National Donate Life Month

April is National Donate Life Month. This month is dedicated to educating and encouraging Americans to register as donors of organs, tissue, marrow, and blood. Donating is a generous act that saves thousands of lives annually.

Transplanting organs and tissue is one of the greatest and most successful medical procedures in the history of medicine. Organ transplantations offer patients a chance to return to their families, friends, and communities. It gives the patients a chance at healthier and more productive life, as well.

Nearly 34,000 lives were saved last year due to successful transplants. Organs that can be donated include the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, and intestines. Tissues that can be donated include arteries, bone marrow, eyes (corneas), cartilage, skin, soft tissue, veins, and heart valves and vessels. More than 115,000 men, women, and children are on the transplant waitlist currently.

Anyone can sign up to be a donor despite your age and medical history. In Texas, you can sign up to be a donor at https://www.donatelifetexas.org/register/. You can also sign up to be an organ donor when you apply or renew you Texas Driver’s license through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, too. Instructions to receive the Organ Donor designation on your Driver’s License can be found at Organ Donations in Texas. To donate blood, you can find a blood center or blood bus near you at American Red Cross Donating Blood” or Coastal Bend Blood Center.

Also, the 85th Legislative Session is in full swing! Sine Die, the final day, of this Session is May 29th. Until then, the Legislature will continue to hold hearings over bills in committees and decide matters in the House and Senate Chambers. To look up and/or track legislation that interests you, please visit Texas Legislature Online. You are able to look up legislation by word, phrase, or bill number in the top-middle section of this page. The left of the page has several links that will connect you to the Texas House of Representatives homepage and to the Texas Senate homepage.

To receive alerts of bills that interest you, please visit My TLO Login. You can create a free account by clicking on “New User” underneath the password box. Once you’ve created your login, you will see a line full of empty boxes. Under “bill”, you type in the bill number and leave the next box as “any category”. This will send you alerts each time the bill moves through the legislative process. You can also add notes. Finally, select “Add Bill”.

If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this week’s article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. Please always feel free to contact my office if you have any questions or issues regarding a Texas state agency, or if you would like to contact my office regarding constituent services. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).

– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces County (Part). He can be contacted at todd.hunter@house.texas.gov or at 512-463-0672

Cruise Ship Industry in Texas

The cruise ship industry is a year-round vacation option that has a positive economic impact. This industry has grown each year for over 20 years. During the interim (2016), the Texas Legislature developed a Joint Interim Committee, composed of House of Representative and Senate members, to study the cruise ship industry’s impact. The Committee also included a study on the projected growth of cruise industry in Texas and the economic impact it could have.

Nationally, the cruise industry currently serves 13.6 million passengers annually. The Interim Study Report projects the number of passengers per year will increase to over 20 million and up to 24.5 million people by the year 2036. Texas, Louisiana, and Florida make up the Gulf/Caribbean Region of the cruise industry. This Region served 9.7 million out of the 13.6 million passengers last year. Also, 48% of the cruise passengers reside in this region.

Texas has one major port for cruise ships in Galveston. This port has seen continuous growth each year. In 2010, the Port of Galveston served approximately 900,000 passengers. In 2016, this port served over 1.7 million passengers. 1.1 million of those passengers are Texas residents.

Population growth, a strong consumer market, and good air and roadway connections are projected to drive significant growth in the Texas cruise industry. The Interim Study forecasts the number of passengers to grow from 1.7 million passengers annually to 3-4.6 million passengers annually by 2036.

To enable this projected growth, Texas must develop another cruise home port. There are several benefits of having another cruise port. Another port could provide better access to ships, enable the industry to meet the demand, and create openings for other markets. It also provides competition to other cruise lines allowing diversification in opportunities for the consumers, cruise lines, and itinerary planners. The Texas cruise industry created over 22,600 jobs and produced $1.42 billion in job income. The projected growth will greatly increase these opportunities, as well.

Another cruise ship port will stimulate more positive economic impact across Texas. Cruise passengers and crew members spend money at all stops before and after a cruise. Homeport passengers typically spend $105, overnight passengers spend over $250 prior to embarkation, and the crew members spend around $30 prior to each embarkation. A weekly cruise ship with 3,200 passengers produces around $100 million per year in a community and state. Last year, the Texas cruise industry generated $1.33 billion in direct spending benefitting the state overall.

If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this week’s article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. Please always feel free to contact my office if you have any questions or issues regarding a Texas state agency, or if you would like to contact my office regarding constituent services. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).

– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces County (Part). He can be contacted at todd.hunter@house.texas.gov or at 512-463-0672

Texas Recognizes Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States. Our state also recognizes the importance of preventing child abuse. Child abuse includes: unlawful physical abuse/injury, neglect, sexual abuse, exploitation, endangerment, and emotional maltreatment. Bringing awareness and promoting preventative actions can help prevent these acts, creating a safer and more secure society for our youth.

Nationally, there are over 3,000,000 suspected child abuse cases reported annually. Nearly 1 in 4 of those cases are confirmed. In Texas, there were around 198,000 reports of child abuse and nearly 65,000 confirmed cases of child abuse each year. Abuse affects children’s physical, mental, and emotional health. Many victims suffer from improper brain development which can result in a decline in academic performance and/or behavioral issues throughout their lives.

Texas agencies, like the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), have established partnerships with our communities and implemented programs to address child abuse. Many of these are community-based early intervention and prevention programs that establish after-school activities, parenting classes, mentoring programs, and more. Examples of these programs include the Community Youth Development, Texas Prevention Network, and Texas Families: Together and Safe. A list of these and several more programs, the contacts and availability in our area can be found at Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

To keep the preventative child abuse programs up-to-date, the Texas DFPS’ Office of Child Safety (OCS) analyzes all serious injuries or deaths caused by child abuse in Texas. They assess the root causes of child injuries and fatalities then create, update and implement prevention and intervention programs to address and reduce these crimes. The OCS continuously studies the in-state and national trends regarding serious injuries and fatalities, as well.

Other child abuse prevention education and training resources can be found at Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas, Inc., Darkness to Light, Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, Prevent Child Abuse America, and Help for Parents. Hope for Kids.

If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this week’s article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. Please always feel free to contact my office if you have any questions or issues regarding a Texas state agency, or if you would like to contact my office regarding constituent services. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).

– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces County (Part). He can be contacted at todd.hunter@house.texas.gov or at 512-463-0672

April Brings Attention to Autism

April is National Autism Awareness Month. Awareness months are helpful because they help bring public attention to issues facing many of our friends and families. Autism is no different. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the medical term for Autism is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is described as a group of developmental disabilities which can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.

The National Institute of Mental Health further characterizes ASD as:
• Ongoing social problems that include difficulty communicating and interacting with others
• Repetitive behaviors as well as limited interests or activities
• Symptoms that typically are recognized in the first two years of life
• Symptoms that hurt the individual’s ability to function socially, at school or work, or other areas of life.
Further explanation of these characteristics can be found at National Institute of Mental Health.

It is important to note that individuals diagnosed with ASD differ greatly in their learning, thinking and problem-solving abilities. Those abilities can range from gifted to significantly disabling. There has been an increase the number of children diagnosed with ASD since 2004. It is unknown for certain whether this is due to an increased number of cases or to the increased awareness of ASD among the general public.

There are a variety of organizations that provide helpful resources and information regarding ASD. One such organization is the Autism Society which was founded in 1965 by Bernard Rimland, Ph. D, whose own son was diagnosed with ASD. Since its formation the Autism Society has grown from a handful of parents to having local and state affiliate offices in nearly all 50 states. These offices are connected through a network that enables the Autism Society to share resources like referral services and education/awareness programs.

The Autism Society is dedicated to its role of increasing public awareness about ASD, which includes the day to day challenges faced by individuals, families and professionals affected by ASD. If you would like to learn more about the Autism Society you can go to Autism Society. Another organization that serves as a resource for ASD is Autism Now. Other additional resources include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute of Mental Health.

Being able to recognize the symptoms of autism in its early stages enables the affected individual to be referred to appropriate resources. Living with autism is challenging, but not impossible. Nonmedical intervention programs are commonly used to treat autistic individuals. Upon a thorough screening evaluation, the individuals and their families have several diverse programs to utilize. Some of these programs include art and music therapy, speech therapy, or animal therapy. The Texas Statewide Leadership for Autism Training created the Texas Autism Resource Guide for Effective Teaching (TARGET). TARGET is a website which enables caretakers to identify a wide range of specific needs that need to be addressed and directs the user to the proper resources. A nationwide resource, similar to TARGET, is the Autism Source.
If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this week’s article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. Please always feel free to contact my office if you have any questions or issues regarding a Texas state agency, or if you would like to contact my office regarding constituent services. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).

– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces County (Part). He can be contacted at todd.hunter@house.texas.gov or at 512-463-0672

Nutrition Awareness Month in Texas

March is National Nutrition month. Being informed on the basic nutritional facts is important since our food choices affect our lives in many ways. Nutrition is an important issue in our state. Texas has also been helpful in promoting good nutrition for our citizens.

The diversity of Texas’ geography bountiful amounts of naturally grown foods that are both delicious and wholesome. Our farmers grow nutritious vegetables and fruits in our well-kept Texas soils. This enables these foods to have healthy amounts of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants our bodies need to function properly. Foods rich in these nutrients are broccoli, blueberries, spinach, cauliflower, tomatoes, peaches, squash, onions, tree nuts (pecans, almonds, etc.), oranges, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and many more. You can find the best times to buy these foods at Texas Produce Availability Chart.

Our meats come from our virtuous oceans, lakes, land, and farms. Chicken/eggs, beef, fish, pork, and turkey are all rich in protein and other vitamins and minerals. Along with our homegrown fruits and vegetables, these foods are unprocessed so none of the nutrients are stripped away, ensuring optimal health benefits.

There are some major ingredients and processed foods to avoid. The most prominent of these is added sugar. This product is very common in many items found at the grocery store. Foods with added sugar are often highly caloric and have harmful effects on our organs. Foods with high fructose corn syrup and other artificial sweeteners have been linked to severe health problems like obesity, cardiovascular (heart) disease and type two diabetes. These sweeteners are replaceable! Using foods like raw honey or stevia are better and are very beneficial alternatives to use in baking or iced/hot tea and coffee.

Another food group is artificial trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated oils. The negative side effects of this group is raising bad cholesterol and lowering the good cholesterol. This could lead to health risks such as high blood pressure which can cause poor blood circulation in our bodies. Regular consumption of trans fats have also been shown to lead to possible diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and obesity.

Taking advantage of all the wonderful whole foods our state has to offer are beneficial in many ways. Making smarter nutritional choices can go a long way. The following links contain more informative nutritional information to help with these decisions Authority Nutrition, EatRight.org, Food and Nutrition Training, What’s In Food, NutritionalValues.org, and My Food Diary.

If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this week’s article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. Please always feel free to contact my office if you have any questions or issues regarding a Texas state agency, or if you would like to contact my office regarding constituent services. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).

– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces County (Part). He can be contacted at todd.hunter@house.texas.gov or at 512-463-0672

Texas Coastline and Beaches: A Texas Treasure

Texas has over 360 miles of coastline that line the Gulf of Mexico, also known as the Gulf Coast. The coastline and beaches of Texas are important to our great state. These areas are home to wildlife and their natural habitats. Texas beaches are also popular tourist destinations. Preserving these natural areas is essential to our state’s well being.

Texas beaches are home to many creatures like birds, turtles, and fish. The warm climate of the sand, wind, and water of the Texas coast is unique. The climate draws many animals to this area. For example, the ecosystem of our state produces ideal turtle egg-laying and hatching sights. Hundreds of species of birds migrate to this climate each year. Several crabs, snails, oysters, and more can be found on the beaches. One snail that can only be found on Texas beaches is the lightning whelk. The distinctive shell of this snail is the official shell of the State of Texas!

The beaches of Texas are important for our ecosystem, communities, and economy. It is essential to care for the coastline by not leaving trash, and to recycle properly. We must protect against pollution and coastal erosion. Coastal/beach erosion is the displacement or deterioration of sand. We rely on beaches, sand dunes and wetlands, for protection against major storms. These natural barriers mitigate the damages from major storms, like hurricanes. The dislocation of the sand also causes negative impacts to the farming and fishing industries and puts ports, roads and industrial infrastructure at risk. To combat this, the Texas General Land Office, Texas Beach Watch, the Texas Coastal Erosion Data Network, and local organizations work together to create preventative barriers, like jetties, to slow the rate of erosion.

The efforts to keep Texas beaches beautiful have paid off. Texas is nationally ranked in top beach destinations! On the southern coast, Corpus Christi and Port Aransas have several beach locations to visit. These include the Padre Island National Seashore, Mustang Island State Park, J.P. Luby Surf Park/North Packery Beach, Whitecap Beach, Padre Balli Park/Bob Hall Pier, I.B. McGee Beach Park/Horace Caldwell Pier, North Beach, South Packery Channel Beach, and San Jose Island. Each of these locations offers outstanding views and recreational activities. Some of these include fishing, hiking trails, RV access/camping, swimming, windsurfing/kiteboarding, kayaking/canoeing, and birding/wildlife viewing sights. Links to each of these beaches can be found at Visit Corpus Christi, On Padre Island, and Port Aransas Beaches./

If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this week’s article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. Please always feel free to contact my office if you have any questions or issues regarding a Texas state agency, or if you would like to contact my office regarding constituent services. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).

– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces County (Part). He can be contacted at todd.hunter@house.texas.gov or at 512-463-0672

Texas Travel Tips for Travel Season

Spring time is here so many Texans are beginning to travel. Texas has nearly 80,000 miles of roads and highways: That is more than any other state in the United States (US)! As a result, it is important to keep some traveling safety tips in mind.

Texas is full of beautiful sights and destinations. Many places are spread fairly far apart, though. Planning your road trip is important. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) established the Texas Travel Information Centers throughout the state and they are staffed by professional travel counselors. These staff members will provide information on points of interest, events going on, “Welcome to Texas” photo opportunities, and more. In addition, they will help you plan the best route for your trip. These centers can be contacted by calling (800)452-9292 or by visiting Texas Travel Information Center.

A week or so before a road trip is planned, make sure to check the vehicle’s maintenance status. This includes checking the tire pressure, oil level, engine, battery, etc. You can find a more complete list at DMV.org Pre-trip maintenance. Also, ensure that you and your passengers have all the proper paperwork readily available in the vehicle like your drivers licenses, proof of insurance for the vehicle, and road side assistance contact information. Pack a paper map in case there is no cell phone service at some point in your trip, as well.

Before you take off on your trip, check the weather and road conditions. There are several useful websites for this. Some of these include: Drive Texas.org, AccuWeather.com, Federal Highway Administration, and Weather Underground. Be sure you and your passengers have a plan on a driving schedule. Taking turns driving helps to reduce the risk of drowsy driving since this buddy system enables one to focus on driving as the other rests and/or decides on music to listen to. Also, plan the stopping points to take breaks and/or eat as you switch drivers.

While driving, stay aware of your surroundings and stay alert especially while you are in construction zones, bad weather, and heavy traffic. Also, do not forget to slow down and/or move over if you see emergency vehicles and/or tow trucks on the side of the road with their lights on because it is the law! In addition, eliminate as many distractions as you can. Finally, be sure you and your passengers are buckled up for the duration of the trip!

Traveling through Texas is a beautiful and fun experience. Make the most of it by planning the trip, in full, beforehand. This will warrant a safer and more prosperous vacation. Be sure to utilize different traveling checklists and safety resources, like https://www.dps.texas.gov/tle/traveltips.htm, as well.

If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this week’s article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. Please always feel free to contact my office if you have any questions or issues regarding a Texas state agency, or if you would like to contact my office regarding constituent services. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).

– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces County (Part). He can be contacted at todd.hunter@house.texas.gov or at 512-463-0672

Music and Travel Tourism: Great for Texas

Texas music is great! The music industry in Texas is extraordinarily diverse in genres. Besides Texas Country music, Texas artists offer other popular genres like Rock and Roll, Jazz, Pop, Tejano, Techno, Polka, and many more. The unique music industry in Texas is highly successful and rich in history. It is one of the top tourism attractions and has a positive economic impact for the State.

There are over 7,000 Texas music businesses, nearly 700 Texas music events annually, over 800 Texas radio stations, and 7,200 Texas recording artists which can be found at Texas Talent Register. To manage all this, the Texas Legislature created the Texas Music Office, which opened in 1990. This entity was created to continuously promote and develop the Texas Music Industry.

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National Reading Month–The Importance of Reading

The month of March is National Reading Month. This month is designated to motivate Americans of all ages to read every day. Reading regularly has been linked to development of positive mental health throughout our lives.

It is never too early to help children develop reading skills. In fact, the National Early Literacy Panel produced a report over recent research that states literacy skills begin to develop at birth. As a result, you can have a large influence on young children’s later success. This can be accomplished by helping them learn the alphabet by singing it aloud, play with letters to enable letter recognition, finger paint and teach them how to write each letter and how to write their names, etc. Other fun beneficial activities for this age group can be found at Celebrate National Reading Month.

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Important Dates for the 85th Legislative Session: Focus on Texas House of Representatives

The State of Texas has a unique Legislative process. As previously discussed, Texas Legislators have 140 days, each odd numbered year, to act on thousands of proposed laws through committees, Floor discussions, etc. Within those 140 days, there are a series of crucial dates and deadlines that are specified in the Rules of the Texas House of Representatives and some in the Texas Constitution. Below is a brief overview and explanation of some of these important dates.
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