During interims--the period between regular legislative sessions--standing committees are given specific charges and other special committees are created. I would like to fill you in on my interim study appointments by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.
After each regular legislative session, we legislators return to our homes to practice our chosen professions and to attend to constituent needs. However, our jobs do not end there! We are also needed to continue our service on standing committees that review legislative initiatives from the previous session and prepare us for the major issues to be addressed during the next legislature.
Many of us are also asked to serve on various "special" interim committees to address issues of particular concern to the people of Texas and the legislative leadership.
I am currently Chair of the International Relations and Trade (IRT) Committee, a regular standing committee, which met recently in El Paso. We are scheduled to hold more public hearings in other parts of the state, including South Texas.
The IRT Committee is charged this interim with examining programs that will foster economic development necessary to keep Texas competitive in trade and commerce. The role of the North American Development Bank, the Border Environment Cooperation Commission, and the International Boundary and Water Commission will be researched and analyzed in order to maximize their effectiveness. We are also studying immigration, the effects of the U.S.-VISIT Program, colonia infrastructure and employment trends, as well as the 10-year impact of NAFTA.
I have also been appointed to the Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance. This group was charged with developing an efficient and equitable system of free public schools while finding ways to lower property taxes for homeowners.
Also affecting public schools is the issue of child nutrition. Senate Bill 474, which I carried during the 78th legislative session, created the Joint Interim Committee on Nutrition and Health in Public Schools, on which I also serve. This committee will evaluate methods on improving nutrition and quality of public school foods, the impact of obesity in public school children, vending machine and other competitive food contracts with schools, and a universal breakfast and lunch program.
Additionally, I serve on the Senate Select Committee on Water Policy, which is studying all issues related to ground and surface water, and the Senate Subcommittee on the Lease of State Water Rights, which is examining proposals to develop and market water through leasing of the permanent school fund and permanent university lands, and their water rights.
Since I passed legislation creating the Rio Grande Regional Water Authority during the 78th session, I am really pleased to be on both committees, but especially the one on water policy because it affects the Authority. This body was created by Senate Bill 1902, which is poised to assist and serve six counties below the Amistad Reservoir--Cameron, Willacy, Hidalgo, Starr, Zapata and Webb--with water conservation and management activities on a regional basis.
As a member of the Business and Commerce Committee, I have the opportunity to participate in evaluating its charges regarding unemployment compensation insurance, the impact of changes in home equity lending, the potential for further renewable energy development in Texas, and others.
The other committee I sit on--the Jurisprudence Committee--will study the jurisdiction of all local and state courts, judicial salaries and benefits, arbitration statutes and insanity defense laws.
As you can see from this brief overview, although we are technically part-time legislators, the concerns of Texans keep us pretty busy even when we are not in session.
As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact my office in Austin at 512-463-0127, Brownsville at 956-548-0227 and Weslaco at 956-968-9927.