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Dan Gattis

Cottage foods trying again

During the 2009 legislative session, I wrote about a group called Texas Cottage Food Law that seeks to legalize selling food that was made in a residential kitchen. From their website:

In Texas it is currently illegal (click to see law) to run a food establishment from a residential kitchen, even if your product is low-risk baked foods like cakes and cookies.  You cannot be licensed for a home bakery.

A group of dedicated home bakers are trying to change that law.

State Representative Eddie Rodriguez has filed HB 1139, the Cottage Food Production Act!  Please get involved today and call or write your State Representative and State Senator and ask them to support this important bill!

See here and here for more about the current law and what it does not allow. In 2009, HB 3282 by Rep. Dan Gattis was voted unanimously out of committee in the House and picked up a couple of co-authors and a Senate sponsor along the way, but never made it onto the calendar. I believe that if HB 1139 can get to the floor of each chamber it will pass easily, but especially in a session like this overcoming inertia and winning the competition for attention against all the other bills is tough to do. When you get right down to it, this is a bill that would facilitate job creation, which ought to be a no-brainer for legislators to support. If you support it, let your Rep and Senator know. If enough of them know it’s worth their time, it’ll get a shot.

And in a stroke of good timing, here’s a Houston Press cover story about the cottage food movement, written by Robb Walsh. You can see video clips of a couple of people quoted in that story talking about their home-baed food businesses here. This kind of publicity, plus the reactions from legislators and Ag Commish Todd Staples in the story, all bode well for the cottage foodies’ chances.

Gattis drops out, Ogden to run for re-election

Well, this is a surprise.

State Rep. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown, confirmed today that he is dropping out of the race to succeed Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan. Ogden, who announced earlier this year that he was retiring from the Legislature, has changed course and decided to seek re-election.

Gattis was the heavy favorite to succeed Ogden in a GOP-friendly district that includes all of Williamson County and all of the Bryan-College Station area.

“With a young and growing family and a tough economic climate, my focus needs to be on them,” said Gattis, whose children are ages 6, 3 and 1. “That was a decision that my wife and I reached through a lot of prayer and consideration.”

Gattis will not seek re-election to his House seat, where at least three Republicans have been running to succeed him.

Didn’t see that one coming. Far as I can tell, Gattis didn’t have any serious competition for this seat as yet, and frankly once he was past the primary it would have been easy going, so I confess to being a little puzzled by this. Maybe he just didn’t have the fire in the belly for it. Wouldn’t be the first person this has happened to, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with it. Much better to realize it now and drop out before the election than go to the trouble of winning and then decide it wasn’t what you wanted. EoW and the Trib have more.

Gattis to run for Ogden’s seat

As EoW says, this is a complete non-surprise.

State Rep. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown, has just informed supporters he is running for the Texas Senate District 5 seat being vacated by Bryan GOP powerhouse Steve Ogden.

Via a Twitter message, Gattis said: “dangattisI am a candidate for the Texas Senate! Please get involved. http://dangattis.org/ Thank You!”

His Web site and Facebook page also say he is running.

Yeah, even people who don’t follow politics knew that was coming. Gattis is sure to be the favorite, and he appears to have Ogden’s support, at least tacitly, but I feel confident that the Dems will mount a serious challenge. As noted before, the district is red but not hopeless, and as open Senate seats don’t come along that often, the opportunity cannot be missed. If the DNC really is serious about helping to turn Texas blue, here would be a fine place to pitch in.

Gattis’ now-open HD20 seat, like SD05 red but potentially competitive given the right candidate and the lack of an incumbent, should also be a hot target next year. Along with the battle to defend freshman Rep. Diana Maldonaco, who is one of our awesome TexBlog PAC candidates, Williamson County and its resurgent Democratic Party will see a lot of action next year.

Ogden not running for re-election

This was expected, and now it’s official.

State Sen. Steve Ogden, a Bryan Republican and one of the Senate’s most powerful members as its chief budget writer, announced Thursday that he will not run for re-election next year.

The decision had been widely rumored for months.

Ogden’s departure promises an open seat that could attract several candidates, and could be a target for Democrats who would like to gain Senate seats, although the district is considered GOP territory. State Rep. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown, has been mentioned repeatedly as a likely candidate. He did not return phone calls Thursday.

Gattis is generally considered to be the heir apparent for this seat. He doesn’t start out with a huge financial advantage – he had $81K on hand as of July. He would be a strong favorite to win if he’s the nominee, as would any decent Republican candidate – it’s a fairly red district, though not a hopeless one. A good Democrat with enough resources could make a race of it, and as open Senate seats are precious things, I feel confident that whoever does run will have the opportunity to get those resources. BOR and EoW have more.

Cottage foods update

A month ago, I wrote about a website called Texas Cottage Food Law, which is working to pass a bill that would allow folks who bake bread and cakes and whatnot to sell their wares from their homes. I’m pleased to report that they’re making some progress in their quest.

For the past four-and-a-half weeks HB 3282 has been held up in the Public Health Committee. The bill was voted out of the Public Health Committee by a unanimous vote of 9-0 around 6:30 p.m. on April 28. A report is now being prepared to be sent to the Calendars Committee to await placement for floor debate and vote. This alone could take up to a week.

“If no actions are taken by May 11 the bill dies,” Magnolia area home-school student and cake enthusiast Emily Doty said. “I am so passionate about the passing of this bill because my grandma baked for years and it is something I would like to have the option to do later.”

Doty said that the bill has a lot of public support. Rep. Dan Gattis discussed his bill allowing for the production of baked goods in an individual’s home before the Committee on Public Health, on March 27.

He introduced the Cottage Food Production Act after being contacted by a constituent who wanted to see a change in the law.

Cake Boss Kelley Masters of CakeCentral.com wrote the representative seeking assistance so individuals such as herself could legally sell baked goods made in their homes. In addition to hearing from Masters, Gattis received numerous calls and a signed petition from more than 2,000 Texans supporting such legislation, according to a Texas House of Representatives press release.

“The Cottage Food Production Bill is about encouraging entrepreneurship among individuals who want to legally sell their baked goods,” Gattis said. “A number of successful businesses began in people’s homes, from Microsoft and Dell, to Paula Dean and Tiff’s Treats. This bill provides a starting place for bakers in Texas to earn some additional income and opens the doors for additional successful businesses in the future.”

Reps. Allen Vaught and Debbie Riddle are now co-authors of HB3282, and according to Masters, who sent me the link to this article, Sen. Steve Ogden has agreed to sponsor it if it reaches the Senate. It’s all up to the Calendars committee now, so contact its membership if you want to see this move forward.

Cottage foods

As you know, I’ve touted the Handmade Toy Alliance, of which my cousin Jill is a member, on behalf of folks who run small home-based businesses making toys, crafts, clothes, and the like. Via a Facebook message from an old friend and college classmate, Kathy Gregoire, I learn there’s a related movement here in Texas called Texas Cottage Food Law. From their website:

With the economy in its current state, you may have been thinking of starting a little cake or cookie business from your home to help make ends meet.

But in Texas it is currently illegal to sell any food that was made in a residential kitchen. You cannot be licensed for a home bakery.

A group of dedicated cake artists are trying to change that law.

Representative Dan Gattis has filed a bill which would make it legal to sell non-potentially hazardous foods prepared in residential kitchens. It is House Bill 3282. This bill is currently before the Public Health Committee.

The Public Hearing was Tuesday, March 24. Watch a broadcast of it here.

The main points of the bill are summarized here. Basically, this would allow folks to register with the Department of Health to sell “non-potentially hazardous homemade foods” – mostly baked goods like cake, brownies, cookies, and bread – directly to consumers; no retail or commercial sales. This strikes me as a perfectly reasonable thing to ask for, so I support this effort. There’s a petition you can sign, though if you really want to have an effect, you should call your State Rep, as the Texas Cottage Food Law site recommends. Bills like this often get lost in the shuffle – in a session like this, where we’re just now getting around to voting on some things, that’s even more so – but there’s nothing like feedback from constituents to get a representative on board.