Shapleigh Files Act to Strengthen State's Military Bases
Austin - Senator Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso held a press conference today to announce the filing of new legislation termed the "Military Preparedness Act of 2003". The bill was proposed as an effort to prevent possible military base closures in Texas during the upcoming Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) review in 2005 by the federal government. The purpose of the BRAC commission is to trim excess domestic base infrastructure, estimated to be twenty-five percent too large with costs of billions of dollars a year.
That followed a meeting of the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations and the House Committee on Defense Affairs and State-Federal Relations which discussed the current state of Texas' eighteen military bases and what can be done to make the bases so valuable that the federal government will keep them open.
Shapleigh's proposed legislation includes many of the ideas brought forth in the joint committee, including the creation of the Texas Military Strategic Fund for military communities who want to make their installation more cost effective and the formation of a state agency with the responsibility for statewide military issues. The bill also deals with concerns such as urban encroachment, which impacts military readiness, and improvements in the education process for military personnel. William Ehrie, chairman of the Texas Strategic Military Planning Commission, supports Shapleigh's proposed legislation, saying that it "sends a message that Texas and its installations are willing to be part of the national defense, want to continue to be part of it, and are willing to look at, and have the ability and capability to attract new missions and realign missions to the state of Texas which will serve the government well."
Also today, hearings about the budget continued in a joint hearing between the Senate Committee on Government Organization and the House Committee on Government Reform. State Auditor Lawrence Alwin briefed the panel on the two recent reports released by the State Auditor's office. Alwin outlined a series of proposals designed to help agencies better utilize their employees and make the most of their tightened budgets.
Following today's session, a ceremony was held in the Senate Chamber to recognize and salute the Texas Military. Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and Governor Rick Perry, both Air Force veterans, as well as Senator Leticia Van de Putte from San Antonio, McAllen Senator Juan Hinojosa, and others, expressed their gratitude to the active members and veterans of the Texas military.
The Senate will reconvene Thursday, February 13, 2003, at 10:00 a.m.