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Bruce Elfant

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Constable's Notebook - January 2005

The election season is but a distant memory and the last of the holiday leftovers have been consumed. That can only mean one thing. The Texas Legislature is coming back to town! Yes, that part-time group of elected representatives who are responsible for passing the laws we must live by are embarking on their bi-annual migration to Austin to address state issues. They will have a whole lot on their plate.

Last session the legislature cut about $10 billion from services to balance the state budget. Cuts to children’s health insurance, mental health care, drug treatment and child protective services have actually shifted the care for many of our most vulnerable citizens. From the doctors office to costly emergency room care and from treatment centers and mental health facilities to more expensive jail cells. While state legislators were able to brag about balancing the state budget with no new taxes, cities and counties throughout Texas were forced to raise property taxes to fund increases for emergency rooms and increasing jail populations.

Over the last decade the Texas Legislature has forced local school districts to rely more on local property taxes and less on state funding to the point where a state district court has ruled it unconstitutional. Almost everyone acknowledges that Texas Schools need much more money. But where will it come from? Higher property taxes? Increased sales taxes? An expanded business tax? A state income tax? Casino gambling or a combination of the above options? The one thing that is for sure is that in order for the legislature to comply with the school finance court order and meet other critical needs, more revenue will be required and it will have to come from somewhere.

While school finance will be the 900 pound gorilla in the room this session, the legislature will also consider upwards of 5,000 other bills that would affect so many aspects of our lives ranging from insurance reform (didn’t that already do that?), roads (toll or not), air and water pollution, etc. Information regarding bills filed along with analyses and their status can be obtained at www.capital.state.tx.us. I encourage you to contact your elected representatives (listed below) during the session on any legislative issue that is of concern to you. Be assured that a few calls on a particular issue does get their attention and after all – it is your money.

Senator Gonzalo Barrientos phone 463-0114 fax 463-5949
e-mail gonzalo.barrientos@senate.state.tx.us

Rep. Todd Baxter phone 463-0631 fax 236-1065
e-mail todd.baxter@house.state.tx.us

Rep. Dawnna Dukes phone 463-0506 fax 463-7864
e-mail dawnna.dukes@house.state.tx.us

Rep. Terry Keel phone 463-0652 fax 477-7121
e-mail terry.keel@house.state.tx.us

Rep. Elliott Naishtat phone 463-0668 fax 463-8022
e-mail elliott.naishtat@house.state.tx.us

Rep. Eddie Rodriquez phone 463-0674 fax 463-5896
e-mail
eddie.rodriguez@house.state.tx.us


Rep. Mark Strama* phone 463-0821 fax 463-5896
e-mail mark.strama@house.state.tx.us
*Rep.-elect Strama will not take office until January 11th.



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