Seliger Completes Another Successful Session for Senate District 31
AUSTIN, Texas - Monday, State Senator Kel Seliger completed his second session serving in the Texas Senate, as the 80th Legislature adjourned Sine Die, literally "without a day" available to reconvene in another session. Since the Legislature convened in January, Senator Seliger filed over 80 pieces of legislation, passing 72 percent of those, including many noteworthy measures to benefit the citizens of the Panhandle, South Plains and the Permian Basin. "From a budgetary perspective, I believe that District 31 has kept pace with the rest of the state. Considering that my legislative agenda is largely shaped by input from educators, local officials, businesses, service organizations and state employees in my district, it was a successful session for the people I represent," Seliger said.
Senator Seliger enthusiastically continued his service on the Senate Natural Resources Committee, allowing him the opportunity to pass legislation of significant importance to the citizens of West Texas, with the cornerstone of these being Senate Bill 1461, the omnibus FutureGen bill. Senate Bill 1461 is intended to help Texas win the FutureGen project, a near zero-emissions carbon-based electric generation facility partnership between the Department of Energy and the FutureGen Industrial Alliance (Alliance). The bill grants the Governor of Texas the authority to contract with the Alliance upon awarding the project to the state, allows the Attorney General to represent the State in any related legal proceedings, and allows the Governor and Comptroller to award a margins tax credit to the Alliance to mitigate the high cost of electric generation related to these experimental processes. "FutureGen represents the future of fossil fuel generated environmentally responsible electricity.
It is important that FutureGen becomes a reality, is located in Texas, and, for practical and qualitative reasons, is built in Odessa," noted Seliger.
In his continued efforts to protect groundwater throughout the Panhandle, Senator Seliger passed Senate Bill 1383 to ensure that groundwater districts have the opportunity to investigate allegations between adjoining landowners of violations of groundwater permits and groundwater district rules.
Seliger once again served diligently as the Vice-Chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, where he fostered significant criminal justice reform legislation through a process dealing with the creation of drug courts and increasing financial assistance to counties for the purposes of providing indigent defense. House Bill 530 will provide additional funding for the expansion of drug courts while incentivizing counties to create them locally through the imposition of a $50 court fee on a conviction of an intoxication or drug offense to help fund drug courts. Drug courts help divert offenders from prison by providing treatment combined with intensive supervision, and these programs have proven to cost 75 percent less than incarceration. They have a proven success rate in Texas, and studies have shown that Texas offenders completing drug court programs have a 50% lower re-arrest rate than offenders who do not. In addition, House Bill 1267 will streamline procedures for compensation and reimbursement
for counsel appointed to represent indigent defendants, and creates an indigent defense representation fund. This bill will raise an additional $15 million for indigent defense that will go directly to counties. "House Bill 1267 should help counties with one of their very expensive items, the cost of providing counsel to defendants who cannot afford it themselves. This will be a real help to local taxpayers," stated Seliger.
Education continued to be a priority for Senator Seliger during the 80th Legislature. He filed Senate Bill 379, early in the session to repeal Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test at the high school level and replace it with end-of-course exams based on the recommended curriculum with the assistance of educators, administrators and parents. Key components of this legislation were included in Senate Education Committee Chair Florence Shapiro's Senate Bill 1031, a bill Seliger co-authored, to end the TAKS test at the high school level. "One of the high points of my session was working with Senator Shapiro to end the TAKS test. With the input of teachers, counselors, administrators and parents, we have taken the opportunity to develop an accountability system and assessment tool that will augment the educational system and not accentuate testing over learning," said Seliger.
Senator Seliger also made important legislative contributions in the area of transportation. Senate Bill 1260 allows for nonresidents to receive a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) if they are able to provide their worker's visa, passport, I-94 documentation and social security number. The face of the license will have the words "NONRESIDENT" printed on the front and the license will only be issued for the length of the visa or I-94, whichever expires first. This ensures that the license will only serve as a valid ID during the stay that is authorized. "This was one of the priorities for the agricultural entities that are such an important part of the economy of the Panhandle, South Plains, and Permian Basin," noted Seliger.
Seliger will now return to the district to report to the citizens of District 31 on all of the activities and accomplishments of the 80th Legislature and continue to visit with them about issues of concern. "I look forward to the town hall meetings to be held later this year in every county I represent. I appreciate every opportunity that I will have in the coming months to report to the people who have honored me by allowing me to represent them in the Texas Senate," concluded Seliger.