E-News from the Office of Senator Van de Putte
I am sending you the latest updates on the legislative session, plus some helpful information for you back home.
Legislation: Veteran Affairs
As Chair of the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations, I want to highlight some of the legislation I have filed to benefit veterans and military families.
SB 90 will establish a pilot program to allow a blank ballot to be e-mailed to a military voter if the voter failed to receive his or her ballot the original way. This bill has passed in the Senate and is being sponsored in the House by San Antonio Representative Frank Corte.
SB 299 will allow a military family to continue to claim a homestead exemption after two years away, even if the family is serving within the United States. This bill stems from a San Antonio family currently living on-base in New York, who lost their homestead exemption. This bill has also passed in the Senate and is being sponsored on the House side by Representative Pat Haggerty from El Paso.
I have re-filed the Hazlewood Legacy Act (SB 874), allowing a veteran to pass unused Hazlewood higher education benefits to a child.
I am also very excited about SB 1453, which prioritizes Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans statewide in the community-based mental health care system, and SB 1454, which reinforces the state's veteran employment preference.
To find out more about any of these bills, please log on to www.capitol.state.tx.us
NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF STATE LEGISLATURES (NCSL)
On Monday, March 26, I will serve as a witness for a U.S. Senate hearing on the REAL ID Act. I have been invited to serve as a witness in my capacity as president of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and as a state senator. The U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia will hold the hearing entitled, Understanding the Realities of REAL ID: A Review of Efforts to Secure Drivers' Licenses and Identification Cards. The purpose of the hearing is to review the REAL ID Act of 2005 and the proposed regulations released by the Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2006, implementing the Act.
The REAL ID Act is an attempt to create national standards for the issuance of state driver's licenses and identification cards. Each state is required to comply with this federal mandate, although the states are bearing the financial burden. Apparently the federal government’s plan is for states to pass along the costs to consumers. In fact by several estimates some state's residents will pay more than $100 to renew their drivers licenses and that coupled with the additional time it will take waiting in line makes for a big headache.
As a state official, I believe we can make the REAL ID Act work. I look forward to working with our Washington counterparts to strengthen the security of state issued drivers licenses, while not breaking state budgets or passing along exorbitant costs to our consumers.
The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) recently announced that it will mandate homeowner insurance companies to report and justify current rates this spring. This development is the result of 2006 loss ratios and insurance carriers’ decisions to prohibit risks previously written.
Rate reviews will be based on a multi-year period, and will take into account severe weather exposure, like tornados, hail and hurricanes and the need for adequate reserves in case of catastrophes.
If an insurance carrier is found to be charging excessive rates, TDI will require the company to reduce its rates. Rates will not be uniform for all carriers. Consumers are encouraged to look for the best coverage to meet their needs and budget.
I am pleased to say that this week Governor Perry announced the first fund allocation from the Texas Military Revolving Loan Fund for Road Improvement and Infrastructure Programs. The allocation included $38.3 million to the Port of San Antonio to build a 90,000 square foot Air Cargo Terminal that will accommodate any size cargo plane, and construct two office and warehouse buildings. This addition to Kelly Air Force Base has excellent economic implications for San Antonio.
Texas Mortgage Bankers Association (TMBA) has created an educational video that introduces credit and financial responsibility to young adults. The video addresses survey results which indicate that at least half of 18-year-olds do not have the minimum level of financial literacy needed to understand and protect their own interests.
So many young people obtain credit before exiting high school and accumulate substantial debt that creates lasting damage to their credit history. In an effort to provide financial education to young people between the ages of 18 and 20, TMBA is introducing the Home Economics Network video. This credit educational video is distributed to educators and community based leaders with hopes of sparking students’ interest in building their credit early so that they can become homeowners.
TMBA’s objective is to get the video and credit educational resources in front of young adults who can benefit from these learning tools. For more information or a copy of the video and educational materials, please visit the TMBA website at http://www.texasmba.org/HomeEcoNet
I will continue to keep you updated throughout the legislative session. I am here representing you, so I encourage you to share your thoughts with me. It is your contributions that allow me to be an effective legislator.
HOW TO CONTACT SENATOR VAN DE PUTTE
700 N. St. Mary's St. #1725
San Antonio, Texas 78205
(210) 733-6605 - fax