Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Leticia Van de Putte

For Immediate Release
Friday, September 12, 2008
Contact: Tiffany Champion, (210) 733-6604

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E-News from the Office of Senator Van de Putte

Dear Friend,

I hope this e-news finds you well. Included in this issue is important information on the Federal Highway Trust Fund shortfall, and what it means to Texans. Also, some good news on Texas' childhood immunization rating, and finding out if your child qualifies for free pre-k.

Federal Government Highway Trust Fund Shortfall
Last night the U.S. House of Representatives cleared legislation replenishing the nearly bankrupt Highway Trust Fund (HTF) by transferring $8 billion from the general treasury.

The HTF balance dropped from $4.2 billion at the end of July to what would be a zero or a likely negative balance by October 1. Fuel tax receipts, which are the primary source for the highway program, have been considerably lower than expected due to a sharp decline in vehicle miles traveled.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed HR 6532 after amending it to take effect immediately rather than Sept. 30, as originally planned. This money will enable highway projects presently under construction to continue.

The shortfall affected the FHWA's ability to pay State grantees within 24 hours. It will not shut down the Federal-aid highway program nor alter states receiving obligated federal funds. What this means, is the federal government will change the way it refunds states by reimbursing states on a weekly basis, instead of on a daily basis as before. To temporarily remedy the situation, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed two courses of action to minimize the impact of the cash shortfall, one of which has already been implemented, but is awaiting the President's signature:

      (1) Passage of legislation allowing the immediate transfer of $8 billion from the general fund to the highway account.

      (2) Payment of proportional reimbursements to states until the $8 billion transfer is approved.

To avoid the impact, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDot) has taken measures to ensure their contracting partners remain whole by issuing a short term debt to cover the federal shortfall. Although, TxDot is not planning to slow any highway projects already in progress, they acknowledge that things could change in the future.

Texas Free Pre-K
In 2007, the Texas Legislature amended a section of the Texas Education Code (29.153) to include among those eligible for free pre-k, children who are in or who have ever been in the conservatorship of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) following an adversary hearing. This includes children who are in or who have been in DFPS conservatorship, and also children who have been adopted or returned to their parents after being in DFPS conservatorship. Please see the summary of eligibility is below:

Summary of Eligibility:
A child is eligible for enrollment in prekindergarten if at least three years of age and:

  1. is unable to speak and comprehend the English language;
  2. is educationally disadvantaged;
  3. is homeless;
  4. is the child of an active duty member of the armed forces of the United States;
  5. is the child of a member of the armed forces who was injured or killed while on active duty; or
  6. is or ever has been in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services following an adversary hearing.

DFPS mailed verification letters of prekindergarten eligibility to the parents and caregivers of the 15,000 eligible children; the letter serves as proof of eligibility. For more information on eligibility, or to view the list of the nearest DFPS Education Specialists, please visit http://www.tea.state.tx.us/taa/stateinit072408a2.doc

Texas Childhood Immunization Rates Hit 5-Year High
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that immunization rates for Texas children jumped 19% hitting a five year high in 2007.

The national survey released last week showed Texas ranked No. 22 in the nation with a 3.5% increase over the 77.4% rating last year. This is the highest ranking the state has ever reached.

State numbers are based on the percentage of children, aged 19-35 months, completing the 4:3:1:3:3:1 series of immunizations. This series includes four doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP), three doses of polio vaccine, one dose of measles-containing vaccine, three doses of Hib vaccine, three doses of hepatitis B vaccine, and one dose of varicella vaccine.

In Bexar County alone, the rate of immunizations increased 7.4% from 74.6% to 80.1%. Although these numbers reflect good progress, we still have a lot of work to do to increase the numbers even more.

Please feel free to contact my office regarding any of the above information. 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.

Sincerely,

HOW TO CONTACT SENATOR VAN DE PUTTE
District Office
700 N. St. Mary's St. #1725
San Antonio, Texas 78205
(210) 733-6604
(210) 733-6605 - fax
leticia.vandeputte@senate.state.tx.us

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