The Port Arthur News
Three state lawmakers gave members of the local media an update on the 83rd legislative session covering topics from water rights to education to windstorm insurance on Thursday.
State Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland, State Rep. Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont and State Rep. James White, R-Woodville addressed the various topics during the Press Club of Southeast Texas’ monthly meeting which was held at Cafe Del Rio in Beaumont.
The latest legislative session ended in June but to Deshotel it seems like a long time ago. He spoke about his work on the Public Ed Accountability & Assessment Bill — HB 5.
“I’m very proud of my work on HB 5,” Deshotel said.
Two major issues were addressed in the legislation; the reduction of the End of Course test from 15 to five and an increase in curriculum options aimed at every high school graduate being ready for both college and career.
“If a kid failed the first time as a ninth grader he needed to take a second test later. So they are remediating you when you failed the first time while they are prepping you to take the second test,” he said. “The numbers shows 160,000 failed the first test and 120,000 failed the second. There was pressure building up on these kids so some gave up and dropped out; we saw a spike in drop outs.”
Deshotel said this legislative session was overall one of the better ones and up until the abortion issue, everything worked smoothly across the lines with a number of co-authored bills.
Ritter gave a recap of what he called “the best and the worst” during his allotted time. The best, he said, was the water bill that would use $2 billion to start water projects in the State of Texas.
The one-time allocation from the state’s Rainy Day Fund creates a new account that would finance projects in the State Water Plan. The Texas Water Development Board, which controls the State Water Plan, would use the account to make deferred loans to the state’s 16 regional groups. There about 600 water projects that will cost the state nearly $53 billion over the next 50 years and as the loans are paid back the fund regenerates.
“The bad” part of this legislative session was the issue of windstorm insurance. The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association’s board met on Wednesday where they considered raising rates five percent for policyholders but they did not approve an assessment of insurance companies for purposes resulting from Hurricane Ike, he said.
White, who represents Tyler, Polk, Jasper, Newton and Hardin counties, spoke about the state budget and constitutional spending.