With the Thanksgiving holiday behind us and Christmas just around the corner, I want to encourage you and your family to embrace this season of giving by seeking out opportunities to offer a helping hand to those in need throughout our communities.

While many of us are blessed to enjoy a regular meal and a warm place to sleep at night, it’s important to remember that there are countless others who do not enjoy these basic blessings.

In the coming weeks, I hope you’ll chip in at your neighborhood food pantry, donate a few extra dollars in the Salvation Army Red Kettle, or volunteer time to assist your local church. What better way to express our gratitude than by helping one another?

With that, here’s an update from your state Capitol.

On Nov. 30, a federal judge blocked the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination mandate issued by the Biden administration for health care employees. The president’s executive order requires health care workers who participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 6.

The proposed mandate from the federal government would affect more than 10 million health care workers, including full-time employees, part-time employees, volunteers and contractors.

Although a temporary ruling has been made with regard to health care workers, a federal judge has yet to determine the constitutionality of mandatory vaccines for non-health care businesses with more than 100 employees and federal contractors.

With several cases pending within the federal court system, I joined a majority of my House colleagues in preparing an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to reiterate our belief that both individuals and employers should have the freedom to make their own decisions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.

Employees should not have to choose between a government mandate and their jobs, and employers should not be faced with economic uncertainty and personnel shortages for reasons wholly outside of their control.

And while I will continue to encourage individuals to get the COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves and their loved ones, it is my hope that this amicus brief will provide additional insight to members of the court.

On another note, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar recently announced the distribution of $2.9 billion into the State Highway Fund and the Economic Stabilization Fund, known as the “Rainy Day Fund.” These dollars have been recently made available through additional tax revenue generated by the increased consumption of crude oil and natural gas.

After the continuous effects of the pandemic, the state of Texas has continued to lead the nation in economic recovery, and this recent announcement will only further secure our position as a leader in economic development.

As businesses and people continue to flock to Texas, it is critical that we invest in long-term infrastructure to accommodate our rapid growth while also taking responsible steps to ensure our economic stability in the event of a future economic decline.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. My district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762. Additionally, I welcome you to follow along on my official Facebook page, where I will be posting regular updates on what’s happening in your state Capitol and sharing information that could be useful to you and your family: facebook.com/RepTrentAshby.

Trent Ashby is the state representative for District 57 that includes Angelina, Houston, Leon, Madison, San Augustine and Trinity counties. His email address is trent.ashby@house.state.tx.us. He and his staff are available during the week at (512) 463-0508 or (936) 634-2762.