Redistricting may have been the scheduled focus of Tuesday's town hall meeting at the Hall Center of the Arts, but it was by no means the only topic addressed.
State Rep. Jim Landtroop opened the meeting by honoring Howard County Volunteer Fire Chief Tommy Sullivan and Fire Marshal Carl Condray with flags that flown over the capitol. The presentation was made as a way to recognize the service demonstrated during the past year's fire season.
After the presentation, Landtroop covered the topic of redistricting, but was unable to shed much light on any new advancements. Later in the day, a three-judge panel drafted the redistricting maps for the 2012 election, preparing the stage for the twice-delayed Texas primaries to be held May 29. However, the panel's action is not set in stone at this point.
“If we have our primary on May 29 we will be the seventh to the last state to vote in the presidential primary,” Landtroop said. “However, if we have to move it to the June 26 date, we will be one of the last two voting in the presidential primary.”
With the lines of the new redistricting map, Texas received four new congressional seats, but one of the issues is finding a place to put the new seats.
“It's a good problem to have, but it's still a problem trying to determine where to place those seats,” Landtroop said. Also, due to redistricting, Landtroop will be moving out of the West Texas region and Big Spring would fall into Drew Darby's district while Landtroop moves north.
Other topics addressed in the town hall meeting included the new budget, imminent domain and public education.
“We have been talking about ways to reduce the strains of the budget in regards to verifying qualifications in medicaid, which could save in the billions to two million (dollars),” Landtroop said.
The topic of federal government involvement in regards to state dollars was an issued raised by the audience. One example of federal involvement was $65 million being spent for abortion clinic funding. Due to legislation, that portion of funding was able to be stopped for that particular use, but the federal government is now trying to provide the threat of withholding federal dollars unless that money is put back, it was said.
“It's our money and the federal government has no right to be telling us how to spend that money, our constituents' money,” Landtroop said. “We should be able to spend it in the best interest of our constituents.”
The meeting concluded on the topic of public education and the funding situation's current stance.
“The equity issue needs to be addressed and when that happens I am going to make sure that rural schools have a place at that table,” Landtroop said.
School funding has been an issue that has been facing government officials for a long time, but one they will continue to look at and do their best to improve, he said.
“This is something we have tried to do for years, but hopefully next time we can do it better,” Landtroop said.