By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun
For Texas Representative Byron Cook, the upcoming legislative session makes this a crucial election. Cook is running for reelection as a Republican to the Texas House of Representatives.
In 2013, he predicts a rewriting of the school finance system, probably in a special session, as well as consideration of a new electricity supply plan, which he thinks will be necessary to prevent rolling blackouts in 2015.
“We’ve identified that without bringing new (electricity) generation on-line, particularly starting in 2015, we’re not going to have adequate generation,” he said. “It’s my belief that if we don’t help work towards having the right market signals, we’re not going to have enough. That will mean two things: Potential risk of managed brown-outs and black-outs starting in 2015, and no question, when your supply side shrinks pricing will go up.”
The Texas Legislature only meets in session for 140 days in odd-numbered years, but Cook has turned the $7,200 a year job into a full–time job, going regularly back and forth to Austin and working even in off-years to prepare for the sessions.
“I want to do a good job for the people of this district and the people of Texas,” he said.
If reelected, Cook said the next session won’t be quite as brutal as the budget-cutting session of 2011.
“Obviously, we’ve been getting signs of improvement from the comptroller’s office,” he said. “I don’t believe it’s going to be like it was in the last session, but when you look at the fact that we have a growing population and those numbers put pressure on all the services that the state provides ... funding will continue to be a top priority.”
The state has been sued over what many school districts see as an illegal tight squeeze from the state. Texas has put new harder testing requirements on the school districts, but not provided them with more money. The case went to court early this week.
“I can’t see the legal process playing itself out before we go into session,” Cook said. “What I’m concerned about is I have a rural district and I want to make sure rural schools are fairly treated with respect to the funding.”
As chairman of the powerful State Affairs Committee, Cook says he has the connections and relationships in Austin to help the district and the state. By way of example, he points to the Corsicana Treatment Center, which houses high-risk youth offenders.
“There is always going to be a need for that,” he said. “I believe that puts this facility in a very unique position prospectively.”
He also points to the efforts by local officials, which, added to his voice, helped get funding for a relief route around Corsicana and the recent state grant for Pactiv, to allow that company to add more jobs and expand the line.
“I consider it to be a wonderful opportunity not only for the people who are going to be beneficiaries of the new jobs, but making sure the people who have worked there for a long time continue to have great jobs at that company” he said. “That wasn’t a legislative effort but was certainly an initiative where relationships and an understanding of how the process works was very important to the community, and I was really honored to be part of it.”
With respect to the relief loop around Corsicana, Cook said that was definitely a group project between local and state officials to get the funding but it’s going to benefit this county and the state.
“Highway 31 is a relief route off Interstate 35, so it’s strategic to the long-term,” Cook said. “I think that project is going to continue to move forward and I think it will benefit the area in the long run.”
Other issues that will affect both state and local residents include water supply issues, the state retirement system’s health care insurance, and the electricity supply.
“These are the kinds of things I enjoy working on,” Cook said.
Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com