Future legislators presented concerns by elected officials

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A panel of three future state representatives, Trent Ashby, Chris Paddie and Travis Clardy hear from other elected officials at the Pineywoods Resource Conservation & Development Corporation (RC&D) 2012 annual meeting in Nacogdoches.

They share common concerns of primarily water, transportation and funding.

"We're hopeful we're not looking at the situation being quite as severe as it was last time, but there's no doubt, we still face some major challenges," said Chris Paddie. The Marshall Republican will represent House District 9.

Each man is unopposed in the November election and has earmarked pet projects.

"The biggest rural capital program that we're going to be pushing is to get Lake Columbia back on line," said Travis Clardy of Nacogdoches of House District 11. "Let's get that program moving," emphasized Clardy.

"You know, you look at the challenges we face as a state and more importantly, we face right here as a region in East Texas and I am brimming with optimism," said Trent Ashby of Lufkin who will represent House District 57.

The questions from county judges, commissioners, and developers foreshadow what these freshmen reps will hear more about once the session begins.

Houston and Sabine counties ask why does the state widen Highway 21 everywhere but East Texas?

"Those that are being widened and the construction in Texas, it's not in our farm to market roads or even our state highways and largely it's not in rural east Texas," said Ashby.

East Texas counties are concerned about narrow lanes creating dangers for heavy truck traffic, motorists and potentially those escaping situations on the evacuation corridor. It also hinders economic development.

No matter the issue, the answer revolves around funding. Several funding solutions were discussed, including raising the fuel tax, increasing fees and seeking compensation for tax free federal forest lands.

The future legislators said they weren't informed enough on the state funding formulas to take a stand at this time. They are committed to working toward solutions, but emphasized it will take a collaborative effort by the entire region of East Texas.

"So many times those, they get pushed to the side, pushed off because of whatever the issue of the day is that we want to talk about," said Paddie.

A sense of frustration surfaces in follow up conversations.

The Texas Association of Resource Conservation and Development understands. About one year ago federal funding for the community program was terminated.

"It's not so much the money," said Pat Hudson, a staff member with the Texas Association of RC&D. "It was the coordinators they supplied with that money that, the term used earlier today, was the spark plug of what kept rc&d councils going and efficient," Hudson explained.

Right now, the goal is to build confidence among members, legislators and most of all East Texans that no problem is too big to handle.

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