Final Version of HB 1 leaves too many Texans behind
AUSTIN — Today, State Representative Chris Turner delivered the following remarks outlining his opposition to the conference committee report to HB 1, the two-year state budget:
When this budget was voted on in the House, it was a budget I was proud to vote for, I think a lot of us were proud to vote for it. Now that this budget has come back from the conference committee and is before us for a final vote, the picture I see is much, much different than what we had here two months ago.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some positive aspects of this conference committee report on the budget. On Higher Education, I’m very grateful that this budget funds our first Tuition Revenue Bonds in nearly a decade, and that the budget provides a needed formula funding increase for our universities and colleges. I know that that would not have happened were it not for our House negotiators, led by Chairman Otto.
There are other things to like in this budget — there are things we can all like. On the major issues that will shape our state in the years ahead, this budget misses the mark.
Today is the last day the Texas House can give preliminary approval to new legislation. After today, we’ll be approving or rejecting bills that have been negotiated between the House and Senate.
It will make for a long day, as we debate until the midnight deadline.
What issues, you ask, will we be considering? Good question.
Today we reflect upon the meaning of Memorial Day and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom.
Politicians should not be allowed to collect salary, pension simultaneously
AUSTIN – Today, State Representative Chris Turner (HD 101- Grand Prairie) passed HB 408, which would bar elected officials from collecting a salary and state pension at the same time, if their retirement payments are a result of their service as an elected official. Turner first proposed this legislation in 2013.
“This legislation simply says that if politicians want to start collecting a state-funded pension as a result of their time in office, they need to really retire and no longer collect a salary. Our state leaders frequently tout Texas as a national example for fiscal responsibility. This measure is about fiscal responsibility — it’s just plain common sense that an elected official should not be getting paid twice for doing one job,” said Turner.
“Banning double dipping is an important step to strengthening the public’s trust and faith in both elected officials and the laws under which we serve,” said Turner. “I want to thank the members of the House for overwhelmingly approving this legislation with a vote of 144-1.”
…and lose some.
I’m in my third term in the House of Representatives and I’ve been privileged to pass a number of bills through the Legislature and into law…the Veterans Cash lottery scratch-off game which has raised millions for Texas veterans…new consumer protections for apartment tenants…a measure to crack down on child pornographers…those are just a few of the measures I’ve been fortunate to work on and convince my colleagues to support.
And then this week, something new (for me) happened. I presented a bill to the House that my staff and I have been working on for more than two years — a measure to require bars to carry liquor liability insurance. This has always seemed like a fairly straight-forward, common-sense idea to me. In fact, when I would tell people about the bill, the reply I would most often receive was, “that’s not already the law?”. So I thought this was something that would have a decent chance of passing.
Was I wrong about that — not only did it not pass, the vote wasn’t even close.
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.
Bills reforming candidate/PAC reporting, expanding personal financial statements and improving access to state agencies heard this week in House committees; Measures join “double-dipping” ban to round out Turner’s transparency and ethics legislative package
AUSTIN − This week, state Representative Chris Turner presented three measures before House committees, all of which would increase ethics and transparency in state government. These bills join HB 408 to round out Turner’s ethics and transparency legislative package; that bill would ban so-called “double dipping” by state elected officials and passed unanimously from the House Committee on Pensions.
HB 1059 would expand the information required on Personal Financial Statements (PFS), filed by candidates and elected officials. Specifically, the measure would require filers to give a more accurate picture of their finances, including whether or not they receive income from a pension plan. The bill would also require the statements to be posted online and available to the general public. HB 1059 was heard today in the House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics.
There’s been a lot of talk about tax cuts around the Capitol. Which taxes should be cut will be hotly debated, but at the end of the day, it’s pretty likely that there will be some major cuts considered and probably passed.
On the Senate side, Lt. Governor Patrick unveiled a proposal that would cut taxes by about $4.5 billion through changes to residential property taxes and by limiting the number of businesses required to pay the franchise tax. Regarding the latter, by early calculations, it would mean that only 55,000 of Texas’ one million businesses would have to pay. As a quick reminder, this tax is used to generate some much needed revenue to help pay for public education.
Of course, with more people comes a greater need for added infrastructure, at both state and local levels. In cities like Arlington and Grand Prairie, this growth will especially impact our communities, because neither city has a comprehensive public transit system.
As I have expressed many times in the past, the issue of mass transit is of critical importance to our district. I have filed two pieces of legislation to try and find solutions to this issue and to arm our local officials with the tools they need.