The Port Arthur News
PORT NECHES —
State Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland, took some good natured ribbing from old friends before he took to the podium as guest speaker during the Port Neches Chamber of Commerce 72nd Annual Banquet Thursday night.
Ritter was busy last week filing two bills to help Texas secure its water needs for the next 50 years hence he was unable to make a speaking engagement for Nederland Chamber of Commerce’s new chairman John Bernard.
But he was on hand Thursday as attorney Lance Bradley assumed the role of president of the Port Neches chamber.
Ritter apologized to his old friend Bernard, made a few jokes, then began to speak about the changes in the state of Texas, a growing economy and the budget planning for the next biennium. And although the state has a good strong revenue source, there is not a lot of money to play with in terms of issues at hand.
A clue there may be difficulty ahead in the Texas House was evident when Ritter told the crowd seated at the Pompano Club that it took five hours to pass the House rules. Next week committees will be laid out and soon the first readings of bills will begin.
Public education and its complex funding formula will be a hot topic.
“There is something wrong with the formula,” Ritter said. “I don’t know if it is going to get solved though because of the umber of lawsuits the courts are looking at right now. This is a serious problem and it needs to be addressed. I hope the Legislature steps up and makes tough decisions.”
Infrastructure is another tough topic on Ritter’s mind. Ritter, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, looked back at the area’s drought of 2011 and how the water level was dangerously low. As n area that supplies about 10 percent of the nation’s fuel, water is paramount. If the drought would not have ended by 2012, the refineries would have been affected.
“If you have 11 months and no rain to supplement the basin, there is a timeline to notify refineries of a cut-off,” he said. “Here, at home, what would have happened in October 2011 if we had not received rain in six months. It’s frightening. We would have had to tell Valero, Exxon Mobile, ‘Houston, we have a problem.’ We are fortunate our partners understand and we are working to find a solution with the least amount of burden on taxpayers.”
Insurance for communities along with Gulf coast is also a topic of importance to Ritter. He hopes the Gulf coast will be treated like the rest of the state insurance-wise but realizes this doesn’t mean southeast Texans along the coast will pay the same rates as Austin.
“It’s a very serious issue for us on the Gulf coast and if another storm were to hit, from Galveston up to Houston, there could be a $15 billion loss, you and I will have a very hard time getting insurance,” he said.
Greg Fountain, emergency management coordinator for Jefferson County, served as master of ceremonies during the event while outgoing chamber president Greg Hunt told of a busy year that flew by. Thirty new members joined the chamber during his tenure, chamber gave out two scholarships to Port Neches-Groves High School graduates and five scholarships for the Miss Port Neches pageant winners. There were community events such as Catch a Shooting Star drawn down, National Night Out, Fall Fest on the Avenue and more.
At the end of the evening Bradley introduced the 2013 officers and directors, gave thanks to Debbie Plaia, executive director of the chamber and offered kudos to Hunt for a job well done, adding that “hopefully I’ll do as good a job as my predecessor.”