FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 03/16/2015
-Weekly Legislative Update- House Committee on Juvenile Justice Hears Truancy Legislation
Austin, TX - Monday, I had the honor to sit with the different Farmers Insurance Agents from Southeast Texas. Among them were Benny Fogleman of Livingston and Don Boyett of Onalaska, both whom are outstanding citizens in the community. We had a productive discussion on their ideas on boosting and supercharging the Southeast Texas economy.
Tuesday morning, I presented my first bill of this legislative session in committee. The House Committee on Transportation had House Bill 219 called up for a hearing. HB 219 designates Farm-to-Market Road 1293 in Hardin County as the Game Warden Wesley W. Wagstaff Memorial Highway. I submitted this bill in memoriam of Warden Wesley W. Wagstaff. So far, the members of this committee have voiced strong support and I am expecting that HB 219 will come to the House floor for a full vote soon.
Following adjournment, I was invited to speak at the Daylight Saving Rally on the southern steps of the Capitol. I was asked to speak on a piece of legislation, House Bill 363, which I filed this session to create a task force to study the efficacy of the continuation of daylight saving time in this state. States like Arizona have exempted themselves from time change, and some studies have shown adverse side effects to Daylights Savings times continuation.
Late Tuesday afternoon, I was visited by several constituents led by Roy James of Jasper, Texas. Roy is the commander of the American Legion chapter in Jasper. Along with Roy and his other colleagues with the American Legion, we talked about legislation that would ensure that our veterans get the medical care and education benefits they deserve, protect them from unscrupulous business practices, and provide them property tax relief to prevent them and their spouses from losing their homes. Our military is vital to the security of our nation. As a proud military veteran and American Legion member, I support our military.
Wednesday was a fast-paced and productive day under the pink dome. Jeana Culp and Chase Culp of Livingston came to their State Capitol during their spring break. Chase was our Honorary Page for the day. It is an honor to host this young man here in Austin and have him serve on the House floor. It is encouraging to see young people actively seeking educational experiences to learn more about our state government and legislative process.
In addition to hosting Mr. Culp, the House Committee on Juvenile Justice & Family Matters had a long day hearing the various pieces of truancy legislation brought before the committee. I laid out two bills before the committee that would implement measures to enhance school attendance and academic achievement, hold parents accountable, while decreasing the criminal footprint of truancy on young people. House Bill 93 is a piece of legislation that would decriminalize truancy. Decriminalizing does not marginalize accountability. For example, we hold people accountable for paying their taxes. However, the sanctions involved with failing to pay your taxes are primarily civil in nature. The causes of truancy involve challenging family situations, learning disabilities, and socio-economic situations. Having to take care of a sick relative or not having adequate clothing is not criminal. I applaud the work of local judges and educators in helping children get to school. Nevertheless, the Legislature must do a better job in providing the framework and resources to continue to allow these local officials to extend their compassion, not just impose criminality. Other elements of truancy reform allow for the expunction of truancy from students records, empower a student attendance enhancement facilitator to intervene in schools, and set up a trust fund for the courts to use to help needy children and families in need.
In addition, I laid out HB 110 that would prevent students from being held in detainment due to truancy. The committee was able to hear testimony from many organizations, schools, and citizens that enabled a productive discussion on the reforms and direction that must be taken on truancy laws. I commend Chairman Harold Dutton for his leadership and look forward to working with him and all stakeholders to bring meaningful reform in school attendance and the public school experience, in general.
Before my time in the legislature I worked as an educator in Woodville. On Thursday one of my former students, Kristyn Miller, visited her State Capitol. She and I had a few moments to discuss her exciting activities in student government at Baylor University. Miss Miller is a junior Corporate Communication major with minors in Leadership and Poverty Studies and Social Justice and serves as the Baylor Student Government External Vice President. I am proud that my former student is representing Southeast Texas so well.
On Tuesday morning, the Texas House adjourned in memory and celebration of the passing of my friend and brother-in-Christ, Pastor Aaron Breed of Kirbyville. His family has scheduled his home-going services at the Central Baptist Church in Kirbyville on Saturday March 21st. My deepest sympathies go out to his family, friends, and the Kirbyville community during this difficult time.
The House stands adjourned until Monday at 2:00 p.m.