Texas House of Representatives Creates Long Term Plan to Secure the Texas Border

March 19th, 2015

(Austin, Texas) Today, the House of Representatives passed House Bill 11, a bill aimed at creating a comprehensive long term solution to Texas’s border security problems. Specifically, HB 11 authorizes an additional 300 DPS troopers for border security operations, criminalizes the act of inducing a person to enter the country illegally, strengthens state smuggling laws to effectively target the organized criminal element infiltrating our border, along with other reforms. The legislation also protects local control by creating the “Texas Transnational Crime Intelligence Center”, which would be staffed by local police and sheriffs to serve as a real-time, around-the-clock intelligence hub for state and local law enforcement agencies.

Upon passage of HB 11, the bill author Chairman Dennis Bonnen stated that, “Texas would be the only state in the nation with a consistent plan, unlike our federal government, that Texans can count on to address criminal activity at our border and make our communities much safer.”

Chairman Bonnen’s bill also found the support of many South Texas Lawmakers, whose districts are hardest hit by their proximity to the border. “By establishing a long term plan to secure our border, we are ensuring the lasting safety of our Texas families. I am proud to join my House colleagues on both sides of the aisle in achieving such a historic bipartisan solution,” said Representative Rick Galindo.

“The Texas House Republican Caucus is proud to support HB 11,” said Chairman Tan Parker. “Today House Republicans fought to protect Texas citizens by giving local law enforcement the tools necessary to protect our border, including tougher penalties for the cartels and gangs that operate on our southern border, threatening the safety of our state and country.”

The bill passed the Texas House today with overwhelming Republican support.

HAWTHORNE: Time for Texas to take aim at copper theft

March 18th, 2015

By Brian C. Hawthorne
Sheriff, Chambers County

Across the Lone Star State, Texans are seeing incidents of copper theft in epidemic proportions, from church air conditioners, to copper wiring in or around private homes and retail stores, to telecommunications and electric and cable provider equipment. Criminals typically target copper and other metals because they can quickly and easily convert these materials into quick cash by selling them to scrap metal dealers or other metal recycling companies.

Not only is stealing copper and other certain metals illegal, but these crimes also create public safety risks in our communities. The impact to communications networks, electrical grids, emergency services, air conditioning and heating systems, and other industrial or mechanical systems these criminals target for theft can cause substantial and even life-threatening harm to others.

In fact, curbing copper and other metal theft is so critically important to our state that the Texas Sheriff’s Association has made this one of our top 10 issues for our lawmakers to address this legislative session. A ban on cash transactions for the purchase of copper and other materials is the best tool to prevent these crimes.
For example, in a 2012 incident in Hugo Point County Park in rural Chambers County, criminals stole all the underground wiring responsible for supplying electricity to all the facilities in the park. Overhead lights in the parking and boat launch areas along with water in the bathrooms and water fountains were no longer available to visitors. In addition to this being a very serious safety hazard, it also resulted in a drain on law enforcement investigation resources and more than $100,000 to replace and repair the damaged areas.

Additionally, law enforcement officers across the country have noted copper and metal thefts also tend to support other criminal activity. The thieves can take the stolen copper or metal to a scrap metal dealer and quickly obtain cash to support drug habits and/or other illicit, cash-based activities. The prospect of stealing valuable metals is both desirable and relatively easy for criminals. This is especially frustrating when the data shows that there is an easy legislative fix to prevent this from happening.

This is why many law enforcement leaders support eliminating immediate cash transactions for the sale of copper and other metals. Instead, requiring payment by check, money order or electronic funds transfer is a better solution. Removing the quick cash option leads to a decrease in metal theft. This idea is not new. Twenty-six states, including Oklahoma and Louisiana, restrict these cash transactions, in whole or in part.

Texas Sens. Brandon Creighton and Larry Taylor and Reps. Dade Phelan and Wayne Smith have filed legislation to eliminate these cash transactions. I encourage my fellow law enforcement officers and Texans to show their support for Sens. Creighton and Taylor and Reps. Phelan and Smith for their outstanding leadership to combat this crime.

These four men are championing necessary legislation that is a win-win for Texans. It will help deter metal thefts and protect the public from being placed at unnecessary risk. The bills will pose no adverse limitation on any reputable scrap metal dealer.

It is time for Texas to take aim at copper theft and embrace changes needed to deter these crimes.
Chambers County Sheriff Brian C. Hawthorne is on the Board of Directors of the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, past president of the Texas DPS Officers Association and former vice chairman of the National Troopers Coalition.

State Rep. Wayne Smith Joins Lawmakers to Pass Stronger Border, Safer Texas Act

March 2nd, 2015

AUSTIN – Rep. Wayne Smith (R-Baytown) and a bipartisan group of Texas House members today called for passage of House Bill 11, the Stronger Border, Safer Texas Act, because it will strengthen border security and help law enforcement stop border-related crime wherever it occurs across the state.

“Border security is a federal responsibility but Texas cannot afford to wait for Washington to act,” said Smith. “The Stronger Border, Safer Texas Act will permanently strengthen the presence of DPS Troopers on the border, curb the flow of the cartels’ supply lines and create a new team of investigators who will help police crack down on crime syndicates wherever they operate in Texas.”

Key provisions of House Bill 11, co-authored by Rep. Smith, include:

• Hiring of certified police officers at the DPS Trooper II level and authorizing 10 hour work days for DPS Troopers serving in the border region, ending the current practice of periodically shifting officers from other parts of the state.

• Creating a DPS Officer Reserve Corps of retired officers who will assist police statewide with background investigations, sex offender compliance checks and other duties.

• Imposing tougher penalties for smugglers, and classifying human smuggling as organized crime.

• Cutting the cartels’ supply lines with new southbound checkpoints within 250 yards of the border to curb the flow of stolen vehicles, guns and money from being smuggled into Mexico.

• Establishing a multiagency border crime information center in the Rio Grande Valley led by local law enforcement with assistance from DPS.

• Requiring law enforcement entities to adopt the National Incident Based Reporting System to ensure the transparency and uniformity of crime data throughout the state.

Texas House Republican Caucus Fights for Texas Teachers

February 25th, 2015

(Austin, Texas) House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Otto announced on the House floor today that the House will fully fund TRS-Care, the health insurance program for retired public school employees of Texas. Chairman Otto was joined in this announcement by House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Chairman Trent Ashby and members of the Appropriations Committee, Chairman of the Committee on Pensions Dan Flynn, and other members of the Texas House.

“I want to reassure every member in the House and every retired teacher that the House will fully fund TRS-Care,” said Otto. “This issue is too important to go unaddressed so I commit to you today that the House will fund our obligations to our retired teachers.”

The TRS-Care retiree health insurance program was created in 1986 and now has roughly 240,000 participants. The TRS-Care shortfall is expected to be approximately $768 million by the end of the 2016-2017 biennium. Chairman Otto is committed to providing TRS-Care with all necessary additional funding to ensure the future sustainability of this vital program. Considering 95 percent of our retired school employees do not receive Social Security benefits, securing this funding will prevent any drastic change in access to affordable health care to our retired teachers.

“I was privileged to be in attendance today at the Appropriations meeting and fully support Chairman Otto’s efforts and thank him for his leadership on this matter,” Chairman Flynn said. “Texas teachers are a large part of molding the Texas leaders of tomorrow and many teachers and retirees have expressed their concerns on this matter. I am glad the House will address the shortage of funding for retiree health care over the next two years as we continue to assess long-term solutions in my committee for those who served our state and our school children for so many years.”

The Texas House Republican Caucus is proud to support this initiative by Caucus members Chairman Otto and Chairman Flynn to fully fund TRS Care and honor the commitment made by the Texas Legislature to provide adequate health care at an affordable cost for our public education retirees.

Representative Sylvester Turner, Representative Wayne Smith, and Representative Dan Huberty urge the Texas Legislature to Support Legislation Allowing for Electrocardiogram Screening for Student Athletes

February 11th, 2015

AUSTIN, TX ~ Today, State Representative Sylvester Turner (D-Houston), State Representative Wayne Smith (R-Baytown), State Representative Dan Huberty (R-Houston), and Scott Stephens, President of the Cody Stephens Go Big or Go Home Memorial Foundation, urged the Texas Legislature to support legislation that will allow for electrocardiogram screenings (ECGs) as part of the University Interscholastic League (UIL) pre-participation requirements for student athletes. The legislators have introduced HB 677, HB 767, and HB 779, respectively. Representatives of medical and educational entities joined today in support of the legislation, including Pat Shuff, CEO of Cypress ECG; Dr. Keith Moore, Superintendent of Crosby ISD; Holly Farmer and Pamela Velasco of August Heart, as well as numerous other medical professionals and supporters.

Sudden cardiac death is the leading cause of death among school-age athletes. Further, student athletes are 4.5 times more likely to die from sudden cardiac death than students not participating in competitive sports. Though student athletes in Texas are currently required to receive a physical in order to participate in UIL activities, the traditional physical does not sufficiently detect the underlying cardiac abnormalities that can lead to sudden cardiac death. An ECG provides for greater detection of cardiovascular diseases that predispose athletes to sudden cardiac death.

“This bill would save the lives of student athletes who are currently in danger of sudden cardiac death because they have an undiagnosed condition”, said Rep. Sylvester Turner. “These deaths are preventable and we have the resources to inform Texas parents if their child is at risk. The legislation does not require parents to take any medical action in response to an ECG. Regardless of the information the ECG provides, any medical decisions regarding the student athlete remain at the parent’s discretion.”

The legislation filed is an extension of the momentous efforts by Scott P. Stephens of the Cody Stephens Go Big or Go Home Memorial Foundation to screen all athletes in Texas schools. Three years ago, Stephens lost his son Cody to sudden cardiac death and believes that he would be alive today if he had received an ECG. Cody was only a few weeks away from graduating from Crosby High School and had received a football scholarship to Tarleton State University.

“After I lost my son Cody to sudden cardiac arrest in May of 2012, I discovered that the #1 killer of student athletes is sudden cardiac arrest. Texas has a great opportunity to lead the nation by being the first state to enhance the current pre-participation examination by including an ECG twice in a student athletes career. By including an ECG we can find many of these at risk athletes before their families have to endure an unimaginable yet preventable loss,” said Mr. Stephens.

Currently, student athletes are required to have physicals and parents are responsible for this cost. The cost of ECGs can range from $0-15 and many schools districts provide ECGs for free.

“It was an easy decision to author a bill that would require heart screenings for student athletes who already take physicals before they play. If we can save even one kid’s life, it will be worth it, ” said Rep. Wayne Smith.

The Cody Stephens Go Big or Go Home Memorial Foundation has been a part of screening over 30,000 student athletes in its 2 year history. Mr. Stephens is continuing to receive extensive support from legislators and various organizations who understand the value and critical need to ensure every student athlete receives an ECG.

“In an attempt to ensure the health and safety of our Texas students, I, and several other members, will be partnering with the Cody Stephens Foundation to monitor the heart health of UIL athletes – our children”, said Rep. Dan Huberty. “It is essential that we protect every student’s life to the best of our ability and the Cody Stephen’s bill will go a long way to ensure that we do just that.”

Committee Assignments for the 84th Legislative Session Announced

February 4th, 2015

AUSTIN, TX – Committee assignments for the 84th Legislative Session were announced today and State Representative Wayne Smith (R-Baytown) will again serve as Chair of the House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures and on the House Committee on Tourism, Culture and Recreation. Rep. Smith also served on these committees during the 83rd Legislative Session and Interim.

The House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures has jurisdiction over matters pertaining to business, industry, trade, gaming, and the sale of alcoholic beverages. It also has oversight of several key commissions including Licensing and Regulation, the Texas Real Estate Commission, the Texas Board of Professional Engineers and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

The House Committee of Culture, Recreation and Tourism oversees the state’s parks, fish and wildlife, shrines, monuments and memorials. Included is the maintenance and oversight of the Battleship Texas and the San Jacinto Battleground. Rep. Smith passed legislation to ask voters to approve the bonds to dry berth the battleship in Harris County.

“I am honored to be chosen to continue to serve as Chair of an important committee that handles licensing and oversight for several industries important to our local and state economies including business and trade,” said Smith. “I am also proud to serve on the committee that will handle the welfare or our state’s parks and historical resources, including the Battleship Texas and the San Jacinto Battleground which are of great historical importance to the people of my community and our state.”

Rep. Wayne Smith Supports Superfund Funds Going to Local Communities

January 29th, 2015

State Representative Wayne Smith (R-Baytown) respectfully urged Harris County officials to consider allocating funds resulting from the San Jacinto Superfund Site settlement toward local projects in Harris County.

The Highlands area and surrounding communities have been advocating to see funds resulting from the San Jacinto Waste Pits lawsuit return to the communities that were affected. Various infrastructure projects have been proposed by local citizens and organizations deeply involved in the issue. Representative Smith has been following the matter very closely and is, at this time, consulting with state agencies as to the state’s portion of the settlement funds.

“I will do everything in my power as an elected state official to coordinate with the state and Harris County to ensure the state’s portion of these funds are utilized in the best possible way for our local community,” Smith said. “I thank Harris County for their deep involvement in this matter and I look forward to our continued discussions and collaboration on behalf of the citizens of Harris County.”

Smith honors Texas heroes at Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument ceremony

March 26th, 2013

AUSTIN – State Representative Wayne Smith (R-Baytown) honored Texas Heroes who served in Vietnam during groundbreaking ceremonies for the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument. On Sunday, Smith participated in the “Reading of the Names” ceremony at the LBJ Museum in Austin, honoring those Texans who died. On Monday, Smith spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony at the Texas Capitol. Rep. Smith and State Senator Chuy Hinojosa (D-Hidalgo), both Vietnam Veterans, co-authored legislation authorizing construction of the monument.

Several state officials and veterans spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony; with most noting that the recognition for our men and women who served in Vietnam was long overdue.

“Most of our men and women who fought in Vietnam never received a hero’s welcome or recognition for our service to our country and state,” Smith said. “With today’s groundbreaking, we can finally say welcome home, and thanks for your sacrifice.”

Construction of the monument is underway and is expected to be finished by February 2014. The monument is a joint project of the Texas Historical Commission and hundreds of individuals, corporations, foundations and veteran organizations.

“I was pleased to see Conrad Garcia, Jr. and other members of the Baytown VVA Chapter 922 attend the groundbreaking ceremony this morning and the reading of the names on Sunday,” said Smith. “This monument is a tribute to all Texas Vietnam Veterans, but it certainly means a great deal to me to see my fellow Veterans from back home up here supporting the monument.”

For more information on the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument, please visit www.buildthemonument.org.

[via the Pasadena Citizen]

Rep. Smith Files Bill to Crack Down on Game Rooms

February 22nd, 2013

AUSTIN, TX – State Rep. Wayne Smith (R-Baytown) has filed House Bill 1127 aimed at cracking down on undercover Game Rooms in Harris County that have become a breeding ground for illegal activity and crime.

Over the last 10 years, game rooms have proliferated across much of incorporated Harris County due to increasing regulations under ordinance by the city of Houston.

To fly under the radar, many of these game rooms have changed their business model where restricted access has now become the norm, where game rooms only allow “members” or “known referrals” access behind darkly tinted windows and locked doors. This restricted access greatly inhibits even undercover investigations.

“Undercover game rooms have become a breeding ground for illegal activity and crime,” said Representative Smith. “It’s time to shine a light on this shady practice by giving the state and law enforcement regulatory authority to crack down on bad operators.”

The cash-rich businesses have become an increasing target of criminal activity. Since 2007, Harris County has seen ninety instances where robberies or aggravated assaults took place in game rooms in unincorporated areas. In that same time span, five homicides have also been attributed to these locations, including a pregnant woman who was killed when a worker at a game room discharged a shotgun while trying to stop a robbery.

It is estimated that an additional 25 percent of the crimes go unreported or reported away from the game room due to the refusal of game room operators to allow patrons to call police at their location.

Several years ago a crackdown by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Precinct 4 Constable on these locations resulted in large seizures of the coin-operated machines, often referred to as 8-liners, for failure to comply with tax laws.

Eighty-five search warrants have been executed in game room investigations in the last five years. The enforcement actions resulted in the arrests of business operators for “Promotion of Gambling” as well as issuance of citations for failing to have current tax permits. These businesses operate under the pretense of providing “entertainment only,” but clearly continue to provide an unsafe environment.

“I am proud to carry this bill on behalf of the families who have fallen victim to the illegal activity and crime, and the law enforcement agencies who need all the tools at their disposal to keep our citizens safe,” said Smith.

House Bill 1127 seeks regulatory authority over Game Rooms to ensure they provide an environment safe for patrons and workers and are open to inspection by law enforcement and proper administrative authority.

Representative Wayne Smith represents Texas House District 128, including Baytown, Deer Park, La Porte, Crosby, Highlands, Morgan’s Point and a portion of Pasadena.

[via Your Houston News]

Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument foundry work begins

November 30th, 2012

The long effort to build a monument at the Texas Capitol honoring hundreds of thousands of Texans who served in the Vietnam War is finally on the way to reality…

To read the fill article from the Baytown Sun, click here.