Originally published on December 9, 2019.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! This month started with two Senate Committee hearings: Health and Human Services and Finance. Both committees discussed interim charges; this is the first time either committee has met since the conclusion of the 86th Legislative Session. I was glad to be back in a committee room at the Texas Capitol, joining my other Senators to hear from government officials, stakeholders, and the public on these issues.
Health and Human Services discussed the emerging public health concern of e-cigarettes and implementation of Senate Bill 21, which raised the legal age of smoking tobacco to 21. We also examined the current status and future direction of Texas healthcare. In Finance, we discussed stronger restrictions on constitutional state spending limits, economic dynamics of current business personal tax, and implementation of House Bill 1525, related to online marketplace taxes.
I recently attended the Winter Meeting of the Education Commission of the States. This Commission is a community of state policymakers, supporting all 50 states and four territories to guide education policy. I was appointed to the Commission by Governor Greg Abbott in August and serve alongside another Senator, two Representatives, and three other government officials.
I enjoyed this time to dive in to education policy, from pre-K to college. As a member of Senate Higher Education Committee, I found it helpful to connect with other state legislators, policy groups, and other stakeholders. I couldn’t help but brag on the importance Texas places on education, sharing recent major school finance reform from the 86th Legislative Session.
The holidays are finally here, the perfect time for cookies, carols, and crime. Criminal activity tends to spike this time of year; the Texas Department of Public Safety is reminding Texans to stay vigilant and report any suspicious activity to law enforcement. To aide vigilance, DPS created a mobile app to make reporting quick and easy. Called iWatchTexas, the app is free and available for Apple and Android phones; Texans can also submit reports online at www.iwatchtx.org or by calling 1-844-643-2251.
While we’re talking about DPS, you may have heard the Legislature invested almost $200 million to help alieve the disastrous wait lines at DPS driver license offices. DPS aims to hire over 500 new staff members with the new funds, in addition to other reforms such as an appointment system. Keep in mind that under a year from now––October 1, 2020––all Americans will require a REAL ID for official federal government purposes, such as boarding a domestic flight or entering a federal building. REAL IDs are denoted with a gold circle with an inset star located in the upper right-hand corner of a license. More information can be on the DPS website.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from myself, my family, and my staff. I hope you spend this time with dear friends and family, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and the end of a great year.
One gift you can give me during this holiday season: feedback. I need feedback from my constituents to serve you as a Texas Senator in the manner you deserve and expect. I ask that you complete an online survey of the issues most important to you and your family. The survey takes around find minutes and can be easily completed via computer or phone by visiting the following link: www.senate.texas.gov/SD19survey.
As always, feel free to call my Capitol office or District office near you with any questions or comments. Merry Christmas!