WHAT'S NEW . . .
- Recently, a number of universities in Texas hired new presidents and interim presidents. They include the following:
- The University of North Texas announced that Dr. Neal Smatresk will be taking over the role of university president. Dr. Smatresk was previously the president of the University of Nevada Las Vegas. He succeeds V. Lane Rawlins, who retired at the end of 2013.
- Texas A&M University announced the hiring of Mark Hussey. Mr. Hussey will serve as interim president following the departure of President R. Bowen Loftin.
- Texas Tech University introduced its new president, Dr. M. Duane Nellis. Dr. Nellis is now the 16th president in the school's history.
- Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst has begun to release interim charges for some of the Texas Senate's committees. To date, interim charges have been announced for the Committee on Agriculture, Rural Affairs, and Homeland Security; the Committee on Economic Development; the Committee on Criminal Justice; the Committee on Health and Human Services; the Committee on State Affairs; the Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee; and the Committee on Business and Commerce, which I chair. The Lieutenant Governor is expected to release more interim charges in the upcoming weeks.
- I want to recognize the special needs students at Multiple Careers Magnet Center in the Dallas ISD, who donated handmade wooden toys to sick children at the Ronald McDonald House. The gifts were made by the students and included rocking horses, reindeer, and airplanes. The students' craftsmanship is impressive and their generosity is truly inspiring. We should all be proud of them and the thoughtful contribution they have made.
TEXAS IN THE NEWS . . .
- Texas Comptroller Susan Combs recently delivered more good news for the Texas economy. Projecting continued and steady growth for the economy in a letter penned to the Legislature, Comptroller Combs' analysis of estimated revenues and expenditures projected an ending balance of $2.58 billion in General Revenue funds. The Comptroller also forecasted a 2014-15 biennium ending balance of $8.07 billion in the Economic Stabilization Fund, often referred to as the "Rainy Day Fund." She further noted that Texas has recovered 100 percent of the jobs lost during the recent recession and has added 597,000 jobs beyond our peak numbers in August of 2008.
FOCUS - Border Security . . .
Our border with Mexico presents many opportunities for the state and our economy. Unfortunately, it also presents a variety of challenges, such as gang-related crimes, drug trafficking, violence, and threats to public safety. In order to fully enjoy the benefits of our border, it must be secure and free of illegal activity. For this reason, border security is and continues to be a priority for the Texas Legislature.
In 2009, during my tenure as chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security, I authored legislation (SB 11) that sought to discourage gang-related activity. SB 11 was included as an amendment to HB 2086, which was passed into law. Among other things, SB 11 criminalized activities that serve the interests of gangs, increased penalties for gang-related activity in established gang-free zones, allows for electronic location monitoring of gang offenders, requires juveniles convicted of gang activity to participate in a gang intervention course, and established criteria for inclusion in a gang intelligence database. Over the last few sessions, other steps taken by the Legislature to increase security and prevent crime along the border include:
- SB 1393 from the 83rd Regular Session (2013), which provided directives for the state's homeland security strategy, including direction for protection against homeland security threats and hazards, mitigation of the loss of life and property, and the prevention of significant criminal and terrorist attacks;
- SB 1649 from the 82nd Regular Session (2011), which created a grant program to support the prosecution of border crimes; and
- HB 1871 from the 81st Regular Session (2009), which allows a ship channel security district and the Department of Transportation to enter into an agreement permitting the district to use the department's facilities or property to aid in the security of the district.
Continuing the effort to address border security concerns, Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst recently released interim charges for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Rural Affairs, and Homeland Security related to the state's efforts to secure the border.
- The Lieutenant Governor's first charge tasks the Committee with: examining the most effective methods for addressing threats, evaluating policies designed to secure the border, making recommendations for the deterrence of transnational and drug-related violence and crime, and examining the implementation of the recent Department of Public Safety surge operation.
- A second interim charge calls for a study of the current practice of crime statistic reporting to determine whether the practice accurately measures border-related crimes.
I commend the Lieutenant Governor's efforts to make border security a priority and I look forward to the findings and recommendations of the Committee on Agriculture, Rural Affairs, and Homeland Security on this important topic.
STUDENT OPPORTUNITIES . . .
In 2009, the Texas Legislature authorized the Texas Armed Services Scholarship, which assists promising students across the state who are committed to education and service. The scholarship provides recipients with up to $10,000 per academic year for up to four years toward an undergraduate education at any Texas university with an active ROTC program. To be eligible for the Scholarship, a student must, among other things, meet academic requirements; be appointed by a legislator, the Governor, or Lieutenant Governor; enroll in an eligible institution and ROTC program; and make a commitment to serving in the Guard. To learn more about the scholarship, please visit www.texasarmedservicescholarships.com.
IN CLOSING . . .
I hope you had a relaxing and enjoyable holiday season. It is truly an honor to serve as your representative in the Texas Senate. I sincerely appreciate the thoughtful feedback and input you have provided to me and my staff. As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions or concerns you may have.
State Senator - District 16
|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