What's New . . .
Texans will have the opportunity to vote on 16 proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution on November 6, with early voting running October 22 through November 2. As required by the Texas Constitution, each of these amendments passed both chambers of the Legislature with at least a two-thirds majority. For a detailed explanation of each amendment click here.
Earlier this month, Comptroller Susan Combs released proposed rules in the Texas Register for the revised franchise tax. The rules are intended to clarify many of the provisions from HB 3, (which passed during the 2006 Special Session) the legislation that originally revised the franchise tax. Following a 30-day public comment period, the rules are expected to be adopted in December 2007. The adopted rules will then go into effect January 1, 2008. You may read the proposed rules online. To help calculate estimated tax liability under the revised tax, the Comptroller has developed an online franchise tax calculator.
The Legislature and Governor Perry are continuing to work towards restoring the $154 million in community college funding that the Governor vetoed in June. To that end, the House Select Committee on Higher and Public Education Finance held a hearing earlier this month. At this point, all parties are cautiously optimistic that the funding will be restored. Governor Perry has explained that he vetoed the funding because the community colleges did not use the correct formula in calculating the portion of state funding for community college budgets. The community colleges disagree with this position explaining that the formula used was the one that has been in place for many years. Since the $154 million was vetoed from the state budget, it cannot be re-appropriated absent legislative action and therefore must be taken from the existing budget.
Although all parties have agreed that the funding should be restored, there is no consensus on which area of the state budget it should come from, and a multitude of solutions are being considered.
The Joint Select Committee on the Operation and Management of the Texas Youth Commission (TYC), which is comprised of members of the Senate and House, held a hearing on August 29, 2007. At the hearing, numerous issues were raised including reports of high recidivism rates among recently-released offenders, and how to reduce those rates. The committee also questioned a new policy expanding the use of pepper spray in TYC facilities. Dimitria Pope, the Acting Executive Director of TYC who implemented the policy, explained that using pepper spray should reduce the use of restraints, and therefore the number of injuries, since most injuries result from the use of restraints.
The Texas Transportation Institute just released its annual Urban Mobility Report. According to the report, Dallas drivers lose 58 hours a year and waste 40 gallons of gas in stalled traffic. Additionally, no other urban area in the state has seen traffic get worse faster than the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. In other transportation news, the Texas Department of Transportation has backed off its proposal to use speed monitoring cameras in certain areas of the state. Although no tickets would have been issued to those caught speeding by the cameras, many lawmakers were upset about the proposal, since the Legislature passed a law prohibiting cities from using cameras to issue citations for speeding.
Focus. . .
This month's focus is on Dallas Metrocare, a non-profit entity that is a key provider of mental health and mental retardation services for Dallas County. Dallas Metrocare was established in 1967 as the Dallas County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority and is governed by a nine-member board of trustees appointed by the Dallas County Commissioners Court. Metrocare receives the bulk of its funding through fees for its services; it also receives funds from the county, various grants, and donations from the community.
Metrocare offers a wide range of services with the goal of helping people with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and severe emotional problems lead healthy and fulfilling lives. The non-profit currently serves over 23,000 people a year and offers treatment, rehabilitation and other programs. Among these programs are Supported Housing, which provides an array of services including homeless outreach, homeless clinics, short-term transitional housing, rehabilitative support services, and housing placement assistance for adults 18 and older who are mentally ill. The Supported Employment program, which offers career design and development services for adults with mental retardation, provides employers with valuable well-trained employees and provides these individuals the opportunity to support themselves and become integrated into the community.
Metrocare also has mobile crisis teams, which go out to the community in case there is a behavioral problem related to mental illness or mental retardation. These teams also assist law enforcement and can intervene in situations in which the individual may otherwise be arrested absent such intervention. Additionally, the non-profit offers intensive monitoring, treatment, and rehabilitative training for serious mentally ill adults with a history of multiple hospitalizations.
Metrocare offers services geared towards children and adolescents and their families with severe emotional and social problems. Based on a "wrap around" model, Child & Adolescent Services provides programs in homes, schools, and day care centers involving the people and supports already available in the child's life in order to create an integrated treatment program and better-functioning families.
As the mental retardation authority for Dallas County, Metrocare is also responsible for screening, evaluating and diagnosing individuals. These individuals can either receive services through one of many providers throughout the area or directly through Metrocare.
Metrocare has five locations throughout the Dallas area with bilingual and bicultural staff available at each location. Those looking to access their services can contact them at 214-333-7000 or 214-743-1200. Metrocare accepts Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance, and also has a sliding scale for those who do not have insurance.
Did You Know . . . ?
The State Fire Marshal's Office has announced that "Have an Exit Strategy Where You Live, Work or Play" will be the theme for Fire Prevention Week, which is October 7-13. The Fire Marshal's Office urges Texans to learn two ways out of any room they are in, whether they are in their house, at work, or any other locale. Recent studies have shown that many people overestimate the amount of time they will have to escape from a fire. Therefore, it is important to know more than two ways to exit each room. For more information on this year's Fire Prevention Week, visit www.haveanexitstrategy.com.
Student Opportunity . . .
NASA Aerospace Scholars
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) sponsors an annual program, Texas Aerospace Scholars, an education program that offers high school juniors the opportunity to participate in a science-, math-, and engineering-based online learning program, and features an all-expenses paid, week-long summer residential experience at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Students are recommended for the program by their state legislator. Eligible students are required to meet the following criteria:
At least 16 years of age
Currently a high school junior
Interested in science, math, or engineering
Able to commit to a relationship with the Johnson Space Center, including a one-week residential experience during the summer
Access to the Internet and email (home, school, or public library)
The procedure for submitting applications has changed. Applications must be submitted directly to the NASA Johnson Space Center, by November 2. Please note that this procedure is a change from previous years. NASA will review the applications first and then forward them to the appropriate legislators for consideration.
In Closing . . .
Please remember to vote on November 6. October 9 is the last day to register to vote in the general election. October 30 is the last day to apply to vote by mail. October 22 is the first day of early voting. November 2 is the last day of early voting, and the election is November 6. For more information go to the Secretary of State's website, or to the Dallas County Elections website for local information.
State Senator - District 16
|Capitol Office||District Offices|
|P.O. Box 12068|
Austin, TX 78711
|8080 N. Central Expy.|
Suite 1440, LB 44
Dallas, TX 75206
|5401 N. Central Expy.|
Dallas, TX 75205