By State Representative Tan Parker
Your Texas Legislature has reconvened for the 87th Legislative Session and this is one for the history books! After several months of being closed to the public, the majestic Capitol building has re-opened so that Texans can witness and participate in their state government setting the course for the next biennium. While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about some changes in the building, the energy of a new beginning remains vibrant, and I am honored to serve you in the Texas House.
There are many bills that are beginning to shuffle through the filing process from 150 house members and 31 senators.
With the COVID-19 crisis along with changes in our national leadership landscape, there are several areas that need our focus including ensuring that Texas continues to lead the Nation forward. Individual members will fight for policies that represent their constituencies, but there are fundamental themes and legislation that will dominate this session, including protecting taxpayers, strengthening our economy, further safeguarding election integrity, protecting life, energy independence, and your rights as both an American and Texan.
It all begins with our Texas Constitution which only requires the state legislature to pass a single bill, a balanced budget for the upcoming two years during the 140-day regular session. Thankfully, Texas has a long history of conservative state budgets that has kept our state spending fiscally responsible while still funding critical priorities.
Recent projections point to a $1 billion deficit for the current state budget, which is down from an earlier prediction of $4.6 billion announced last summer because our economy continues to strengthen, and more Texans are getting back to work. Last summer, state agencies were ordered to find 5% in their budgets to trim, and lawmakers will have to consider other funding decreases when accounting for general-purpose dollars that keep the functional aspects of your state government solvent including education, healthcare, public safety, and transportation – all of which are absolutely critical to our economic vitality and continued prosperity. Texas weathers these storms best when we do not raise taxes nor place costly burdens on taxpayers.
To keep your state government fiscally accountable, I filed HB 910 to limit the growth of future state appropriations to protect Texas taxpayers for generations to come. This bill reflects our need to plan for the future and always be proactive in preventing excessive taxpayer spending. During this time of economic difficulty, Texans expect that their state government live within its means, just as every individual lives within their means to make ends meet.
Outside of the state budget, expect to see broad discussion on redistricting, increasing border security, lowering property taxes, and pushing back on federal overreach that will stifle our economy and cost Texas jobs. Additionally, lawmakers must work to improve our state’s disaster response and include public oversight and transparency to keep government in check while protecting public safety.
A long day & it’s not over yet! Testimony began at 9 am. Energy & State Affairs Joint Hearing is still going to make sure Texans get answers they deserve on massive failure to keep the lights on. Critical to find out exactly what happened to make sure this never happens again. pic.twitter.com/3lfBx3cfuv
— Tan Parker (@tparker63) February 26, 2021
We also must not forget our duty to understand just how much our children have been impacted by the events of the past year. Last summer, I called upon TEA to do everything in our state’s power to eliminate STAAR testing as students grappled with the doors of their schools being shuddered and lives were put on hold. I will keep pushing back on the STAAR as our students and teachers do not need the additional burdens of high-stakes standardized testing at this time.
The heart and soul of my service is to improve the lives of children, and I am working on bills for youths who have undergone trauma, expanding on my previous work to prevent human trafficking, and safeguarding our most medically fragile youths.
I am also excited about making permanent the innovative effort I led last year during the height of the pandemic to allow restaurants to sell bulk foods directly to the public. HB 1276 ensures Texans are fed while also protecting the livelihood of Texas farmers and ranchers along with our restaurants, their employees, and supply chains.
Some of my other legislative initiatives include medical freedom related to off-label prescription use and protecting patient rights and the sacredness of human life at all stages. I am also working to modernize the tax code for Public Improvement Districts to protect homeowners from surprise property tax bills, strengthen the Teacher Retirement System, and innovate within our digital world to protect personal data and privacy to name a few.
There are many more policy items to consider and discuss and I hope you will participate in the process. In addition to contacting me at 512.463.0688 or [email protected], you can also follow any bill online at www.house.texas.gov and access live video feeds for the legislature and individual committees. I also post on Facebook and Twitter at @tparker63 and Instagram under @tanparkertexas.
It is an honor to represent you in the Texas House, and I look forward to staying in touch in order to build a stronger Texas!