It’s full steam ahead at the Texas Capitol! We have reached an important milestone in the legislative process: the bill filing deadline. Our hard-working team (see the picture below) has filed an impressive 57 bills. Why so many? Because I represent a district determined to change the world! Thanks to all who contributed the great bill ideas and efforts that got us here. Bills are already being referred to different committees and soon bills will make their way to the House floor for a vote. Recently, there’s been a lot of activity related to school finance, 2.5% property tax caps and the confirmation process for Secretary of State Whitley.
On Tuesday this week, House Public Education Committee Chairman Huberty released his school finance bill, HB 3. While we are still pouring through the details of this 186-page bill, I am cautiously optimistic and will continue to ensure the conversation around school funding is focused on increased and equitable funding for all school districts. My gratitude goes out to Chairman Huberty for his hard work to get us this far towards a plan that is aimed at providing much needed financial relief to our public schools.
To ensure that our ideas were part of the discussion regarding school finance, on February 21, the Texas House Democratic Caucus had unveiled our Texas Kids First Plan. This is a bold plan that calls for $14.5 billion to be invested into our public schools. The cornerstone of this plan includes $1.6 billion to fund full day Pre-kindergarten. Two sessions ago, Governor Abbott declared funding pre-k as a legislative priority. The only thing that’s changed between then and now is that thousands of young Texans have missed out on this vitally important educational foundation. Texas spends $2300 less than the national average per student. When you multiply that by the number of students in Texas, we are over $20 billion behind the national average. The Texas Kids First Plan would get our state about halfway to where we need to be for adequate funding. This is the biggest and most important investment we can make for the future of our state. Click here to watch our press conference where we announced our bold plan. As we continue to fight for our kids at the Legislature, I’ll keep you up to date on our progress.
Last week, my bill HB 128 passed unanimously out of the House Public Education Committee. This bill would require schools to send parents the results of their children’s physical fitness assessments in a form that is easy to understand. According to the October 2017 National Center for Health Statistics Report, nearly 20% of youth in America are considered obese and this percentage has continued to rise since 1999. This bill would help inform parents about their children’s physical fitness needs so that parents can play a more active role in understanding and contributing to their children’s physical education. Click here to read more about HB 128 and the positive impact this bill could have for kids across the state of Texas.
Last week, Senate Nominations voted along party lines, 4-3, to allow interim Secretary Whitley’s confirmation vote to be taken on the Senate Floor. So far, all 12 Democratic Senators have pledged to vote against Whitley’s confirmation. In order to be confirmed Secretary of State, Whitley needs a 2/3 vote in the Senate Chamber. At the moment, the only way Whitley can be confirmed Secretary of State would be if 2 Democrats voted with Republicans. Elections have consequences and Democrats have the ability to block Whitley’s confirmation to send a strong message that Democrats aim to protect our voting rights. Most recently, US District Judge Fred Biery, a Federal Judge from San Antonio, has blocked the removal of any registered voters from Texas' 254 county's voter rolls. Secretary Whitley has continued to defend his effort to purge voters as “list maintenance”. Judge Biery went further to say state officials “created this mess” that ultimately intimidated naturalized citizens. Judge Biery’s order is a big win for civil rights as counties across Texas will not be able to intimidate voters. I will continue to send more information as it occurs.
HD49 Engagement Team Meetings
This month, we will be breaking up into our different engagement team groups (Healthy Communities for All, Education for All and Democracy and Equality for All) to dive deeper into each group's priorities. On March 11 and March 12, each respective subcommittee will meet at the ACC Highland Business Center. If you haven’t signed up for an engagement team group, please sign up here. Lastly, if you haven’t been receiving our email notices, but would like to join a group, please reach out to Anthony and let us know!
Medicare for All Press Conference
The press conference with Our Revolution to lay out my Medicare For All bill will happen on Wednesday, March 13th at 9:00 AM in the Speaker's Press Conference Room in the Capitol. I'll be sure to livestream the press conference on my Facebook page, so please tune in if you are not able to join!
HB 137 would require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to provide reports on dams in Texas that have a hazard classification of high or significant to the governmental jurisdiction the dam is located in. Following Hurricane Harvey, our state needs to invest in existing infrastructure to ensure our state is prepared for future crises. In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers has given Texas a 'D' rating for dam infrastructure in the state. HB 137 would ensure that necessary parties will receive reports about any hazardous or dangerous dams so that action can be taken to save lives and lower economic damage to our communities.
I want to give a shoutout to McCallum High School's impressive students who allow our office to display their talents. Earlier this session, we held a reception in the office to learn about what inspired them to create these wonderful works of art.
Thank you for trusting me with the opportunity to represent our district this session. If you have any questions, please reach out to a member of my staff anytime or call the office at (512) 463-0668.