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Newsletter: House adresses transportation, transparency, border security

As the 2015 legislative session nears its halfway point, the Texas House is addressing a range of issues that matter to our economy and our communities. The work that is now happening in House committees will lay a strong foundation for the second half of the session, and I want to catch you up on some of those efforts.

Below are updates on some of the issues working their way through the House:

Transportation: The House is preparing a budget that uses the money in our State Highway Fund solely for transportation instead of diverting some of those resources to other programs. Our current budget proposal also puts significant new resources into road maintenance and construction. Combined with voter approval last fall of a plan to commit some of our oil-and-gas tax revenue to transportation, these are significant steps.

Public Education: Legislation to strengthen high-quality pre-kindergarten has been introduced and heard in the Public Education Committee. In addition, the House is committed to addressing shortfalls in our health care system for retired school employees so that they do not face higher premiums over the next two years.

Budget Transparency: For a couple of decades, the state has collected taxes and fees for specific purposes, then hoarded that money to help balance the rest of the budget. The House continues working to reduce this practice. Last week, my colleagues introduced House Bills 6 and 7, which will further reduce the amount of money that can pile up in these accounts. These reforms will make the budget more accountable to taxpayers.

Border Security: This week, the House is likely to take up House Bill 11, which is designed to improve public safety in the border region and across our state. It would authorize the hiring of additional state troopers, create a Texas Transnational Crime Intelligence Center and strengthen laws that combat human smuggling. The proposal came out of the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety with a unanimous 8-0 vote, which illustrates our bipartisan and collaborative approach to this issue.

Pension Reform: The House has proposed a plan that will shore up our pension program for retired state employees, making it actuarially sound. By doing so, we will reduce the state’s unfunded liabilities, which will help Texas maintain a strong credit rating and provide stability for state retirees and all taxpayers.

As you can see, the House is addressing a number of challenges in a meaningful way. And there is much more to come. I will continue to keep you updated on the House’s work between now and the end of the legislative session on June 1. As always, I welcome your feedback and input, so please don’t hesitate to contact me at joe@joestraus.org.