NORTHEAST HOUSTON – State Senator Mario Gallegos was the featured speaker at this month’s Networking Luncheon of the East Aldine District, held last Thursday noon at the Sheriff ’s Storefront and EAD offices, 5202 Aldine Mail Route. These lunches, held once a month, are open to the public and include a free lunch and an opportunity to speak about your organization’s activities.
Gallegos has served four terms in the Texas Senate, and previous to that two terms in the House. He also has been a Houston fireman prior to his legislative service. He is recovering from a liver transplant, and is relatively good health, he reported to the audience.
Gallegos admitted that it was a slow session, getting started several weeks late as the new House speaker spent the first three weeks setting up committees. However, he thought some worthwhile legislation was passed, and a balanced budget was passed and the reserves in the “rainy day fund” were preserved.
Governor Perry has called a special session to consider items not voted on in the regular session, which will start July 1st.
On the Agenda are action on five agencies due for “sunsetting,” and TxDOT funding and design parameters.
In his remarks, Gallegos said that undue attention to the voter ID issue delayed other legislation, such as expansion of the CHIP children’s insurance program, from getting needed action. There are now 80,000 children eligible for the program that will not be included this year, he said.
But he pointed to progress in the 8 liner bill that allows law enforcement to remove mother boards from the machines in a raid, which is easier that removing the whole machine; a junk yard bill SB1992 that was signed into law; and legislation that will make it possible in the future for the University of Houston and 4 other Texas universities to achieve the so-called Tier I status. This is the same level of research and teaching certifications that UT Austin and Texas A&M have reached. When this happens, UH will have access to an additional 500 million in funding. This bill must go to the voters in November to be approved, he said, but it would mean a first class institution for Houstonians in their city.
He mentioned that the Legislature managed to pass a $182 billion budget for the next two years, and still retain the $10 billion in their reserve or “rainy day” fund. However, Gallegos did not vote for the budget, only one of two Senators that did not, because the formula for allocating stimulus money for local school districts meant that Aldine lost $98 million and HISD lost $350 million from previous reimbursements from the state. As a member of the Senate education committee, he did not find this acceptable.He did note that Lone Star College would receive $66 million from the stimulus allocation, which will help education in the Aldine area.