Representative Debbie Riddle Update for March

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know about some of the things that have been going on during the interim in our community and across our great state of Texas.

Appropriations

Recently, the Appropriations Committee was updated on the state's economy. We heard reports from the Comptroller's office as well as the Legislative Budget Board and the State Auditor's Office. While the national economy is still struggling, there is positive news in Texas. We have recovered all of the 430,000 jobs we lost between 2008-2009. The unemployment rate in Texas is 7.8%, which is lower than the national average. While the housing market still continues to be depressed, our sales tax revenue grew about 9% last year and the state took in $2 billion in sales tax revenue in the month of February alone.

Much of this is due to the tremendous growth of the oil and gas industry. Revenue from car sales are up and the Rainy Day Fund has $6.1 billion at this point and is projected to have $7.3 billion by the end of fiscal year 2013. However, we still have a huge challenge ahead of us with future increases in Medicaid costs and the present method of school finance.

Joint Committee on Human Trafficking

On March 5th, the Joint Committee on Human Trafficking on which I serve, heard testimony from heads of state agencies and members of the Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force on legislation and strategies needed to combat the horrible exploitation of human beings within Texas. We also learned more about the services available for the victims and the effectiveness of the prosecution of those who perpetrate these crimes.

I co-authored HB 4009 in the 81st Legislative Session which established The Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force. It is composed of law enforcement officials and crime victim services personnel. In our next hearing we will learn more about the role faith-based organizations are playing to help eradicate this evil. The committee will continue to hold hearings through the interim and present our findings to the 83rd Legislature in January 2013.

Human Trafficking Task Force

Concerns for the community have prompted community leaders to meet and join forces to continue their efforts to target and seek prosecution to rid our area of the unscrupulous massage parlors and tea rooms that serve as fronts for prostitution, human trafficking and other illegal activities. Under the leadership of Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle, we have come together to fight this blight particularly along the FM 1960 Corridor. We met for the second time on March 6th. I have gone on raids with Constable Hickman and know full well the dangers in having these businesses continue to operate in our area. I believe we will be successful in this effort because of the unity and resolve of the community leaders, the Constable's office and Sheriff department, the FBI, rescue and restore, the district attorney's office, the county attorney's office, and the elected officials that are involved.

Low-income Housing

I continue to watch the applications for low-income housing that are made for projects that would be located within District 150. I have and will continue to fight in every way possible these projects that are opposed by my constituents. It is a very competitive point process for these builders, and when a letter of opposition from a state representative or senator is received in opposition by the Department of Housing and Community Affairs, it is virtually impossible to make up the points necessary to secure approval. Opposition from the community has also been vitally important.

As a rule, low-income multi-family housing developments bring about the potential increase in crime, burden on volunteer fire services, law enforcement, public transportation and our public schools. They tend to adversely affect the space available for commercial businesses and single-family housing developments. While senior affordable housing developments can be an exception to the above negative effects, I still look at these on a case by case basis. From the time I was sworn into office in 2002, I have fought and won every battle regarding these projects.

School finance

Article 7 of the Texas Constitution says, " A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools." Our public schools are financed by a very complicated mixture of sales taxes, net proceeds from the Texas Lottery, Permanent School Fund and property taxes. Every session we are faced with increase funding needs due to the increase in students and other expenses. We have a structural deficit that needs to be addressed and we cannot continue to "kick the can down the street."

Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Governor Dewhurst have appointed the Joint Committee To Study Public School Finance System made up of members of both the Texas House and Senate. Our children are a priority and we must find a way to adequately and sufficiently finance our schools in Texas and remove the fiscal uncertainty we face every biennium. This is a great challenge since education and health and human services comprise over 85% of our entire General Revenue budget.

Thank You!

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative in Austin! I consider it a tremendous honor to serve the people of District 150. If you have concerns or questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office or email me at debbie.riddle@house.state.tx.us.

Sincerely,

Debbie Riddle
State Representative
District 150

(512) 463-0572 (Capitol Office)
(281) 537-5252 (District Office)


Super Bowl XLVI, Houston Texas and Sex Slavery - Human Trafficking. What do they have in common?

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