The 84th Legislative Session is upon us. On Tuesday, nearly 150 State House Members and 31 Senators convened at the Texas Capitol to begin the 140-day process of handling the state’s affairs. While a small handful of special elections to fill vacancies still must play out, we already know that each chamber will have strong conservative majorities and several new faces that must hit the ground running on day one.
Many people have asked me what we can expect from this new legislature during the upcoming legislative session. I have spent much of the last year talking to my colleagues about what their priorities are for this session, their thoughts for how to address our pressing issues and what they would like to accomplish once all is said and done. Through these conversations, I have formed a very optimistic outlook on what I expect this session to yield.
The State Budget
Since I have been in the legislature our state budgets have been highlighted by spending cuts, tax breaks, responsible investments in our core priorities and a reduction of the accounting gimmicks that were once used to balance the bottom line. When adjusted for inflation, we spend less per person out of our general revenue account than we did in 1998. Texas also collects less in state taxes (per person) than any of the other 15 largest states and nearly every state in the entire country. I feel strongly that the 84th Legislature will be no different when it comes to adopting a fiscally conservative two-year spending plan.
This session lawmakers will have many critical budgeting decisions to make, such as the best use of a budget surplus estimated to be more than $3 billion, and how we keep education funding our top priority in light of the growing healthcare costs Texas faces. Writing a budget is no easy task, however I am confident that we will make great advancements in our state’s critical funding priorities and do so without growing spending by more than what is necessary to compensate for increases in population and inflation growth.
Improving Border Security
We all witnessed the severity of this issue this last summer with the sudden surge in illegal activity along the border region. Recent events compelled me to spend considerable time this interim along the border to assess the state of our border security and to gain an in-depth understanding of our human trafficking problem. This is an area of public policy where state lawmakers will place great focus and I firmly expect that properly securing our border and safeguarding our citizens will be the highest priority issue we tackle early in the legislative session.
Education and Infrastructure
The Texas Miracle sits upon a stool supported by three critical legs: a fiscally sound spending plan, an educated workforce ready to meet our employment needs and the infrastructure necessary to secure the economic activity that will continue to attract employers to Texas. Each will be areas of close consideration for the next session. Specific to education, I expect this legislature to build upon recent successes by continuing to improve education through more paths for high school graduation and further reducing high stakes testing in favor of a more productive use of classroom time while still maintaining accountability. Likewise, we have come a long way on improving our necessary road and water infrastructure, but expectations are high that continuing this momentum will be a top priority for next session.
Traditional Texas Values
In Texas we proudly say Merry Christmas in our public school classrooms. We also recognize in our constitution that marriage is between one man and one woman. Second amendment rights are important to our state, along with preserving religious liberties and protecting the lives of the unborn. Our conservative majorities in both the House and the Senate will ensure that this does not change and that our values are well represented in the legislation that is enacted during the upcoming 84th Legislative Session.
As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Texas House of Representatives and I welcome your feedback on this and any other critical state issues. If you would like to share a thought with me, please feel free to contact me at my Capitol office at 512-463-0688 or by e-mail at [email protected].