The Legislature adjourned Sine Die for the last time this year, hopefully, after completing our third special session. Although we have accomplished many great things for the state over the past ten months, I am happy to be back in East Texas.
Here are five things happening around your condition:
1. Finalized cutting maps, sent to the Governor
The Legislative Assembly has completed the third specially convened session of the year and completed the difficult redistricting process. The state has grown significantly over the past decade, forcing the ideal district size for state senate districts to increase to 940,178 people. Due to these changes, Senate District 3 (SD-3) saw some changes in the makeup of the district. Previously, SD-3 included 19 east Texas counties, including the northern half of Montgomery County. After the redistricting process, SD-3 will no longer include San Jacinto County or Montgomery County. Instead, the district will now include most of Jefferson County, including Beaumont, Nederland, Port Neches, Groves, and part of Port Arthur. I have represented part of Montgomery County and all of San Jacinto County since taking office in 2007, so I will be sorely missed by any friends I have made in those areas. However, I look forward to meeting the people of Jefferson County and representing them. I will be running for re-election in the new district, but will still represent my current district until the 88th Legislature meets in 2023 and I am sworn in. It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to represent East Texans in the Legislative Assembly, and I hope to continue to do so.
2. Property tax relief measures passed by both houses
In the closing hours of this special session, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 1 and Joint Senate Resolution 2, which submit a constitutional amendment to Texans to reduce their property taxes. SJR 2 will increase the homestead exemption from $25,000 in appraised home value to $40,000, equivalent to a 60% increase over existing law. In addition, school districts will be held harmless, which means the money for the property tax cut will come from the state. Both houses unanimously approved the measure and it is now up to May 2022 voters to approve the constitutional amendment.
3. Funding obtained for investment projects in higher education
After Governor Abbott added higher education improvements to the call for a special session, the House and Senate worked quickly to craft a proposal for more than $3 billion in capital projects for colleges. ‘Higher Education. Every region in the state will see a state investment in campus improvements. In Senate District 3, Stephen F. Austin State University received more than $44 million for an interdisciplinary and applied science building and Lamar State College – Orange received more than $37 million for a new university building and information technology services. CCAPs are bonds that are secured by tuition and other fees, but are repaid from state funds over a series of years. The Legislature appropriated $325 million in US federal bailout funds as a down payment for these projects.
4. Bill clarifies tuition eligibility for dependents of deceased first responders
Both the House and Senate this week passed House Bill 133 that clarifies higher education tuition eligibility for children and dependents of deceased first responders. The law came into effect after a Fort Bend County deputy was killed by friendly fire in May 2020. Deputy Caleb Rule was survived by his wife and four children, including his daughter who got his high school diploma on the day of his death. Because she was already 18 at the time of her death, she was not eligible for tuition survivor benefits. Consequently, the Caleb Rule Act was passed to increase survivor benefits to include college-aged children to receive tuition assistance. The legislation passed unanimously in both houses and is now heading to the governor’s office.
5. WorkForce Solutions Deep East Texas Provides Services to Texans Facing Barriers to Employment
WorkForce Solutions Deep East Texas provides vocational rehabilitation services to East Texans over the age of 14 with a disability that poses a barrier to finding employment. These may include mental health issues, deafness, alcoholism, learning disabilities or other disabilities. WorkForce Solutions can help customers connect with professionals to verify disabilities, so Texans don’t have to come with a diagnosis in hand. Services are tailored to each individual and can include job training, social learning experiences, or even vehicle modifications for people with physical disabilities. To learn more, visit http://twc.texas.gov/jobseekers/vocational-rehabilitation-services.