By Tiffany Pelt - email
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus visited Lubbock Thursday. City Council declared it "Speaker Joe Straus Day" and also named him an honorary citizen. Straus was greeted by over 1,000 people during a luncheon where he discussed major issues dealing with the South Plains and Panhandle region. On his list was education, rural health care, the water problem in west Texas, and the recent hot topic of Texas Tech reaching tier one status.
"Texas Tech is on the top of the list. I'm certainly aware of the impact that Tech has on our state and this region," said Straus.
Texas Tech is currently one of seven schools in Texas being considered for tier one status. As of now only three universities in Texas (University of Texas, Texas A&M, and Rice) are designated as tier one, while other states like California and New York have double that.
Other main concerns included rural health care. According to the U.S. Census Bureau one in four Texans are uninsured. Here in the South Plains area and in the Panhandle the statistics get worse with one in three. In some counties 40% of the residents have no health insurance.
"As Texans we should be very concerned about that debate. We've been making strides forward but we have a very large state with some challenging demographics," said Straus.
When it comes to the diminishing water resources in west Texas, Straus says it's a huge issue they will be studying. As of now the Ogallala Aquifer isn't recharging as fast as it's being used for agriculture in the area. If steps are not taken toward water conservation, water regulations could be put in place.
Straus discussed other issues and took tours of Texas Tech University, Covenants Children Hospital, and the Health Science Center. "What I have seen is a very vibrant area with low employment, and a lot of activity.More than one might expect, and with the assets you have here, Tech and some of the medical complexes that I have seen, you obviously have a lot going well out here," said Straus.
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