Legislative session gaining steam

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The energy has picked up around your State Capitol in recent weeks, as the 86th Legislative Session will officially began on Tuesday.

As we prepare for the next 140 days, I want to take a moment to remind you of some of the resources our office provides to make sure that you — our constituents — remain the most important part of the process.

Should you have any questions about a piece of legislation, or want to voice your opinion on a proposal put forth by the Legislature, our capitol office can be reached at (512) 463-0508. Our Capitol office can also help set up capitol tours, reserve meeting rooms, or give recommendations on places of interest around Austin.

Lastly, we want to invite you to visit your Capitol office, which has moved to room E2.806. It's always nice to have constituents in town while we're hard at work in Austin and I want to encourage you and your family to pay us a visit the next time you're in the Capital City — our doors are always open!

With that, here's an update from your State Capitol.

86th Legislative Session

As we discussed in our most recent column, the No. 1 priority of the Texas House will be to address skyrocketing property taxes by reforming our broken school finance system.

Another critically important issue we will be facing this session will be to improve access and quality of health care throughout rural Texas.

Since 2013, over 20 rural hospitals have permanently or temporarily closed across the state. Not only do these closures result in a shortage of accessible healthcare, but also negatively impact our local economies.

In fact, the closure of a rural hospital results in an average loss of 170 jobs, and $22 million in annual payroll. Such a loss can have a profoundly negative impact on our communities when you consider that many might have to leave our communities to find work, thus leaving our small businesses, schools, and local governments with a diminished workforce and decreased revenue.

While we are fortunate in House District 57 to have a number of world-class hospitals, there are still areas where access to medical care requires a drive of over an hour to the nearest hospital. This predicament was underscored recently when we had a hospital close in the district, leaving many without adequate access to care.

Fortunately, we were able to reopen the hospital due to intense support from the community, and with the help of elected officials from all levels of government. Though the hospital has reopened, they still face a number of challenges.

As legislators, we must do our part to coordinate with state agencies like the Health and Human Services Commission, and our counterparts at the federal level to prioritize the reimbursement rates for rural hospitals to fully cover the costs of healthcare.

As we move into the legislative session, I look forward to working with my fellow legislators to ensure accessible and affordable healthcare for all rural Texans.

Reminders

The mobile office is on the road this month and looks forward to seeing you on the following dates, in the following locations: Jan. 16 at the Houston County Courthouse in Crockett from 9-11 a.m., or 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the Trinity County Courthouse in Groveton; Jan. 23 at the San Augustine County in San Augustine from 9-11 a.m.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact our office if we can help you in any way. Our district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762, or you can call my Capitol office at (512) 463-0508.

Trent Ashby represents District 57, which includes Madison County, in the Texas Legislature.

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