By Rick Thompson
TAC Legislative Staff
The Texas Department of Rural Affairs (TDRA) has successfully transitioned over to the purview of the Texas Department of Agriculture.
SB 1 by Sen. Robert Duncan during the 2011 Legislative Session abolished the TDRA and created the Office of Rural Affairs within the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA), transferring all of the appropriations, powers, duties, FTEs and performance measures to the new office within TDA.
SB 1 also established a Rural Health and Economic Development Advisory Council to review rural policies and allocations of community development block grant funding.
The following members have been named to the Council: Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls); Rep. Chuck Hopson (R-Jacksonville); Polk County Judge John Thompson; Uvalde City Councilman Jay Carnes; Donna Kuenstler, instructor/director, Sol Ross State University; Don McBeath, director of advocacy and communications for Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals; Kathi Masonheimer, community development director at Brady/McCulloch County Chamber of Commerce; and Bryan Tucker, city manager of Childress.
During the committee's first meeting Jan. 18 in Austin, Staples identified challenges to the development of rural areas and recommended issues for the committee to explore, including climate for job creation, infrastructure development, healthcare and workforce and skills development.
Staples also announced the creation of a subcommittee on Rural Health Care and appointed Judge John Thompson to chair the committee, on which all members will serve. Thompson’s appointment was endorsed by multiple county associations, including TAC.
“Local county leaders play a vital role assisting in creating jobs, advancing technology and improving health care services and careers,” Staples said. “I look forward to the Texas Association of Counties’ participation in our new advisory council and am confident its members will contribute to improving our rural communities, the state’s overall economy and the quality of life in Texas.”
A date for the committee’s second meeting was not set, but TAC will continue to monitor the committee and report on its recommendations.