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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Black Beauty Ranch holds educational spring open house
Celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ
Jeremiah Roberts portrays Jesus Christ as he carries a cross down Mill Run Road enroute to the Henderson County Square, to re-enact Christ’s resurrection. Hitting him with instruments to illustrate the inhumanity of the day were Tramaine Jordan and C.J. Douglas. Also helping in the effort were Joyce Coleman, Amanda Jordan and a child, Rychis Douglas. All are members of Petersburg Baptist Church.
In the voter’s hands
Elections have come and gone for years without the Athens Municipal Water Authority getting much attention. But this year, the fate of the entity is in the balance.
CCL Rotary offers non-profit grants
The Rotary Club of Cedar Creek Lake offers a wide variety of grants to local non-profit organizations in Henderson County and Kaufman County.
Man arrested near GBC for resisting
The Henderson County Sheriff's Department responded to a disturbance involving an assault on Friday, April 18 at about 4:38 a.m. The assault occurred in the 100 block of Wedgewood Loop in the Oak Harbor Subdivision near Gun Barrel City.
Darin Karl found Thursday on Cedar Creek Lake
The body of a 42-year-old man who had been missing in Cedar Creek Lake was recovered on Thursday.
The drowning victim was identified as Darin Lynn Karl of Kemp. According to Henderson County Sheriff Ray Nutt, Karl and his nephew were fishing near Cedar Creek Country Club when the boat overturned, ejecting the men.
AISD approves moving monthly meeting, additional drug testing
Discussion on meal prices for the 2014-15 school year was pulled from Thursday's Athens Independent School District Board of Trustees agenda but other items were approved that will bring about change in the district.
By unanimous decision, the school board approved changes to the scheduled date for its monthly meetings; additional drug testing on the high school campus and modification to the graduation policy.
Prescription Drug Take Back Day April 26
On Saturday, April 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Athens Police Department and Keep Athens Beautiful will host the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, giving the public its seventh opportunity in four years to prevent pill abuse and theft.
Feud between Tool VFDs extends to city council
The two volunteer fire departments in Tool have been dueling for 11 years. The feud between the two departments started in 2003, when the citizens of Tool voted to establish Emergency Service District No. 4. According to reports, this was about the same time the Tool Volunteer Fire Department was established.
Would Lake Athens residents suffer if city controls water?
Members of Lake Athens Property Owners Association have been watching the dispute between the City of Athens and the Athens Municipal Water Authority uncertain of how this will affect their future.
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