December 22, 2009

From the Desk of Allen Vaught

Interim Charges
As a continuation of the last article, I am going to look at some of the interim charges for the Defense and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. I was appointed to this committee earlier this year, and serve as the Vice-Chairman.

The Defense and Veterans’ Affairs Committee has jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to the relations between the State of Texas and the federal government involving defense, emergency preparedness, and veterans issues; the various branches of the military service of the United States; the realignment or closure of military bases; the defense of the state and nation, including terrorism response; emergency preparedness; veterans of military and related services; and the following state agencies: the Adjutant General’s Department, the Texas Veterans Commission, the Veterans’ Land Board, the Texas Military Preparedness Commission, the Division of Emergency Management, and the Emergency Management Council.

There were six charges presented to the committee, one of which was discussed last week regarding the veterans court programs in Texas. This is a joint charge for both the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and the Defense and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, so I will not discuss it again in this article. Another charge is simply to monitor the agencies and programs under the committee’s jurisdiction which are listed in the above paragraph. There are four additional more specific charges which I will summarize for you here.

Land surrounding military installations
“Investigate strategies to address incompatible land use surrounding Texas military installations. Study approaches that minimize conflict with neighboring landowners.”

Preventing the encroachment of military installations has become one of the top priorities of the U.S. Department of Defense. To ensure the military’s ability to maintain operational readiness in defense of the United States, it is necessary to foster compatible land use between military installations and neighboring communities.

The committee will look at various ways to go about creating compatible use, including analyzing the recently law that allows defense communities to establish and fund a regional military sustainability commission that regulates this kind of development (HB 2919).

Additionally, Texas voters passed a constitutional amendment last month that would authorize the Legislature to allow cities and counties to issue bonds in order to purchase areas around military installations for constructing roadways, utilities, or other infrastructure that could protect or promote the military installation (HJR 132). The committee will look at this amendment, now part of the Texas Constitution, during the interim as well.

Centralizing Call Centers for Veterans
“Evaluate the advantages, including potential cost savings, of centralizing call center activities for referral to benefits providers for Veterans.”

Benefits providers for veterans include the Texas Veterans Commission, the Texas Veterans’ Land Board, the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, the Dept. of State Health Services, Suicide Prevention Call Centers and more. By centralizing these resources, veterans may have better access to services. In fact, providers would be able to share contact information, databases, and pool some direct mail efforts which could save the state time and money. Furthermore, by studying this charge, the committee may be able to find alternate ways to streamline the benefits process for veterans so that they are getting the most out of the services they need.

Border & Homeland Security
“Monitor and review the disbursement and use of border and homeland security funds. Evaluate the effectiveness in meeting the state’s border and homeland security program goals and objectives.”

The current state-led border security operations program is called “Operation Border Star.” Created in 2007, Operation Border Star provides additional funding to local law enforcement on the border in order to hire more staff and coordinate intelligence. Last September, Gov. Perry added to this program by sending highly skilled Ranger Reconnaissance (Ranger Recon) Teams to the border. The state has dedicated significant financial resources to border security during the past two legislative sessions, so this interim charge will ensure those funds are being used in an effective and pragmatic manner.

Military & Overseas Voting
“Study ways the state can enhance military and overseas voters’ ability to obtain and return balloting materials and reduce burdens on those voters’ exercise of their right to vote.”

As of Sept. 1st, 2009, military personnel and overseas voters can request a federal postcard application and ballot via mail, fax, or email; however, they can only return a ballot by mail or fax. There were several bills filed during the session that aimed to allow voters to return their ballot by email, but those did not pass.

Many military families and overseas voters have greater access to a scanner and to email than they do to a fax machine, yet both ensure more timely delivery than the postal service. This interim charge will allow the committee to consider all the options for overseas absentee voters, including returning ballots through email, so that they can exercise their right to vote to the fullest extent.

If you have questions regarding any of these interim charges or would like more information, I invite you to contact my district office at (214) 370-8305 or my capitol office at (512) 463-0244. Please free to email me as well at, and be sure to include your name and full address. I look forward to hearing from you.

Calloway's Timely Tips for January and February Gardeners

Timely Tip for January Gardeners
From Calloway’s Nursery

January is a good time to evaluate your gardens and start planning for the Spring. Prepare a sketch of your landscape complete with all permanent fixtures including the house, sidewalks, fences and trees. Keep notes of what did well and what needs to be replaced. Remember, your landscape is a continual work in progress!
Now is the time to prune fruit trees and grapevines. Shade trees and evergreen shrubs can be trimmed to maintain shape and to remove damaged or low lying branches. Do not top Crape Myrtles; only prune to remove damaged branches. Trim summer blooming shrubs and vines to tidy their appearance. Leave a smooth cut flush with the trunk or branch from which you pruned. Apply pruning paint to cuts larger than a pinkie to prevent diseases and insect infestations.
For more information, please join us for FREE in-store clinics regarding gardening topics. Clinics are held in every store.

Saturday, January 16th at 10:15 am-Pruning Techniques
Shape up your shrubs! Trim your trees! Understand why and when to prune. Check out the newest and best tools to get the job done!

Success in the garden begins with a good foundation! Become a member of our Garden Club and learn how to develop a beautiful landscape! Visit to join today!
Timely Tip for February Gardeners
From Calloway’s Nursery

Remember your Valentine with fresh, living flowers. Give roses which can be planted and enjoyed year round or a container of cool season color for an immediate impact on your porch or patio. Houseplants in attractive ceramic pots provide long lasting enjoyment for indoors. Gloves, tools and wind chimes all make great gifts. The list is endless, let your imagination “grow green”!
Also, please join us for FREE in-store clinics on timely gardening topics. These clinics are held in every store.

Saturday, February 6th at 10:15 am-Color Creations with Orchids-Create a beautiful, living Valentine’s gift which will last and last.

Saturday, February 13th at 10:15 am-Gardening with Roses-Give your Valentine roses that will provide blooms from Spring until Fall. Select from Earthkinds, Knock-Outs, Patented and Non-Patented varieties.

Saturday, February 20th at 10:15 am-Organics 101-Learn how to garden the organic way!

Saturday, February 27th at 10:15 am-Lawn Care-Be the envy of your neighbors. Learn what it takes to have a beautiful, healthy lawn.

For more gardening information for Texas, visit

From the Desk of Allen Vaught

Interim Charges
While the legislature is not in session, there is still work to be done. Speaker Joe Straus released the interim charges for the 81st Legislature last month, and has tasked the standing House committees with looking into several specific issues. Interim charges provide an opportunity for the committees to hold hearings to examine issues confronting the state and ultimately make recommendations for action. Often times, the results of these hearings lead to new legislation or become key issues during the next legislative session.

I am a second-term member of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence. This committee holds jurisdiction over matters pertaining to criminal law, probation and parole, as well as criminal procedure in the courts, and revisions to the Texas Penal Code. What follows is a description of some of the charges our committee has been assigned by Speaker Straus.

Public Defender Offices
“Study how the state presently supports the establishment and maintenance of public defender offices.”

Once an appellant who is accused of a crime is identified as indigent, a district judge, county judge or jail magistrate is responsible for appointing representation from the public defender's office. In order to provide the representation that reflects the goals set forth by the state of Texas and all public defender's offices, attorneys, investigators and support staff members must all work together in order to provide the assistance needed to give the indigent appellant the appropriate legal representation.

During upcoming testimony on this charge, the members of the committee will hear testimony to fully understand how exactly these offices are set up as well as how all the offices in Texas are funded with regards to payroll, research, etc. The end result of this particular charge is to fully comprehend all aspects of how our state's public defender's offices are created and maintained.

Human & Sex Trafficking
“Study the human and sex trafficking problem in Texas. Make recommendations on best practices in the areas of investigation, prosecution, and tracking of the victims of these crimes. Study whether victims of these crimes are allowed to adequately recover from their attackers in a civil cause of action.”

In the past couple of sessions, the Texas Legislature has made great strides in the area of human trafficking, especially since Texas is the hub for most trafficking in the United States. This past session we passed House Bill 4409, which requires the Attorney General to establish a human trafficking prevention task force to develop policies, procedures, data collection, and training to assist in the prevention and prosecution of human trafficking crimes.

With an interim charge designed to investigate the criminal side of this offense and how to better prosecute individuals, along with a report due next Dec. (2010) from the Attorney General’s office, legislators should go into the 82nd legislative session well educated on how best to prevent and prosecute this crime.

Veterans Court Programs
“Monitor the implementation of SB 1940, which established veterans court programs in Texas, and examine the link between combat stress disorders of war veterans, including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, and the onset of criminal behavior.”

This charge actually comes out of an amendment I added during the final days of the legislative session. Senate Bill 1940 authorizes county commissioners’ courts to establish a veterans diversion court program for military service personnel and veterans whose service-related disability contributed to their criminal offense. This pretrial court will ensure that our veterans and military personnel with combat-related mental health issues receive the proper treatment. This interim charge will look at the implementation of this legislation to see if any changes or improvements are needed, and if so, what can be done.

If you have questions regarding any of these interim charges or would like more information, I invite you to contact my district office at (214) 370-8305 or my capitol office at (512) 463-0244. Please free to email me as well at, and be sure to include your name and full address. I look forward to hearing from you.

Audelia Public Library Holiday Hours

To: LHAHOA Web Administrators
From: John Gould, President, Audelia Public Library
Re: December Update

Holiday Hours


Thursday, December 24th closing at 5 p.m.
Closed Friday, December 25th
Resume regular hours on Saturday, December 26
New Years
Thursday, December 31, closed
Friday, January 1, closed
Resume regular hours Saturday, January 2