House Bills Filed to Help Texas Law Enforcement Officers Injured in the Line of Duty

By: Blessing Woksman
AMARILLO – It’s another step to directly help Law Enforcement in Texas.
This next step comes in the form of two house bills.
If House Bill 1688 and 1689 pass, it could help bring some relief for officers injured in the line of duty.
Especially when it comes to their Workers’ Compensation.
And the widow of a fallen Amarillo Police Officer is in strong support of the bill.
On September 2015, officer Justin Scherlen was severely injured from a car crash.
Last August, he passed away.
But during the last year of his life, the road to recovery wasn’t easy.
“Justin actually had a caseworker that was assigned to him through the police department. She did not work for Amarillo Police Department, she actually works for a different company and she would go with us to these doctor’s appointments and say, ‘okay, well this is my medical opinion — she was a registered nurse — this is my medical opinion. This is what I think needs to happen.’ And even Workers’ Comp wouldn’t listen to her. They would still deny it,” said Jessica Scherlen, Ofc. Justin Scherlen’s Widow.
And if passed, this is where House Bills 1688 and 1689 come into play.
State Representative Dustin Burrows authored both bills.
He says he created them because of complaints from injured officers.
According to him, the officers couldn’t get in to see the specialists they needed to get better after being injured in any way in the line of duty.
“So I filed two bills, one of whom appoints a liaison to help them work through the complicated Workers’ Comp process, and the other working with the Texas Department of Insurance gives them the tools they need to make sure that Workers’ Comp insurance is going to help get them better,” said Rep. Dustin Burrows, (R) Lubbock.
The goal — if passed — is for the two bills to help make the transition from injured officer to working officer: a smooth one.
“And I know several other officers that have been hurt, that have been injured in the line of duty. And them trying to deal with Workers’ Comp is ridiculous in the aspect of they’re still having to fight for the same thing Justin and I had to fight for — for medications, for surgeries,” said Scherlen.
Both House Bills now have to advance out of committee before reaching the house floor for a vote.
Another legislation filed this week in favor of officers, is Senate Bill 798.
If passed, July 7th could legally be known as “Fallen Law Enforcement Officer Day.”
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick issued this statement today following the filing of Senate bill 798.
It says in part…
“July 7, 2016, was a dark day in Texas history when five brave police officers were shot in Dallas. It was a great blow to our state and it is fitting that we set aside a day to honor their loss and the loss of other officers and first responders who have fallen in the line of duty.”

Area State Representatives tapped for committees

By: Matt Dotray
Lubbock Avalanche Journal

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus announced House committee assignments for the 85th Legislature on Thursday, and South Plains area lawmakers were given a few high-profile positions.

Rep. John Frullo, R-Lubbock, will again have a chairmanship, but this time on the Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee. He will also sit on the Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee. Last session, Frullo was the chairman of the Insurance Committee.

On the licensing committee, Frullo will oversee legislation relating to the oversight of business, industries, general trade, and occupations regulated by the state. And as chairman, he will oversee policy matters related to development, promotions, state parks and historical resources in the state.

“I am honored Speaker Straus has entrusted me to carry out these important roles,” Frullo said in a statement. “There are many pressing issues related to culture, recreation and tourism. I look forward to getting to work.”

Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, will serve on the Agriculture and Livestock Committee as well as the Investments and Financial Services Committee. Last session, Burrows was appointed to the County Affairs Committee and the International Trade and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee.

Burrows said he’s excited to join the chairs in service on these committees.

“These committees are chaired by two colleagues who I admire very much,” he said in a statement. “These committees are aligned with issues front and center for all West Texans — agriculture for the critical function our farmers and ranchers fulfill, and, for financial services, insuring our banks — particularly those in our rural areas – are provided the tools they need to grow and service their customers.”

Drew Springer, R-Muenster, was appointed vice chair of the County Affairs Committee as well as given seats on the Redistricting Committee and the Ways and Means Committee.

Ken King, R-Canadian, will serve on the Calendars, Public Education, State Affairs and the State and Federal Power and Responsibility Committees.

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Austin trip informs local farmers

The Brownfield News

Members of the Terry County Farm Bureau Board traveled to Austin recently for the Farm Bureau State Convention.

Barrett Brown, Mason Becker and Kyle Kelly made the trip down and had a chance to learn about some proposed legislation and other items that are of  concern to area producers and consumers.

Now, more than ever, producers have to stay involved in the government processes that affect their livelihood. These young guys are trying to stay on top of everything that comes out of Washington that has the potential to have an impact on the farm.

One topic that came up was Ag Liens. In the past, with certain commodities, producers brought their crop to the handling facility and then ended up losing their product when the company could not pay for the product.

Legislation is being introduced which would keep the producer as the primary lien holder until they have the check in their hands.

This would keep the producer from losing their commodity with no recourse to get it back or receive payment for the product.

This has been an issue on a couple of occasions in Terry County in which farmers ended up in court trying to regain their rights to their product or receive payment for that product.

They also had the opportunity to meet with State Representative Dustin Burrows.

Burrows is working on introducing legislation that would give more clarity to commodity contracts.

Mason stated, “This is all about producer protection. This is about clarity between the per bale contract as opposed to the per acre contract. Many times a producer signs a per bale contract and then is left holding the bag when his production is not up where it needs to be to match the contract. This legislation would help protect the producer in this situation.”

The per bale or per pound contract is usually a bit more lucrative than the standard per acre contract but is also much more risky.

Congressman Charles Perry spoke to the guys about water rights. “He is trying to be sure that our water rights in Texas are always protected,” stated Barrett. As the Ogalala Aquifer water level continues to go down, water rights could become an increasingly important topic to everyone, not just producers.

Mary Kay Thatcher, who is the American Farm Bureau Senior Congressional Relations Director also addressed the group.

Kyle stated, “She told us not to expect any Farm Bill without nutrition as a part of it. And 76% of the bill is nutrition and not directly related to farming as so many people assume.”

She also pointed out to the group that the last 10 year average data indicates there has been a 46% drop in farm income. Cotton has dropped 1.6% in price and peanuts have dropped 24%. This was, of course, not news to the group as most of them are living this.

Thatcher told the group that there is a chance in late April to have cottonseed oil reconsidered for seed oil designation. This would be a part of the second reconciliation bill. Reconciliation is a legislative process of the United States Senate intended to allow consideration of a budget bill with debate limited to twenty hours under Senate rules.

The guys also attended the Young Farmer and Rancher Conference while there and learned methods to get more people involved in learning about farming and ranching and  also how to keep more farm kids on the farm.

Barrett stated, “This was about showing the many different opportunities there are for younger people to be involved in agriculture.”
The average age of the American farmer is rising each year. The average age currently is 57. According to data produced by the National Geographic, only 6% of American farmers are under the age of 35, while 62% are age 55 are older.

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