What a Week!

Posted on 5/14/2007 9:19 PM

Dear friends,

Last Thursday marked the deadline for the House of Representatives to vote on House Bills in time for them to become law this legislative session.  That meant a string of 16-hour days considering & debating hundreds of measures on the House Floor.

But those long days and sleepless nights were worth it after we scored a few key victories on education, child care, and programs to give working families a leg up.  Here's a sample of our accomplishments last week:

Expanding Educational Opportunities: I believe that we must do a better job of making sure all Texas children have the support and opportunities they need to succeed in school.  Early education, such as pre-kindergarten, has proven to be particularly critical for ensuring that all children start school ready to learn on the same level as their peers, but many children who need this support are not enrolled.  I'm pleased to report that I offered successful amendments to direct the Texas Education Agency to study ways to increase pre-kindergarten enrollment and to report on education disparities between economically disadvantaged students and their peers. I also helped to pass legislation to expand the Communities in Schools high school dropout prevention program.

Supporting Tax Rebates for Working Families: The federal Earned Income and Child Tax Credits provide important economic boosts to hard-working families. These programs are often undermined when families don't know they qualify or pay high fees to private tax preparers.  Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) centers provide a great way to overcome these challenges, support these families, and boost the local economy. This week I passed an amendment to add VITA centers to the list of community initiatives eligible for funding from the state's new Renewing our Communities Account.

Taking a New Approach to Energy: In the midst of global warming, increasing air pollution, rising energy costs and harmful dependence on foreign oil, it has become clear that we must develop policies to promote energy conservation and the use of renewable energy.  I believe the Texas government should take the lead in this effort by ensuring that new buildings constructed with government funds meet advanced energy standards.  I was able to take an important step in this direction by passing an amendment requiring school districts to develop a plan for tracking and reducing energy consumption in schools.

Telling the Truth about the Lottery: Without fail, every time I have a town hall meeting or go somewhere to talk about education, a constituent will ask me, "Where did the money from the Lottery go?" It's a great question, because the lotto continues to be touted as a source of revenue for education, while we struggle as a state to fund our schools.  The truth is that the revenue from the lottery has not provided new education funding. Instead it was used to supplant general revenue - money from other sources that the state would have devoted to education anyway.  This week, I passed a measure to prohibit the Lottery Commission from falsely advertising that the purchase of lottery tickets increase education funding.

Affordable, Accessible Child Care: The House of Representatives also approved my legislation to make it easier for small businesses to offer on-site child care to their employees. Click here to read more.

Thanks for all of your support and encouragement. These are small, but significant victories that give us the fuel to keep fighting for a better Texas.

- Mike