Crossroads legislators agree budget will be biggest hurdle
Jan. 7, 2013 at 7 p.m.
Updated Jan. 7, 2013 at 7:08 p.m.
The state budget is the major issue facing the 83rd Texas Legislature, Victoria's representatives in Austin said.
According to the Texas Comptroller's Biennial Revenue Estimate, the state can expect to have $101.4 billion in funds available for general purpose spending in 2014-15, an increase of 12.4 percent from 2012-13.
The legislative session officially starts Tuesday.
"There will be numerous major issues that will be addressed during this session. I know that the budget will be at the forefront," said Rep. Geanie Morrison, (R-Victoria).
Morrison's colleague in the Texas Senate, Sen. Glenn Hegar, (R-Katy), agreed.
"The Legislature's most essential function is to write the state's budget for 2014 and 2015 and in the balanced fashion required by the Texas Constitution," said Hegar.
Tackling the budget won't be the only tough challenge for legislators.
Water issues and education are also near the top of that list.
"Texas must also decide how best to manage water policy to match our state's growing population, business and agricultural demands," Hegar said.
"Equipping our public schools with the resources and support needed to effectively educate Texas' future leaders and working to protect the policies and business environment that has allowed Texas to prosper in challenging economic times are always among the Legislature's most essential priority duties," he said.
Morrison echoed the senator's areas of concern.
"I will be working closely with my colleagues to improve how we fund our public schools, increase accessibility to continuing education, protect our water and property rights, reform the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association and promote economic development," she said.
Crossroads' residents differ in what the most important topic before the Legislature will be.
Homemaker Virginia Aguirre, of Victoria, said there were so many issues, it was difficult to decide on one main one.
"One thing they need to do is better inform the public when new laws are passed. That would help a lot," she said.
Welder William Purl, of Victoria, has immigration at the top of his list.
"They need to get immigration in Texas under control," he said.
Randy Benes, a chaplain from Port Lavaca, would like to see the issue of arming school personnel addressed.
"Our teachers ought to be able to carry concealed handguns," he said.
Morrison said she has not prefiled any bills to be considered by the Legislature.
"I am currently working with my constituents and local leaders throughout House District 30 on several issues that need to be addressed and that will require legislative action," she said.
Hegar has been more active between sessions.
"To this point, I have filed only a small group of bills, all of which are designed to provide solutions to problems encountered in Senate District 18 during the time between legislative sessions," he said.
"While bills of that type are oftentimes interesting only to those directly involved, their impact can be far more widespread, so a considerable portion of my time at the Capitol is spent ensuring local challenges receive the attention they deserve in Austin."
Hegar, who served in the House from 2003-07 and has been in the Senate since 2007, serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Nominations, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Organization and as a member of the committees on criminal justice, natural resources and agriculture, rural affairs and homeland security.
He is also a previous chairman of the Sunset Advisory Commission.
Hegar knows committee assignments could be different this session.
"The lieutenant governor will issue full committee assignments later this month, and with six new senators set to assume office, it is certainly possible that my committee membership will change," Hegar said.
Morrison was elected to her eighth term in office in 2012.
Last session, Morrison served on the House Appropriations Committee and as vice chairwoman of the Human Services Committee.
She also previously served as the chairwoman of the House Committee on Higher Education for the 78th, 79th and 80th legislative sessions.
She hopes to continue her committee work in the upcoming session.
"House committees will not be appointed until after we elect a Speaker of the House and vote on the rules to establish the committees for the upcoming session," she said.
"Until that happens in the next week, we will not know for certain what committees will be available. Some committees from last session may be eliminated or be combined, and new committees may be established.
"As always, I am definitely interested in education, the budget, our continuing water issues and economic development."
Both Morrison and Hegar know their initial loyalty lies with their constituents inside their districts.
"Serving Senate District 18 as senator is an honor and responsibility that I am thankful for and treat very seriously," Hegar said.
"As the Legislature begins work and potential new laws are considered, I welcome and encourage residents of my district to reach out to my office at any time so that they may provide input on legislation of importance to them or for help regarding any state government issue they might encounter," he said.
Morrison, who at one time considered not running for re-election last year after the district realignment wrangling, is glad to back representing District 30.
"I am looking forward to representing House District 30 and working with my constituents in all six counties, as well as Texans from around our great state," Morrison said.
"It is truly an honor and a privilege to serve in the Texas House of Representatives."