You’ll often hear politicians talking about local control – cities know better than the state, the state knows better than the federal government (I hear that a lot in Austin) and so on.
Last week, the House took actions which show little respect for local control and the voters who elect local leaders.
First, the House passed HB 40, which would preempt many local regulations with respect to urban oil and gas drilling. This legislation was prompted by the decision of Denton voters last year to impose a ban on fracking in their city. Regardless of what you think about that ban, it’s my belief that the Legislature is going too far and using too broad a brush to address this issue. HB 40 impacts cities like Arlington, which has a gas drilling ordinance in place that appears to have worked well over the years.
Just over a week ago, I toured the Arlington neighborhood affected by a serious gas well incident with Fire Chief Crowson, and I saw first-hand why Arlington’s gas drilling rules are critical to help protect the City’s residents.
Dear Mayor Cluck:
I recently learned that the Arlington South Service Center will not be utilized as an early voting location for the upcoming 2015 municipal election, and I have serious concerns about the impact this decision will have on the constituents of House District 101.
As a state legislator, I try my best to avoid involving myself in city business; however, this matter has the potential to be precedent-setting, affecting the location of early voting sites not only in the May election, but in all elections going forward. Ensuring our constituents can exercise their right to vote without confusion or undue inconvenience must be a priority for all of us in public office, so I hope to provide you and the Council with an additional perspective on this issue.
Yesterday, House Republicans announced a plan to pass more than $4.8 billion in tax breaks. Using a combination of a sales tax reduction and a business tax cut, this plan would go even deeper than what the Senate proposed a few weeks ago (in case you missed my earlier email on this topic, click here).
According to the early math, the House plan would mean about $172 more each year for the average family of four. This would come from reducing the state sales tax — which would go from 6.25% to 5.95%. This is something that’s never been done before, and something I could be willing to support, because it would benefit all Texans.
With that said, I still strongly believe that before we reduce revenue through cuts, we must ensure our state’s priorities are addressed. As it stands now, there’s more than adequate money to do both. As I mentioned in last week’s rundown of the budget, at the end of the 2017, we will have $11 billion in the Rainy Day Fund, plus we still have up to another $8 billion right now in general revenue that is unbudgeted.
After a floor debate clocking in at over 17 hours, yesterday morning the Texas House overwhelmingly passed our version of the state’s two-year budget.
As with every state budget, it wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely a step in the right direction in addressing critical needs, including adding more funding for public education.
In fact, the House version of the budget increases funding for public schools by $2.2 billion, with another $800 million to be added if an important school finance measure is passed. It’s important to note that with this new addition, the amount the House approved for public education is nearly $3 billion more than that proposed by the Senate.