News Release
February 3, 2011
Contact: Alicia Pierce
(512) 463-0103
My five cents...

Austin — While much of Texas was frozen over this week, things at the Capitol continue to move along. Senate committees started meeting, more legislation was filed, and the Capitol halls are filled with visitors from a wide variety of organizations. Most members are busy reviewing legislation and developing a coalition of support for particular bills.

Some of the things happening at your Texas Capitol include:

1. Senate committees announced

Late last week Lt. Governor David Dewhurst announced the Senate Committee assignments for the current session. I am honored Dewhurst kept me on the same committees so I can continue the work I already started. I am especially looking forward to serving on the Natural Resources Committee, which I was added to last summer. The issues addressed by this committee, including water rights, are especially important to the well-being and economic vitality of Senate District 3.

Additionally, I will continue to serve on the Transportation and Homeland Security, Nominations, Sunset, and Health and Human Services Committees. I will also remain as vice chair of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee, which affects local and county government. House committees have not been assigned yet but will likely come next week.

2. Protecting water rate-payers

This week I finished drafting five bills to protect residents from escalating water bills, specifically from investor-owned utilities. Since joining the Senate in 2007, I learned many communities in Senate District 3 are forced to pay large rate increases or endure poor service from investor-owned utility companies. The investor-owned utilities, if not properly regulated, can become state-sponsored monopolies with the power to abuse rate-payers. These five bills would establish a series of protections for landowners and give state regulators more tools to prevent undue rate increases.

3. Giving education administrators more flexibility

There was a large focus on education this week at the Capitol. The Senate Education Committee held its first hearing, which focused on ways to give school districts more flexibility in the face of large budget cuts. Many of the ideas expressed echoed what I heard from the superintendents I met with before session. While some cuts in education financing seem to be unavoidable, the least legislators can do is to give school administrators the flexibility to make the most of every dollar.

4. Denying retirement payments to elected officials convicted of a felony

Currently, an elected official who is convicted of a felony while in office is still eligible for their pension payments provided by the state. I am coauthoring a bill, SB 371, which denies the annuity payments for any elected official convicted of bribery, embezzlement, extortion, theft of public money, conspiracy or perjury associated with his or her political duties. While it is sad that such an issues must be addressed in the first place, it is clear to me that elected officials who dishonorably served should not continue to benefit from the state retirement plan.

5. Working with House members

Senate District 3 overlaps 10 House districts. This means I have the privilege to work especially close with 10 state representatives who share some of the same priorities and concerns I have. This week I had the opportunity to visit with most of them and discuss issues facing constituents. As you can imagine, working with the House is extremely important because no bill can be passed by a single chamber. Only by working together can we effectively advocate for the people we represent at home.