E-News from the Office of Senator Van de Putte
We are facing difficult times--the number of home foreclosures and unemployment rates are steadily rising across the country and many of our major financial institutions are in trouble. We are all concerned and troubled, and as such, I am writing to provide to you with information on our nation's economy.
Making Higher Education Accessible
Since education has always been my number one policy priority, it deeply concerns me that tuition rate increases we have seen throughout our state universities are pricing middle class families out of a higher education. If our high school graduates cannot afford to attend a higher learning institution, it will affect the future growth and prosperity of our entire state.
With the 81st legislative session approaching, I remain committed to forging public policy to improve my constituents' quality of life. I pre-filed over a dozen bills, and among my top priorities is to lower the cost of higher education. I have authored three key pieces of legislation to help lower the cost of higher education for students and families.
Senate Bill 214 will limit the tuition amount a higher education institute charges to no more than five percent of the amount charged the preceding academic year. Five years ago, the legislature abdicated its duty in setting tuition rates to the different boards of regents of our university system. Although our universities promised to maintain a gradual rate of increase, tuition and required fees have continued to rise exponentially; tuition has risen over 50% statewide.
Tuition deregulation has really hurt our students and families. Thus, students are seeing their dream of a college degree turn into a nightmare. It is time to put a limit on tuition increases to ensure students continue to get the education they need to succeed in the Texas workforce.
I have also filed Senate Bill 215, requiring each higher education institution to make the required instructional material list available to students, their families and the general public. This will ensure students receive lower cost options for textbooks and encourage institutions to offer more electronic opportunities for students to use their financial aid credit.
As Chair of the Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Senate Committee, I have also authored Senate Bill 297, along with Senator Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) to make college more affordable for veterans and their families.
Currently, non-Texas veterans who want to attend a public university in Texas are required to pay out-of-state tuition and fees until they have lived in Texas for one year. This legislation would allow veterans and their families to pay in-state tuition and fees without regard to the length of time of their residency in Texas.
As we go about our daily routines, it is easy to forget that our lifestyle is a privilege paid for by our treasured military men and women. But, we can honor our military families every day by supporting initiatives such as this in-state tuition waiver.
Our students and military members have endured enough. It is time for the legislature to step up and ensure affordable higher education for all. I am prepared to fight for Texans' basic right to an education, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to do more for Texas families in the upcoming session.
Texas Businesses Honored
The State Board of Education (SBOE) recently honored 14 Texas businesses, organizations and governmental entities with the Employers for Education Excellence (EEE) Award.
The EEE Award was enacted last legislative session through Senate Bill 1433, which I authored and Rep. Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs) sponsored. The award is designed to honor employers implementing a policy to encourage and support employees who actively participate in school activities. The award serves as just a small token of our appreciation to those companies who allow their employees to make a difference in the lives of Texas children.
There are three categories for the award - Gold, Silver and Bronze. San Antonio's own Capital Group Companies was a 2008 Gold Award recipient. A total of 1,600 of their employees have volunteered more than 40,000 hours over 11 years at Sul Ross Middle School (NISD). Employees have mentored students, participated in intramural sports and worked with a scholars program and Junior Achievement.
YFZ/Eldorado Update from the Office of Attorney General Greg Abbott
As of November 24, three defendants associated with the Yearning For Zion (YFZ) compound in Eldorado, Texas, turned themselves into the Schleicher County Sheriff's Office. All three were indicted on November 12. The defendants include:
- Fredrick Merril Jessop, 72, who is charged with one count of conducting an unlawful marriage ceremony involving a minor, which is a third-degree felony;
- Wendell Loy Nielsen, 68, who is charged with three separate counts of third-degree felony bigamy;
- Leroy Johnson Steed, 42, who is charged with one count of sexual assault of a child, a first-degree felony (because it involves a prohibited marriage); one count of second-degree felony bigamy; one count of third-degree felony bigamy; and one count of tampering with physical evidence, a third-degree felony.
The Schleicher County grand jury also returned a first-degree felony charge against Warren Jeffs, who was indicted for sexually assaulting a child. Jeffs is currently incarcerated in Arizona. He was also indicted in August 2008 on a charge of first-degree bigamy. At this point, 12 persons associated with the polygamist compound in Eldorado have been indicted as part of the ongoing and continuing criminal investigation.
Please feel free to contact me regarding any of the above issues, and please have a safe and happy week!
HOW TO CONTACT SENATOR VAN DE PUTTE
700 N. St. Mary's St. #1725
San Antonio, Texas 78205
(210) 733-6605 - fax