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Newsletter: Priorities Taking Shape

Last week, I spelled out some of the most important challenges facing the Texas House as we prepare to convene for our 2017 legislative session in January. While the session won't begin for several months, now is the time when issues start to take shape and colleagues begin to share ideas about how best to provide leadership for our growing and dynamic state.

It's important to realize that the Legislature will face some significant fiscal challenges when we meet again. The private-sector economy has not performed up to projections over the last year. Persistent weakness in the oil-and-gas sector has taken its toll on economic activity, which has hurt state tax collections. In other words, a scarcity of resources will affect every decision the Legislature makes, and some of those decisions are going to be difficult.
That's why it's especially important to set clear priorities. When I spoke to more than 300 people at the Dallas Regional Chamber, I highlighted a number of issues that will be at the top of the priority list for me and other Members of the Texas House next year, such as:

Improving public education. The Texas Supreme Court says that our education finance system is technically legal but deeply flawed. The House will continue working to see that we improve the system for students and taxpayers, and we will work specifically to try to keep more local dollars in local schools.

Addressing mental health. I formed a new committee last year to take a comprehensive look at our mental health system, and that committee has been very active. This issue affects not just our health care system, but our schools, our criminal justice system, and many other aspects of every community. We will look for ways to provide treatment in ways that are more effective and efficient.

Protecting children from abuse. Child Protective Services is in need of reforms that will help the agency better protect children from abuse in their own homes. Right now, turnover in the CPS workforce is too frequent and there aren't enough foster homes for children who need them. The Legislature put some improvements in place when we met in 2015, and we will build on those efforts next year.

Encouraging entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship has been in decline across the country. We need to continue working to make Texas the best state in the country for starting a business, and we will evaluate the regulations and other hurdles that stand in the way of getting new businesses off the ground.

These issues are important because they will help our citizens create opportunities for themselves. It isn't government's responsibility to guarantee or produce success for every citizen. But we can address issues that will help the people we serve reach their full potential.
I also want to hear your priorities for the next legislative session. Feel free to email me at joe@joestraus.org and tell me which issues matter most to you and your family. And as the legislative session draws closer, I'll continue to highlight the solutions we're pursuing.
Thank you for your interest in the legislative process.