Craig Estes: Lawmakers make strides to help improve Texas

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On May 27 the 83rd regular session of the Texas Legislature came to an end. Over the last five months, I’ve appreciated the opportunity to hear what many of you had to say.

You’ve shared with me the issues that are most important to you and how you would like them solved.

Now, I would like to share with you some of what the leaders of our great state were able to accomplish to make Texas a better place to live, work and raise a family.

In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, many of you felt something had to be done to make Texas public schools safer. I agreed, which is why early in session I held a hearing soliciting expert testimony on how to make Texas public schools the most secure learning environment in the country.

Out of that hearing, I filed Senate Bill 1857, the Texas School Safety Training Act, which is now law. The bill created a special certification course for concealed handgun license instructors that enables those instructors to offer classes to qualified teachers and other public school personnel on how to handle an active shooter scenario on their campus.

It is a free-market, common-sense solution that does not diminish the local control of school districts and doesn’t cost the state of Texas a dime.

Many of you were also concerned about jobs and the economy. Since November 2011, Texas businesses have created more than 500,000 jobs and our economy is currently growing nearly 50 percent faster than the rest of the country. Things are good in Texas, but there is always more that can be done.

House Bill 1133, which I sponsored in the Senate, is an important step to keep Texas economically competitive. It is a $50 million-per-year tax cut for companies that invest in critical telecommunications infrastructure in our state.

If signed by the governor, HB 1133 is expected to create 6,000 new jobs with $250 million in annual salaries and generate $1.4 billion in additional economic activity.

Next, some expressed concerns about the rapidly expanding use of drones. A bill I sent to the governor’s desk, House Bill 912, puts safeguards in place to protect the privacy and property rights of Texans from unmanned aircraft. Unless an exemption applies, the bill makes it a crime to use a drone to capture an image of a person or private property with the intent to conduct surveillance.

Protecting the privacy and property rights of Texans is a critical function of government. The safety of Texans and their interests is, and always will, be my greatest concern.

Finally, many of you were concerned about water funding.

As a member of the Senate Committee on Finance, I had an opportunity to make sure your concerns were heard by the state’s budget writers.

With your voices weighing in, the House and Senate passed Senate Joint Resolution 1 (SJR 1), which puts before the voters a one-time expenditure from the Rainy Day Fund of $2 billion for critical water infrastructure projects, such as reservoirs.

If approved by the voters this November, SJR 1 provides for our water needs for the next 50 years without breaking the constitutional spending cap or threatening the state’s AAA credit rating. It takes only what is necessary from the state’s savings account to pay for something we absolutely need while leaving a big enough balance to take care of emergencies.

Someone once said that “democracy works when people claim it as their own.” From taxes, jobs, and the economy to school safety, privacy rights and water funding — you’ve made democracy work here in Texas by making your voices heard. Texas is a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family not because of what I do in Austin, but because of what you do.

Thank you for your involvement in our democracy — you make it work.

SEN. CRAIG ESTES serves nearly 820,000 constituents across Senate District 30, which includes all of Archer, Clay, Cooke, Erath, Grayson, Jack, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, Wichita, Wise and Young counties and parts of Collin and Denton counties.


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