Issues Facing the 78th Legislature
(Austin) - During the current legislative session, my colleagues and I will face a number of challenging issues. Insurance reform, health and human services, transportation and highway infrastructure, and public school finance are just a few areas that will be addressed.
Recently, the Senate Research Center (SRC) issued a document highlighting some of theses issues. This article contains the SRC report on two of these issues, transportation and homeland security. Subsequent articles will focus on other issue areas that will be addressed by the legislature. If you would like to view the full document, you can read it on-line at www.senate.state.tx.us, or contact my office for a copy.
The passage of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) resulted in a high volume of truck traffic at Texas' two international ports of entry --El Paso and Laredo-- which handle 68 percent of all traffic from Mexico into the U.S.; yet Texas faces potential cuts in federal highway aid of $600 million in FY2003. Texas could lose federal funds for transportation projects if it does not act rapidly to improve air quality in the nonattainment areas of the state, which includes Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston/Galveston, El Paso and Beaumont/Port Arthur. Five other metropolitan areas have been designated as "near nonattainment" areas: Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Victoria, and the Tyler- Longview-Marshall area.
The legislature may consider ways to increase funding of Fund 006, including clarification on "the point of first use," i.e., taxes are collected when fuel is delivered to gas stations. Efforts to channel funding to the Texas Mobility Fund from other sources will likely be addressed by the 78th Legislature.
Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, federal, state, and local governments made it a priority to create mechanisms to address future transgressions. In Texas, the Governor's Task Force on Homeland Security (task force) was created to develop recommendations and advise the governor on improving Texas' ability to detect, deter, and respond to potential terrorist threats. The task force report was submitted to the governor on January 31, 2002, and is available at http://www.governor.state.tx.us/divisions/press/initiatives/homesec2002.
During the interim, the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services also addressed changes necessary to upgrade the state's public health infrastructure, which is crucial for enhancing Texas' capacity to address bioterrorism. Included in the committee's recommendations are: providing funds to help increase TDH's ability to collect and analyze data, train health care workers to respond to bioterrorism, and augment microbiological laboratory capacity; updating the Health and Safety Code, including the modification of definitions and authorities afforded to health agencies defined in the Texas Disaster Act of 1975 and the Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Act to enable them to respond more quickly and appropriately; and updating the exceptions to autopsy and cremation requirements in the Code of Criminal Procedure to account for additional diseases.
To contact Sen. Deuell about the legislative process, contact the Capitol Office at (512) 463-0102 or mail to Sen. Bob Deuell, Texas Senate, P.O. Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711. The website for the Texas Senate is www.Senate.state.tx.us. The e-mail address for Sen. Deuell is: email@example.com.