Report from the 85th Texas Legislature

Dear Friend:

We are little more than halfway through the Texas 85th Legislative Session. Now, the work we’ve been putting in will begin to show more and more frequently, through committee hearings and floor debates and votes.

Most importantly, next week the Senate will likely vote on its budget. This looks like it will happen on Tuesday. You can read about it at the Center for Public Policy Priorities Better Texas blog.

The budget is far from the only important matter we will take up, although it is the only constitutionally mandated legislation that the Texas Legislature must pass each session. This is why I have voted for the budget every session except 2011, when the cuts were so draconian I simply could not support it. While none of the budgets since then have sufficiently addressed education, health care, and other government services necessary to ensure an equal opportunity at success for all Texans, they have improved incrementally and included items of importance for our community.

However, we have the resources to do better, and we should. This session, we should tap into the Economic Stabilization Fund (commonly referred to as the Rainy Day Fund), which has a balance of more than $10 billion. The Rainy Day Fund was intended to be used in times when state revenue isn’t enough to fund critical state services like education and health and human services, whether it’s our schools, Child Protective Services, Medicaid caseload, health care provider rates, and so on.

With education funding, in particular, this is an investment in our future.

Not everyone will have the talent, skills, or drive to succeed at the highest levels. But we are selling Texas short if we do not make sure everyone has the chance to match their talent, skills, and drive to whatever opportunities they are able to gain. The current budget does not reflect the Legislature’s commitment to education, the most fundamental driver of opportunity, and a requirement of the Texas Constitution.


Looking back, and looking ahead

The following bills have passed the Senate

SB 4This is an anti-immigrant bill that is also anti-local control and anti-public safety. Ironically, it purports to address a public safety issue, even though a majority of police chiefs and other law enforcement officials say it limits their ability to target resources and policies to their community’s public safety priorities. This cynical and/or misinformed use of “public safety” to justify discriminatory policies that violate constitutional rights and limit local control is a theme, unfortunately, as you will see in regards to other bills, particularly SB 6. I voted against it. My statement on SB 4 can be found here.

SB 2 and SB 17: These bills hurt communities by imposing caps (SB 2) and eventually eating into the state budget for education (SB 17), in both cases ultimately limiting discretion of local governments to make the decisions that are best for their communities. I voted against it. My statement on SB 2 can be found here.

SB 6: This bill targets transgender Texans and is a thinly veiled attack on their identity, which some people simply refuse to acknowledge. As with SB 4, it’s more than just bad policy to target groups of people. It’s a repudiation of American values. And, it’s bad for business. My statement on SB 6 can be read at the Senate Journal here.

SB 8 and SB 415: SB 8 purports to protect women’s health, yet there is no medical benefit afforded by restricting a woman’s choice to donate fetal tissue remains. My statement on SB 8 can be read at the Senate Journal here. SB 415 uses non-medical, inflammatory language to ban the safest and most widely-used procedure employed by doctors for second trimester abortions. My statement on SB 415 can be read at the Senate Journal here.

In the coming weeks, along with the budget, we will take votes on Voter ID, school vouchers (rebranded as “education savings accounts”), a proposal to limit the ability of teachers to voluntarily pay dues to their own unions, and many other bills that limit choice and stifle individual and community self-determination.

The mechanics of governance

Having described these areas of disagreement, it’s important to note that much of what we do as legislators is maintain the machinery of government. Our system of government functions through laws that we legislators pass, which are then used as the guidance for rules that govern the operations of our various agencies. It is necessarily complex, because we are constantly balancing the roles, rights, and responsibilities of different interests, all within the framework of
our state and federal constitutions. Like any machine, it requires constant updating, and the bulk of the work we do is bipartisan in nature, to make the machine run more smoothly.

The deadline to file bills was March 10, and 2,297 Senate bills and Senate joint resolutions were filed, slightly more than in 2015, and in the House, 4,365 House bills and House joint resolutions were filed, about the same amount as in 2015.

I filed 122 Senate bills and 3 Senate joint resolutions, focusing on the areas of education, health care, civil jurisprudence, and criminal justice. Other areas of focus include economic and workforce development, natural resources and the environment, and local government.

I will continue fighting proposals that do not help the people of my district, and support those that do. As always, I encourage your letters, emails, and phone calls. You can contact my office by clicking here.


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