In my editorial last month, I had the privilege to update you on the new laws that I, personally, authored last session. This month I want to take a moment to discuss the overall successes that your state legislature produced. We entered this session with many unique challenges to address. I am proud to say that my colleagues and I worked diligently on this task and while we are currently in a special session to finish work on key issues, we were able to produce very meaningful accomplishments before the regular session adjourned on May 30th.
The State Budget / Education Spending
There is no question that the most complicated task that the legislature was presented with was balancing our two-year state budget given the toll this global economic downturn has had on the entire nation. I am proud to say that lawmakers made the difficult decisions necessary to cut over $15 billion out of the budget so that we could continue to live within our means and balance this budget without raising taxes. The result, in my opinion, is a spending plan that protects taxpayers, will allow our economy to continue to grow at a greater pace than the rest of the nation and increases efficiency in the delivery of public services.
Despite the budget’s overall reduction, education funding received a $1.6 billion (or 5.6% ) increase from last session. In fact, education funding will now account for over 60% of general revenue spending in Texas. I am proud that lawmakers have continued to make public education our top priority, even during these challenging economic times. Our education system is so important to our continued prosperity and it deserves the lion’s share of state resources that it is receiving.
This session was a tremendous victory for election integrity in Texas. Lawmakers adopted a voter identification law that will ensure that votes cast by honest Texans participating in our democratic system are not cancelled out by those not able to lawfully vote in our state or those who engage in voter impersonation. We also streamlined the process for removing deceased voters from our state’s registry, made other necessary process improvements and changed our election calendar in order to ensure that overseas military personnel have every opportunity to cast their vote.
Protecting the Lives of our Unborn Children
When lawmakers gathered in Austin in January, Governor Perry urged us to prioritize legislation pertaining to pro-life initiatives and lawmakers answered by delivering two key victories. First, we passed a new law requiring a woman seeking an abortion to first have a sonogram performed so that she can be better informed before she consents to the procedure. Lawmakers also created the “Choose Life” license plate program that will fund initiatives to educate women on the alternatives to an abortion through the sale of specialty license plates.
Tort Reform, 2nd Amendment Rights and Other issues
State lawmakers took another resounding step toward ending frivolous lawsuits in Texas by implementing a “loser pays” system where by a defendant can be awarded legal fees if a judge finds a suit brought against them to lack merit. We also passed important legislation that will allow lawfully licensed individuals to store their firearms in their locked cars while they are at work, giving more concealed handgun license holders a greater ability to exercise their constitutional rights. Important reforms were also enacted to higher education funding, ensuring that universities that graduate a higher percentage of students will be appropriately rewarded. Finally, in a true act of appreciation for the sacrifice that our armed services selflessly offer, state lawmakers authorized a change in law that will allow the living spouses of 100% disabled veterans to continue to receive their property tax exemption even after the veteran’s passing.
This session was filled with many terrific outcomes for taxpayers, our business climate, traditional family values and other key areas of public policy. I am confident that the decisions made today will further our prosperity in the coming years. If you ever wish to share a thought or comment, please feel free to contact me at my Capitol office at 512.463.0688 or by e-mail at [email protected]. As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives.