What's new . . .
On November 8, 2004, legislators will begin pre-filing legislation for consideration during the 2005 session, which convenes January 11, 2005. An important proposal that I will pre-file is my record vote constitutional amendment. The amendment would require that votes cast by legislators in committee hearings and on the floor of the House and Senate be recorded and available to the public. You may assume that all votes in the Texas Legislature are recorded, as they are on a national level, but recorded votes have never been required in Texas. In fact, Texas is one of only nine states that do not record their votes. I previously proposed a constitutional amendment requiring recorded votes in the Texas Legislature (SJR 5, 78th, 4th Called Session 2004), as well as several amendments, but the legislation did not pass. My opponents argue that recording votes would be too time consuming and costly. Recording votes will take slightly more time, and there will be a modest cost; however, I feel strongly that recording votes of legislators and providing access of the record to the public is vital to our democratic form of government. For this reason, I intend to file the record vote legislation as my first bill for the upcoming session.
House and Senate committees continue to hold hearings around the state on their interim assignments. One of my committees, the Senate Select Committee on Workers' Compensation, held its final hearing, concluding its study of the problem-plagued workers' compensation system. During the recent hearing, the committee heard testimony from the Texas Department of Insurance and representatives of the insurance industry about the pricing structure for workers' compensation insurance premiums. Final reports for all committees are expected in December.
Judge Dietz has not yet issued his written ruling in the school finance lawsuit, so the Attorney General has not been able to file an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court on behalf of the state. While there is still talk of a November-December school finance special session, it now seems more likely that school finance will be considered on an emergency (expedited) basis in the 2005 session.
General Land Office
Texas is an extremely diverse state whether you are talking about its natural resources, geography, or its people. Texas' first state agency exemplifies this diversity. The Texas General Land Office (GLO), which was created in 1836, is the oldest agency in Texas, and the original GLO building is also the oldest state building in Texas. The original GLO building, built in 1857, is the white, castle-like building on the southeast corner of the Capitol grounds. Today, this building serves as the Capitol Visitors Center.
The General Land Office was created in order to manage the public domain by collecting and keeping records, providing maps and surveys, and issuing land titles in the wake of independence from Mexico. Because of the security needed to protect the irreplaceable land title documents, the building was built as a fortress, ready to defend any invasion, including possible Indian raids. Even though the GLO's duties have evolved over time, its core mission remains the management of state lands and mineral-right properties totaling 20.3 million acres. Public lands under the GLO's management include beaches, bays, estuaries, grazing lands in West Texas, timberlands in East Texas, and commercial sites in urban areas throughout the state. As part of its management duties, the GLO leases drilling rights for oil and gas production on state lands, which produces revenue and royalties for the state's Permanent School Fund. Since the Fund was established in 1854, the GLO has deposited approximately $7.7 billion.
Following are some of the diverse responsibilities of the General Land Office:
The Archives and Records Division houses original Spanish, Mexican, and Republic of Texas land grants and associated documentation.
The Coastal Resources Division manages many programs such as the Adopt-A-Beach Program, the Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Program, and the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Program.
The Energy Resources Division manages the Alternative Fuels initiative, the Energy Marketing initiative, and the Sustainable Energy Program, along with many others.
The GLO also oversees the Texas Veterans Land Board. The Veterans Land Board implements the Housing Assistance Program, the Home Improvement Program, and the Land Program.
Did You Know...?
Did you know that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is holding 44 public hearings regarding the Trans-Texas Corridor Project throughout the state from October 19-November 19. The hearing in Dallas will take place on November 15, at 7780 Harry Hines Boulevard, in the Grauwyler Community Center from 5-8 pm. During the meeting, the public will have an opportunity to learn more about the project, ask questions of the TxDOT staff, and submit comments. Based on public comment from these meetings and continued environmental analysis, TxDOT will select a preferred corridor, possibly by next spring. Following this stage, TxDOT will submit an environmental impact statement to the Federal Highway Administration. Because of the significance of the Trans-Texas Corridor Project, TxDOT is attempting to obtain as much feedback from the public as possible. No final decisions on the Corridor will be made without public comment. To see the locations of the other hearings across the state, click here
, or if you wish to find out more information regarding the Trans-Texas Corridor Project click on http://www.dot.state.tx.us/ttc/ttc_home.htm
In Closing . . .
Isn't it a good feeling when you find something that you have lost, especially when it's money? The Texas Comptroller's Office has a site dedicated to unclaimed property. To discover if you have any unclaimed property click on http://www.window.state.tx.us/up/
State Senator - District 16