Reports on actions in the 88th Legislature
ALDINE – State Representative Armando Walle was the featured speaker at last Thursday’s regular meeting of the East Aldine Civic Association, with about 30 persons in attendance at the BakerRipley building.
Walle presented a Town Hall style presentation of activities and his actions during the 140 day session of the 88th Texas Legislature, just ending on May 29th. He explained the workings of the Legislature, gave information on his committee work and bills he authored or promoted, and then took held a question and answer session with the audience.
Walle explained how the Texas Legislature meets only every two years, for 140 days, and in the first 60 days cannot vote on bills. Hearings, bill filings and committee work is done then, and the only legislation that they must pass, by constitution, is the budget. He said over 6000 bills are filed, but less than 1000 are voted into law.
Walle was on four committees: Appropriations, Licensing & Administrative Procedures, Health Care Reform, and House Administration. He was Chair of an Appropriations subcommittee, which helped him commit funds for natural resources, business and economic development, and regulatory. He was able to secure money for flood and water infrastructure projects, port and ship channel projects, and targeted pay raised for state employees.
Walle authored and filed about 30 bills for his constituents and interests, he said.
He noted that the Legislature failed to pass some important bills, including pay raises for teachers, and property tax relieve for home owners. He said that the governor and House have one idea of property tax relief, and the lieutenant governor and Senate have a different approach, and have not been able to agree within the time limits of the session. Therefore he expects there will be addition Special Sessions called this summer, to deal with these issues.
Budget highlights that Walle specifically called out include $18 million for Halls Bayou in District 140; $50 million for improvements to the Lake Houston Dam; $7 million for the TCEQ to strengthen their regulatory activities.
Walle especially was proud of $1 billion that was allocated to expand and improve state parks; Several bills dealt with food insecurity, including $10 million for Texans Feeding Texans; $6.6 million for students for free breakfasts; and $10 million to expand the Houston Food Bank, to be built in our District 140.
Walle said that the Texas University Fund would be expanded to include more universities that just UT and TAMU. It would know benefit the University of Houston, Texas Tech and many others statewide. $3 billion was set aside for this new development in higher education funding. However, Walle cautioned that this must be ratified by a public vote in the next November elec-Walle Town Hall at East Aldine Civic Association, and is no guaranteed.
In other local matters, he said that Keith-Wiess Park will receive an additional $5 million for development, as well as the $1 million already allocated. Also an additional $1 million has been allocated for improvements in Melrose Park.
TCEQ will add two mobile air monitors to the two they already use, and one will be designated for use in Harris County on a regular basis.
Questioned about noise pollution, Walle said that in unincorporated areas such as Harris County, it is very difficult to regulate, especially since the Republican legislature has passed a number of bills limiting the power of cities and counties to regulate local infractions of noise and other matters. However, the penal code already limits noise levels to below 85db, which needs to be enforced.
On questions about the power grid, he noted that most of our electricity comes from gas-fired generating plants, and in the last freeze they were not able to keep up due to frozen supply equipment. This legislature has allocated monies to improve this situation, but it is not sure if enought has been done.
Walle said that one item that will affect many locally is the elimination of paper temporary license plates on cars. This goes into effect in 2025, and will curb abuses and illegal activities related to counterfeit and stolen tags.
Car inspections will also be eliminated, except for air emission tests in large counties such as Harris County. Other criteria will be eliminated, and fees will be reduced.
The meeting lasted almost two hours, and the audience also stayed after adjournment to get more details on some of the issues discussed.
East Aldine Civic Association president Ruben Salazar thanked all for coming, and invited them to the next monthly meeting, on July 20.