Wit and candor were in great supply at the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce [SMCC] Legislative Update Luncheon
The yearly event was held Thursday in the Sac-N-Pac room at Bobcat Stadium. State senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) and state representative Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs) addressed nearly 125 local business and community leaders, including Mayor Susan Naraviz, Place 4 Councilman Chris Jones, Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley and Texas State University President Dr. Denise Trauth.
“I think it went really well,” said Chamber President Phyllis Snodgrass. “There was a great turnout, great information. It was well done.”
Senator Wentworth began his speech with several humorous anecdotes before moving on to his goals and priorities for the upcoming legislative session
“Counties need, in my judgment, more authority to respond to legitimate health and safety concerns in the unincorporated areas of the counties,” Wentworth said, who added that from a state constitutional perspective, “…Not a lot has changed in the past 150 years.”
“What happens is a lot of people listen to these radio ads that say ‘move out into the country where you can have an acre instead of a little city plot – no high city taxes,’ so a lot of people do that,” Wentworth said. Many who move out into unincorporated areas are surprised at the lack of services compared to where they were before, like volunteer fire departments.
Wentworth then emphasized his opposition to the law that guarantees admission to state colleges for the top 10% of high school graduation classes.
“I would oppose any system of admissions to universities that has one criteria, whether it’s GPA, your SAT score, your ACT score, extracurricular activities, race… I think admissions officers should consider all these things and have a holistic approach,” Wentworth said.
After that Wentworth bluntly assessed the partisan gridlock during the last round of congressional redistricting in 2001. Democrats from both the House and Senate left the state in an attempt to block what they saw as unfair redistricting.
Wentworth filed a bill in the previous session, which, with Rose’s help, was finally heard by committees in both legislative bodies after years of attempts to pass it. However, the bill did not survive the session. The bill proposed establishing a citizens committee to oversee redistricting. Republicans and Democrats from both bodies would have two appointments each, respectively.
“The history of Texas now shows us – and it’s not hypothetical, it’s not theoretical – we now know that both political parties don’t really give a damn about us,” Wentworth said. “The Republican Party of Texas and the Democratic Party of Texas are both opposed to my bill because each party wants to be in the position in 2011 to be in the majority so they can screw the other party.”
Wentworth indicated that Governor Rick Perry wants to sign such a bill, but debunked any notion that one party is better than the other, saying, “When we got in power, I thought we were better than them. We’re just as greedy, power hungry and self serving.”
Rose then took the podium, stating that the people are the “best genesis” for the bills they file.
Rose emphasized that Texas State is one of “our greatest assets,” citing the university’s new nursing program and the School Safety Center. He said the state “dropped the ball” when it comes to higher education.
“There’s been a policy decision made over the past six years that put the cost of higher education to a greater degree on students,” said Rose. “That decision is a cowardly decision by the legislature.”
Rose went on to talk about the additional need for better K -12th grade vocational education and the need for a manufacturing caucus.
“There’s a sportsmans’ caucus, a Republican caucus, a Democratic caucus, but there’s no manufacturing caucus,” Rose said.
Rose also wants to enact legislation to keep electrical cooperatives accountable to those they serve and to reduce the appraisal tax.
The SMCC has not laid out their goals for the 2009 session yet, but they anticipate a cooperative relationship with their local legislative delegation.
“They’ve got their fingers on the key issues,” Snodgrass said. “They’re very honest about and have the experience to know what they can and can’t deal with.”
By SEAN WARDWELL
Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley
Place 4 City Councilman Chris Jones
State Senator Jeff Wentworth & State Representative Patrick Rose at the Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon.