by SARA MARSHALL//Editor-in-Chief
Government overreach, the foster care system, water rights and the federal budget were among topics discussed during a town hall meeting hosted by the Levelland Chamber of Commerce.
Providing an overview of the upcoming legislative session for Levelland residents, Texas Senator Charles Perry led the town hall meeting on Oct. 11 in the Sundown Room in the Student Center on the Levelland Campus.
The Republican Senator represents District 28, which consists of 51 counties and 149 school districts. The senator serves on 12 Senate Committees, including the Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs Committee, the Criminal Justice Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee.
Government overreach is a problem Senator Perry said he feels very strongly about, especially regarding to current regulations, which may inhibit his own religious freedom.
“If it matters to God, it matters to me,” Senator Perry stated. “Our religious beliefs, our faith, how we believe, how we act in this area of the world, are under assault.”
The American Bar Association is looking to adopt the transgender philosophy, which would cause practicing attorneys to either represent those identifying as transgender or face losing their license if they so choose to deny representation. Senator Perry said he believes this is an insidious request, due to his own personal beliefs.
According to Senator Perry, there are 60 ways in which a member of the transgender community may identify themselves. Senator Perry said he feels that this community has been very aggressive in this.
“I’m from Sweetwater, Texas, and I know what male and female is,” Senator Perry said. “It was made very clear to me from an early age. And I’m confused what 50 to 60 classifications might be. “
Senator Perry said he expects a large number of religious liberty legislations, and added that he will be greatly in favor of these initiatives.
Reforming the current foster care system and Children Pretective Services were also discussed with regard to the upcoming legislature session.
“CPS and foster care will consume our world in the next session, as it should,” Senator Perry said. “For way too long and way too much money, we’ve been continuing to go down the same path of how we handled the most troubled kiddos and family, and it’s not working.”
According to Senator Perry, the federal government has now, in very clear terms, told the state governments that the current system is not working.
“It wasn’t for lack of effort, lack of money or lack of heart,” Senator Perry stated. “But we still have to deal with the byproduct of of a broken system, which is the broken kids it produces.”
Senator Perry said he believes it will cost another $400 to $500 million in the budget, which has not been spent, in order to put these agencies on the right track toward fixing the broken system.
“I don’t think it will cost us new money, but we definitely need to reprioritize the money we have,” Senator Perry said. “If you want to change the system, you’ve got to move it to the boots on the ground, because the only way you’re going to solve a CPS issue is if that person has time to invest in the child.”
Personal property rights with regard to water rights were also a hot topic discussed at the meeting. Quoting Mark Twain, Senator Perry stated, “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting.”
Senator Perry said he hopes to establish some new legislation for those who are currently micromanaging private property rights.
“If we want to have a state in 20 years from now, we’ve got to be diligent about developing it and diversifying those inputs for water sources,” said Senator Perry.
Last year’s legislature approved the biggest budget the state has ever seen. But this year’s budget will not be so fortunate. With a cut of $4 to $6 billion less than last year’s budget, Senator Perry said it will be a very tight year for the budget and funding. But he said he feels confident in this upcoming session.
“It will probably really never be that big in my lifetime,” Senator Perry said. “It was the perfect storm. Fracking and all those kind of things hit at the right time, and everybody was making money.”
Despite participating in a town hall meeting taking place on the Levelland campus of SPC, Senator Perry did not bring up the topic of community college funding until Dr. Robin Satterwhite, president of SPC, brought it up during the Q&A process.
Dr. Satterwhite asked if community colleges would see more funding after this legislative session, since the last session cut funding and placed the burden of seeking funds onto tax payers. Senator Perry admitted that community colleges were lost in the disccusions at the last session, but he said he understood the importance of community colleges in Texas.
“There’s a transformation going on,” Senator Perry stated. “I hope that next session, we have some discussions about that. This has to change. We’ve got an antiquated system that doesn’t mirror the new school. So hopefully y’all are going to be a bigger role in that, and with that comes a better funding mechanism.”
Senator Perry will be representing District 28 at the 85th Legislative Session beginning Jan 10, 2017 in Austin, Texas, and present many of the issues he brought forth at this town hall meeting.