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
- Local News
The Henderson County Sheriff’s Department and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department were searching for a man on Wednesday afternoon who may have drowned in Cedar Creek Lake.
Sheriff Ray Nutt said his department responded to a call for assistance from the Seven Points Police Department concerning two men who were boating on the lake, and ran into trouble between Seven Points and Gun Barrel City.
Water authority is born
It would be hard for anyone under the age of 50 to imagine East Texas without the abundance of lakes in the region, providing water and sources of recreation.
Many of the reservoirs in East Texas today, were created in the years immediately following the dusty, dry, decade of the 50s, when drought conditions left Texas parched for water. The rainfall all but stopped at the beginning of the decade and by 1957, 244 of the state’s 254 counties, including Henderson County, had been declared Federal Disaster Areas for lack of rainfall.
Time with the Easter Bunny
Six-year-old Mayven Ingalls is shown enjoying the company of the Easter Bunny at the annual Kiwanis Club Easter Egg Hunt for Special Needs kids at Kiwanis Park in Athens on Wednesday. A coordinator said the event was for students from Athens Independent School District. Tootsie the Clown also helped in the effort to bring enjoyment to the children.
AISD to discuss meal prices
The Athens Independent School District Board of Trustees will meet tonight at 6 p.m. in the District Support Center Board Room for its monthly meeting.
Several action items are on the agenda, including the consideration of meal prices for the 2014-15 school year.
More burglary complaints
The Athens Police Department continues to get numerous burglary complaints, and on Tuesday investigated a break-in of a vehicle parked at East Texas Medical Center.
104-year-old Henderson County woman passes
Helen Eveleen DeAngelis Carbone was a woman who experienced a lot in life. It was on April 15 that she passed from this life peacefully at the age of 104.
Carbone has been described as an interesting person with a lot of memories to share with everyone she met.
Bursting with beauty
A shining star already in her parents eyes, Geraldine Nieto displayed her ray of beauty Sunday in Tyler to claim top status in the Sunburst Talent/Beauty Contest.
The 5-year-old Athens resident is the daughter of Jaime and Karla Nieto.
Dozens attend council meeting for recovery, transfer station
Nathan Bullard, owner of Yellow Box Environmental LLC, was at Gun Barrel City Hall to explain future development plans for property located at 546 Gun Barrel Lane.
Bullard said he wanted to introduce himself and his company to the neighbors who own property close to his project.
Bullard was on hand to inform the public and address any concerns about the company’s plan to build a recovery and transfer station.
Commissioners sign proclamation for San Jacinto Day
The battle of the Alamo may be the best remembered conflict in Texas’ fight for independence, but the battle at San Jacinto closed the deal.
Representatives of the Sons of the Republic of Texas were on hand at the Henderson County Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday in observance of a proclamation, declaring April 21, San Jacinto Day.
Ram to donate $20 per test drive to FFA Organization
On April 26 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. the Ram Truck brand and Elder Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram will host The Next Crop Project fundraising event at the dealership to benefit the National FFA Organization and local FFA chapter leadership programs in Henderson County.
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