2009

Here are some of my accomplishments in the 79th Legislature:

Reducing Taxes

Franchise Tax.  Small businesses are the backbone of the Texas economy and create most jobs.  To support small business, I co-sponsored HB4765, which raises the state franchise tax exemption from $300,000 to $1,000,000 and spares an additional 40,000 small businesses from paying this tax.

Sales Tax. The annual back-to-school weekend sales tax holiday has been extremely popular among the parents of school age children and among Texas retailers.  To help families further, I co-sponsored HB1801, which adds to the weekend sales tax exemption a tremendous variety of school supplies, including book bags and school backpacks.  This provides additional tax relief to parents at a time when they have to make large expenditures for their children’s education.

This legislation continues my record of supporting and passing tax-cutting measures in the Legislature.

Protecting Our Environment

Coal. Texas uses coal to generate a significant portion of its electricity.  Our state is blessed with one of the largest supplies of coal in the country.  Unfortunately, the burning of coal for electricity produces significant carbon dioxide (viewed by many as a major cause of global warming) and more dangerous pollutants such as mercury and sulfur dioxide.

Our state needs to maintain coal as one of several sources of electricity, but work to make it steadily less harmful to our environment and comply with likely federal clean air mandates.  To help achieve that, I co-sponsored HB469, which offers major tax incentives to “clean coal” projects in Texas that produce significantly fewer pollutants and capture at least 70% of the carbon dioxide emissions for underground storage and use in enhanced oil recovery projects

Carbon Dioxide.  Many of the world’s nations are poised to implement programs to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  Texas is one of the major generators of carbon dioxide in the nation and will be expected to do its part in this global effort.  The state owns large offshore underwater salt formations which are ideal for long-term storage of carbon dioxide.  I was a joint author of HB1796, which allows the state’s General Land Office to establish and operate large offshore facilities to store large amounts of carbon dioxide, and place Texas on the path to become the world’s leader in long-term storage of carbon dioxide.

Fighting Crime

As shown in many popular TV series, science has made incredible advances in the use of minute DNA samples to solve crimes.  Investigators are now solving “cold cases” where the crime occurred many years ago.  Unfortunately, for many crimes the statute of limitations has run, so the criminal can no longer be prosecuted even though identified beyond a shadow of a doubt.  To address this injustice, I cosponsored HB2932, which requires that criminal history records now include a record of any forensic DNA test results that indicate a high probability that a person arrested for or charged with any felony or misdemeanor offense (other than one punishable by a fine) committed an offense.  Even though the perpetrator may not be prosecuted for a very old case, the state will be able to use this evidence in the punishment phase of trials for new crimes and in considering parole for incarcerated criminals.  Also, investigators will have better leads regarding possible suspects in similar crimes.

Helping Retired Teachers

Texas has always struggled to provide sufficient salary and pension benefits to hire and keep good teachers and school staff.  Retired teachers and other school retirees are economically hard-pressed because they have not received a permanent cost-of-living increase in their pensions since 2001.  To try to help those who have helped so many, I jointly authored HB3347, which provided a $120 million appropriation to pay all of our retired public education personnel (about 250,000 people) a one-time $500 retirement supplement.

Improving Healthcare

Fighting Cancer.  In 2007, Texans voted to establish the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, and authorized the issuance of up to $3 billion in state bonds over 10 years.  To improve the operation of the Institute, I co-authored HB1358, which provides greater input from diverse expert resources, and adopts an administrative structure similar to the National Cancer Institute.  Funding recommendations for research will be based on the recommendations of a committee of experts.

Transplants. Organ transplants have become a very successful procedure to save and extend the lives of many Texans for many years.  There are long waiting lists, however, for all of the vital organs, and many on the waiting lists die before receiving a transplant.  To try to increase the supply of donated organs, I jointly authored HB2027, the Revised Uniform Anatomical Gift Act.  By streamlining the organ donation procedure and by expanding the class of persons who can authorize organ donations on behalf of a deathbed patient (in the absence of any contrary instructions by the patient or the patient’s family), this Act is likely to increase organ donations by approximately 50%

Higher Education

Texas has only three high-performing research universities, none of which are in North Texas.  UT Dallas, UT Arlington, and University of North Texas are eager to obtain more state and private funding to attain this stature.  To help them, I cosponsored HB51, which establishes three state initiatives to support state universities which research, raise private money, and work to earn the “tier-one” distinction by achieving a level of excellence that is nationally and internationally recognized.  Of special importance is the program by which the state will encourage large private contributions to these universities by making one-for-one matching appropriations.

Utility Bills

Electricity, telephone, and cable bills are an important (and often painful) fact of life for consumers.  Unfortunately, the bills are often lengthy and use confusing language or unclear.  Also, different suppliers use the same terms in varying ways.  To simplify our utility bills, I jointly authored HB1822, which requires the Public Utilities Commission to make a list of defined terms common to the telecommunications and electricity industries and require providers to uniformly label and use these terms on each retail bill sent to a customer.  Besides making our bills more understandable, this will also help us compare prices and services to find the most competitive provider.



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