Statement re: MCHS helping to vaccinate frontline medical workers at surrounding hospitals

ODESSA — State Representative Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) issued the following statement Monday after learning that Medical Center Health System CEO Russell Tippin has carved out a portion of its state-allocated COVID-19 vaccine shipment for frontline medical workers at hospitals in Kermit, Monahans and other surrounding communities:

“I’m proud that Russell Tippin and the leadership at Medical Center Health System in Odessa are helping other West Texas hospitals by making sure that all doctors, nurses and other frontline medical workers in our region are getting vaccinated so that they can more safely care for their patients.

“I want to give credit where credit is due. Medical Center Health System is going out of its way to be a good neighbor and making sure that the vaccine needs of the Permian Basin are being met in a timely manner.

“Hospitals in communities such as Kermit and Monahans are not expected to receive their vaccine allotments for several more days, and rather than making them wait, MCHS stepped up to share its resources while also ensuring that Odessa’s frontline medical workers get vaccinated.

“I appreciate CEO Russell Tippin and his board of directors: Bryn Dodd, Mary Lou Anderson, Richard Herrera, David Dunn, Don Hallmark, Wallace Dunn and Dr. Ben Quiroz. What a great example of giving during Christmas week.”


Citing Hospital Visitation Restrictions, Landgraf Files Pro-Transparency Bill to Fight Bureaucratic Bullies

AUSTIN — State Representative Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) filed House Bill 665 to require state agencies to obtain legislative approval to renew emergency rules adopted during a state of disaster, such as hospital visitation restrictions that have been imposed recently.

“I heard far too many tragic and sad stories from Texans who were prevented from being with their loved ones in a hospital during their final moments,” Landgraf said. “I advocated for our local physicians and hospital administrators to be able to have the flexibility to be able to implement their own visitation rules based on the prevalence of the coronavirus in their area. However, there was little I could do because the current law allowed a state bureaucracy to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach for the entire state without any legislative oversight or public input whatsoever. HB 665 will change that.”

In March of this year, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) adopted an emergency rule that required hospitals to prohibit visitors who were not providing critical assistance. Current law allows state agencies to adopt emergency rules without prior notice or hearing if the agency finds that there is imminent peril to public health or safety. Such rules can be effective for 120 days and can be renewed once for 60 days. This proved to be untenable for thousands of Texans who were prevented from visiting family in hospitals throughout the state in 2020.

“The policy that locked them out was not a law adopted by an elected body or even an executive order issued by the governor, it was a decision made behind closed doors by an unelected bureaucracy,” Landgraf continued. “House Bill 665, if passed, will ensure there is sufficient public oversight over state agencies during times of disaster in Texas so that this sort of thing never happens again.”

HB 665 specifies that, during times in which at the governor has declared a state of disaster for at least 75% of Texas counties, agency emergency rules can only be effective for 30 days, and cannot be renewed unless approved by a majority vote of a joint hearing of the standing committees of each house of the legislature with primary jurisdiction over the agency seeking to renew the emergency rule.

Landgraf and the other members of the Texas legislature will convene for the 87th Texas Legislative Session on January 12, 2021. Members of the Texas House and Texas Senate may begin filing bills for the 2021 legislative session as early as November 9, 2020. The Texas legislature meets at the Texas Capitol building for a 140-day regular session beginning the second Tuesday in January every odd-numbered year to vote on proposed legislation and pass a balanced state budget.


Landgraf Files Bill to Empower Taxpayers and Increase Transparency in Debt Elections

AUSTIN — State Representative Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) filed House Bill 664 on Monday to require any ballot measure for approval of the issuance of bonds or other public debt to be submitted to voters and taxpayers only during a November election, removing the option to vote on debt during lower turnout elections.

“By requiring debt elections to be on the ballot in November when turnout is highest, HB 664 will ensure more voters have a chance to consider whether or not they want their local governments to take on more debt,” Landgraf said.

Over the last decade there has been a correlation between increasing local government debt and rising property taxes. In many cases, debt elections are held in May when voter turnout is minimal compared to November elections.

“This bill simply means that government must appeal to the largest number of voters and taxpayers before incurring more debt,” Landgraf continued. “We cannot allow runaway debt and property taxes to erode the Texas dream for our children’s children. More voters means more transparency and accountability, and that is a good thing, especially when it directly impacts your wallet.”

Landgraf and the other members of the Texas legislature will convene for the 87th Texas Legislative Session on January 12, 2021. Members of the Texas House and Texas Senate may begin filing bills for the 2021 legislative session as early as November 9, 2020. The Texas legislature meets at the Texas Capitol building for a 140-day regular session beginning the second Tuesday in January every odd-numbered year to vote on proposed legislation and pass a balanced state budget.


Landgraf Again Calls for Cancellation of STAAR Test

AUSTIN — State Representative Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) joined numerous members of the Texas House of Representatives in submitting a letter to Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath calling for a suspension of STAAR testing during the current school year.

“I’m thankful so many of my colleagues in the Texas House agree that administering the STAAR test this school year is a bad idea,” Landgraf said. “It is abundantly clear that COVID-19 has presented our educators, our students, and their families with unique obstacles that have completely changed the dynamics of the school year, and our state’s policy must reflect this reality in our schools.”

Earlier this year, Commissioner Morath obtained waivers from the U.S. Department of Education to waive statewide assessment and accountability requirements for the 2019-2020 school year because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. States are required to assess student and teacher progress annually in order to draw down federal dollars for public education funding unless waivers are granted by the federal government.

“If COVID-19 was the reason to cancel the STAAR test for the 2019-20 school year, then there should be no question about whether or not to cancel the test for the 20-21 school year,” Landgraf continued. “As I’ve said before, I am adamantly opposed to testing for the sake of testing, and that is exactly what will occur if the STAAR is not cancelled again.”


Landgraf Files House Bill 103 to Create Active Shooter Alert System

AUSTIN — State Representative Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) filed House Bill 103 to create the Texas Active Shooter Alert System. The bill requires the state to implement a system to alert Texans if there is an active shooter in their area as determined by local law enforcement. Landgraf's proposal is designed to reduce mass violence without infringing on the constitutional rights of law-abiding Texans.

“Over Labor Day weekend last year, my hometown of Odessa, joined an ever-growing list of American cities that have tragically experienced a mass shooting,” Landgraf said. “In the aftermath, I received countless calls and messages from constituents with ideas on how to address the problem and prevent massive losses of life in the future. Everyone I’ve spoken with agrees that we have a need for this statewide active shooter alert system, similar to the Amber Alert.”

Landgraf crafted the proposed legislation after working with families of victims of the mass shooting in which a mobile gunman killed 7 and injured 25 across Midland and Odessa on August 31, 2019.

HB 103 requires the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to develop and implement an alert system to be activated on report of an active shooter. DPS would activate the alert system in a 50-mile radius of an active shooter's location on the request of a local law enforcement agency who determines there is an active shooter situation. The legislation also requires the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to establish a plan for providing relevant information to the public within 50 miles of an active shooter through its existing system of dynamic message signs located across the state.

“The goal of HB 103 is to save lives and assist first responders,” Landgraf continued. “An alert system of this kind could have helped spare the life of Odessa High School student, Leilah Hernandez, who was killed almost an hour after the shooting rampage began. That’s why Leilah’s family—and other victims’ families—are passionately advocating for this alert system. Now it’s time to get to work and get this bill to the governor’s desk.”

Landgraf and the other members of the Texas legislature will convene for the 87th Texas Legislative Session on January 12, 2021. Members of the Texas House and Texas Senate may begin filing bills for the 2021 legislative session as early as November 9, 2020. The Texas legislature meets at the Texas Capitol building for a 140-day regular session beginning the second Tuesday in January every odd-numbered year to vote on proposed legislation and pass a balanced state budget.


Texas Protective Order Registry Established by Monica’s Law Goes Live Across Texas

ODESSA — The Texas Protective Order Registry, which State Representative Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) created through “Monica’s Law,” is now in operation across all 254 Texas counties. The online database lists protective orders issued by Texas courts as a result of domestic violence, with victims’ privacy protections in place.

“The Texas Protective Order Registry fills in an information gap that existed between the courts, law enforcement and the public as it relates to protective orders arising from incidents of domestic violence,” Representative Landgraf said. “Now, repeat offenders of domestic abuse won't be able to hide their crimes by moving from county to county, because every court and law enforcement agency in the state will have access to a complete database of all protective orders.”

“Monica’s Law” was named in honor of Monica Deming, an Odessa mother who was murdered by an abusive ex-boyfriend in 2015. He was able to hide his violent past and protective orders filed against by exploiting the information gap in the system.

More than 1,800 protective orders have already been entered in the registry by court clerks across Texas. The Office of Court Administration (OCA) continues to provide training for courts and law enforcement agencies on how to use the system.

The publicly accessible portion of the Texas Protective Order Registry is now live as well. A protective order will only be entered into the searchable, public database when the person being protected expressly authorizes access. This access is subject to strict confidentiality standards to protect victims of family violence, stalking, sexual assault, and human trafficking.

“Monica and her family were unaware that her killer had two previous protective orders against him that he had been able to easily hide,” Representative Landgraf said. “Monica would likely still be alive today, had that information been accessible. That is precisely why we -- Monica’s family, Senator Joan Huffman, Representative Morgan Meyer, and so many West Texans -- worked so hard to pass Monica's Law. Lives will be saved through the Texas Protective Order Registry.”

The next phase of this project will allow courts, law enforcement, and prosecutors access to more complete protective order information than previously available under the law. This will enhance both the criminal justice response and safety planning for survivors.

The Texas Protective Order Registry can be viewed at:
www.txcourts.gov/judicial-data/protective-order-registry  


Early Voting Begins Today!

Early voting begins today and ends on October 30, 2020.

You may vote at any early voting location in your county of registration. Here are the the early voting details for the four counties I serve.

Andrews County:
James Roberts Center, 855 E. State Hwy. 176 in Andrews, (weekdays only) 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (expanded hours of 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on Oct. 19th and Oct. 22nd).

Ector County: (Click here for details.)

Ward County:
Ward County Courthouse, 400 S. Allen, Suite 101 in Monahans, (weekdays only) 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Winkler County:
Winkler County Clerk’s Office, 100 E. Winkler St. in Kermit, (weekdays only) 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (expanded hours of 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on Oct. 26th and Oct. 27th).


Landgraf Fights to Expand Broadband Access

ODESSA — State Representative Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) is taking an active role in the fight to expand broadband access in rural West Texas communities. After signing on to a letter submitted to Governor Greg Abbott calling for a statewide broadband plan, Landgraf joined other members of the legislature on a call with Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) officials on Wednesday to discuss the Texas Universal Service Fund, a funding source for rural telecommunication infrastructure improvements headed for insolvency.

“We need a robust statewide network that can carry voice, data and wireless traffic,” Landgraf said. “The coronavirus has exacerbated the already pressing need for rural communities to have reliable phone and internet service. It is essential to take proactive steps immediately to ensure rural Texans have access to telework and essential services, such as remote learning and telemedicine.”

The Texas Universal Service Fund (USF) was created by the Texas Legislature in 1987 to assist telecommunications providers in providing basic local telecommunications service at reasonable rates in high cost rural areas. Earlier this year, officials were informed the fund could become insolvent as soon as January, 2021.

“This is an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone,” Landgraf said. “The legislature is being forced into action because the fund is running out of money, but part of the problem is that the USF can’t be used for broadband. It’s time to take a fresh look at the statute, get the USF solvent and ensure it can be used to provide broadband access in the rural parts of Texas.”

The Texas Legislature convenes for a 140-day regular session at the Texas Capitol in Austin on the second Tuesday in January of each odd-numbered year. The 87th Texas Legislative Session is set to begin on January 21, 2021.


Landgraf Discusses Texas Legislature with Grandfalls-Royalty ISD Board

GRANDFALLS — State Representative Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) attended the meeting of the Grandfalls-Royalty ISD school board via conference call on Monday to discuss the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature and answer questions about the state's response to recent crises.

“I’m always impressed by the GRISD leadership,” Landgraf said. “Superintendent Starkweather knows what he’s doing, and the board obviously cares deeply about their students and faculty.”

Landgraf, who represents Ward County in the Texas House of Representatives, met with the school board to offer any assistance the city may need from the state.

“The next generation of West Texans deserve the best education possible, regardless of what happens with COVID-19,” Landgraf continued. “My message to the board was that I’m here to do whatever I can to ensure the district has the resources it needs from the state to educate students during this unprecedented school year."

Landgraf is attending this and other local government meetings across the Permian Basin to keep locals informed about actions to combat the coronavirus and prepare for the next session of the Texas Legislature, which convenes at the Texas Capitol in January 2021.


Landgraf Pledges Support for Law Enforcement

ODESSA — State Representative Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) joined Governor Greg Abbott in signing the “Texas Backs the Blue Pledge” to oppose efforts to defund Texas police departments. Governor Abbott is calling on all Texans to sign the pledge against defunding police departments.

“The men and women who risk everything to protect and serve deserve our respect and gratitude,” Landgraf said. “It is without hesitation that I pledge to oppose any attempt to defund law enforcement in Texas.”

“If adequate resources are not provided to enforce the rule of law in Texas, not only will people’s lives be in danger, but the government will have failed to fulfill one of its most basic responsibilities,” Landgraf said. “I’m thankful for Governor Abbott’s leadership on this important issue,” he added.