a controlled substance. Rogers remained in custody on Monday, with bond set at $9,000 on the two charges.
County unemployment edges upward
Henderson County unemployment edged upward in January, falling between the state and national rates.
The January Texas Workforce Commission Report, issued on Friday, gave Henderson County a 6.1 percent reading, after a 6.0 percent rate in December. The national unemployment figure was 7.1 percent, while Texas enjoyed its lowest mark since 2008, 5.7 percent.
O’KEEFFE coming to Malakoff, April 12
Carolyn Wickwire will star in the one-woman play O’Keeffe! by Lucinda McDermott, presented by the Greater Malakoff Area Garden Club and the Malakoff Historical Society in partnership with Flower and Bone Productions, directed by Ouida White.
Color run coming to Athens
Have you been seeing those pictures on the internet of people in wild costumes, running through clouds of neon pink, blue, purple, and green and coming out looking like a rainbow?
If you have, you’ve been looking at the hottest thing to hit the walking and running world – the color run. And it’s coming to Athens on March 22 to benefit Hope Springs Water and celebrate International World Water Day.
AISD students honored for reading challenge
To get kids excited about reading and encourage more adults to spend time reading with their children, the National Education Association launched the first NEA's Read Across America day in 1998.
On March 3, NEA's Read Across America marked 17 years of celebrating reading and the birthday of Dr. Seuss.
Athens Independent School District participated in the event, but added a twist to encourage students to read more often.
The minimum standard for living
The average minimum wage worker renting a living space in Henderson County will spend more than 30 percent of their monthly income on their home.
The National Low-Income Housing Coalition reports Henderson County renters would have to work 85 hours at minimum wage for a two bedroom apartment. Of the six counties in the 5th Congressional District, Henderson ranks second, behind Dallas, for the most hours required.
Chandler, BMC to settle contract
Since the beginning of the year, Chandler city officials and leaders of the Brownsboro-Murchison-Chandler Youth Foundation have worked to finalize an agreement on use of the facilities at Winchester Park.
County preparing to address roads
With hundreds of miles of pavement to deal with, three Henderson County Road and Bridge Precincts may soon be getting a tool to help them keep track of the tasks involved.
The Henderson County Information Technology Committee discussed on Wednesday whether to acquire Precinct Tracker software and will present its findings to Commissioners Court.
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