It can be very difficult for legislators to accomplish much in their first term, as they spend a large part of the short five-month legislative session putting their team together, deciding what issues to focus on, and learning how to get things done in the Capitol. For that reason, I was honored when Governor Abbott asked me to carry a major bill to give Texans more of a voice in their school finance system, and when I was the only first-term legislator asked to serve on the Republican Caucus’s policy committee, which analyzes bills and recommends to the other Republican members which bills to support.
As a result of these duties, I was humbled when the Republican members of the House chose me as the Freshman Legislator of the Year out of the 23 new GOP legislators. Considering the high level of talent and dedication among the new members, it was quite an honor. I enjoyed working with my new colleagues to limit government and preserve freedom for all Texans, and I believe many of these new legislators will be at the vanguard of Texas leadership for years to come.
HD 132 Legislation
This session, I focused my legislative agenda on decentralizing power from Austin and returning control to the taxpayers. Over the years, far too much authority has been accumulated in a city that clearly does not represent the values or beliefs of the rest of Texas. With your help, I will continue to fight to shift power back from the bureaucrats and judges in Austin to the people of Texas.
School Finance Reform
I was honored when Governor Abbott asked me to file SB 455 (the House version was HB 1091), which will take school finance lawsuits away from a single judge in Austin and instead have them decided by a three-judge panel made up of judges from around the state who will have a broader perspective of taxpayers and parents from across Texas. For the past 30 years, every case involving the financing of our schools (and the size of your property tax bill) has been decided by a single judge in Austin, chosen only by the voters of Travis County, while citizens of the other 253 counties (including ours) had absolutely no say in picking the judge who would decide how their school finance system would work and how much it would cost.
SB 455 will allow school finance cases to be heard by a panel of three judges chosen from different parts of the state, so the perspective of more Texans will be taken into account in deciding how our schools will be funded. I am proud to say that I was able to pass this bill that will ultimately save taxpayers billions of dollars and will ensure that our school finance system makes sense to someone other than an Austin judge.
After several months of great teamwork with Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) and the Governor’s office, I am proud to say that we were able to pass this bill.
Protecting Voter ID
During my years working for Governor Perry, I was the governor’s point man in the effort to protect the fairness of our elections by passing the bill requiring voters to show a photo ID when voting. This simple procedure protects real voters from having their vote offset by “voters” who are not who they say they are. This common sense law is under attack in court by people who want to go back to the old fraud-inducing system. One of the arguments they use is that potential voters will be discouraged from obtaining the identification they need to vote (such as a driver’s license or the free voter identification card) if they have to pay for a birth certificate to prove who they are.
To cut off this nonsensical argument, I filed a bill (along with Senator Paul Bettencourt) to make the birth certificate available at no charge to anyone who just needs it to get their voter ID card. When a federal judge later complained about the cost to voters of getting their ID if they needed to pay for a birth certificate, our bill sailed out of the House and Senate and was promptly signed by the governor. That leaves one less phony argument for opponents of election reform to use.
I filed a bill to take the Public Integrity Unit away from the Travis County district attorney’s office in Austin, which too often has used it to attack their political enemies, including the ultimately discredited prosecutions of Tom DeLay and Kay Bailey Hutchison and the current nonsensical indictment of former Governor Rick Perry for vetoing a bill. It is wrong for public officials to use the power you have given them to attack their political enemies rather than to serve you. I am proud to say that we passed a law taking this unit away from Austin. Although it was a different version filed by my friend Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) that passed rather than my bill, I was delighted to work with Phil to help pass this key reform.
I also helped stop SB 19, a bill that started out as an ethics reform bill, but ended up aimed at protecting the politicians from the citizens rather than protecting the citizens from misbehaving politicians. By the time it came up for a vote in the House, the bill would have made it illegal for you to tape your own representatives in the Capitol building, and would have unconstitutionally barred you from taking on the politicians by anonymously donating to groups that share your values (a right the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized since the NAACP v Alabama case in 1958). In fact, in a ruling during his days on the Texas Supreme Court, Governor Abbott ruled that this would be unconstitutional. Abbott made his position crystal clear this week, saying that legislators next session would be “wasting their time if they try to hold up or hijack ethics reform by focusing on issues that are going to be meeting with a gubernatorial veto.”
Instead, I voted for the real ethics reform in HB 23, which requires a local government official to disclose if he or a family member makes more than $2,500 in a year from vendor who does business with the government or receives gifts worth more than $100. I also supported bills that will increase the information state officials must include in their financial statements and would prevent private citizens from having the same reporting requirements as professional lobbyists. All of these bills passed and await the governor’s signature. Hopefully, next session we can focus on real ethics reform.
The work doesn’t stop just because the legislative session is over. I will continue to work throughout the interim to see that the interests of Texas taxpayers are served, and especially those of Katy and Cy-Fair. Don’t forget that you can always reach me, or my District Director Sarah Singleton, at our district office in the HCC Campus at 1550 Foxlake Drive, Suite 120. That’s just north of I-10, off of Park Row, between Fry Road and Greenhouse. The phone number is (281) 578-8484.
Thank you again for allowing me the honor of representing you. Please let me know if there’s anything that my office can to do be of service to you.
God bless Texas!
House District 132
Katy & Cypress