Politicians in Austin talk a lot about education, but they have repeatedly failed students, parents and teachers. Texas ranks last in the country in the percentage of population over the age of 25 with a high school diploma and 47th in SAT scores, while our dedicated public school teachers are paid well below the national average.
Chris will fight to change this and make public education a top priority for Texas.
The last legislative session cut public education funding by more than $5 billion last year – a staggering cut that harms millions of school children across Texas. Chris will work to reverse these cuts and implement a more fair and better financed public education system for all Texas children.
Chris also believes we must reform the school accountability system that has become entirely too dependent on standardized tests. There is entirely too much “teaching to the test” in Texas and we need to lessen the emphasis on standardized testing in the classroom.
Making college more affordable and accessible to every Texan is one of Chris’s top priorities. Rising tuition costs and reduced financial aid opportunities have closed the door of opportunity to too many Texans. Chris will work to increase the Texas Grant program, which made college financial aid available for an additional 24,000 middle-class Texas families in 2010-2011.
Chris co-authored legislation that opens the door for “emerging research universities,” such as the University of Texas at Arlington, to become a “Top Tier” research university. Chris wrote and passed the law requiring all Texas colleges and universities to have a financial aid specialist trained on the GI Bill and the Hazlewood Act.
In the last five years, tuition rates at Texas colleges and universities have risen over 40% because of the actions of the state legislature. The result has been that the dream of a college education has been priced out of the reach of many deserving, middle class students. Chris will work to open the doors of Texas colleges to all students who have worked hard and proven themselves.
With the highest rate of uninsured in the nation and Texas ranked dead last among the 50 states in health care delivery, there’s no shortage of improvements to be made to the state’s health care system. The good news is that Texas has the tools to expand access to affordable health care – it’s called the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has been upheld by the Supreme Court. Chris believes that Texas should use the ACA smartly to get the maximum benefit for the state. Chris will work with his colleagues in the Texas House to gain support to accept the Medicaid expansion. Under ACA, states can enroll their citizens in Medicaid if their annual income is 133 percent of the poverty level (about $30,000 for a family of four) or less. Under this provision, about 1.5 million Texans would gain coverage.
Chris also supports expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in order to decrease the number of uninsured children in our state. In 2009, Chris co-authored a measure that would expand CHIP eligibility to include children whose family incomes are between 101 to 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Chris will work to extend the Medicaid enrollment period from six months to one year, as it is in most other states.
At the local level, Chris understands that the lack of public transportation in Arlington and Grand Prairie is a difficult obstacle for many families who are unable to commute to work or school. Chris believes the state’s transportation priorities should include strategies to upgrade and expand mass transit in major urban areas.
Chris has a 100 percent voting record with the Texas AFL-CIO. In order to help prevent manufacturing layoffs, Chris’s first bill signed into law in 2009 made improvements to the shared work unemployment compensation program. Chris co-authored legislation to exempt many small businesses from paying Texas franchise taxes. Chris also helped pass legislation to expand the back-to-school sales tax holiday to cover school supplies.
Chris believes we must do everything possible to keep our families and children safe from the threat of sexual predators.
As state representative, Chris tightened registration requirements to make sure sex offenders living in our neighborhoods can be tracked. Some offenders claim to be homeless in order to evade registration requirements, but Chris’s law requires them to register with their local law enforcement agency every two weeks.
Chris also authored and passed out of the House legislation requiring computer technicians to report the discovery of child pornography to law enforcement. Even though this measure had strong support from law enforcement, it died it the Senate. Chris is going to re-file this important piece of legislation.
Deeply moved by the tragic case of Abdallah Khader, a 2-year old Arlington boy who was critically injured by a drunk driver and is in a permanent vegetative state, Chris authored legislation that eventually became known as “Abdallah’s Law.”
The law increases penalties on repeat drunk drivers, like the man who critically injured Abdallah. The legislation ensures that previous convictions in other states will be taken into account when prosecuting drunk driving cases in Texas. Chris will continue to work on legislation that decreases the occurrence of alcohol-related accidents.
Chris has a proven record of leadership on veterans’ issues: he was the author of the bill that created the veterans scratch-off lottery ticket, which has raised more than $20 million for veterans’ assistance programs. He remains committed to working on and supporting legislation that honors the service and sacrifice our veterans.
Chris also authored and passed legislation requiring Texas colleges and universities to have a designated financial aid officer for veterans, so that returning service members are able to fully access the benefits they have earned under the new Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and the Texas Hazlewood Act. With more than 250,000 Texans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last ten years, it is more important than ever that Texas have strong support systems in place so veterans – and their families – can take advantage of education and workforce opportunities.
Chris also authored and passed a law that would allow state employees to continue to accrue sick and vacation time when they deployed for active duty military service. He also wrote a measure that would allow the spouses of soldiers killed in the line of duty or 100% disabled as a result of their service to be eligible for Hazlewood educational benefits. This was added to a larger piece of legislation, passed and signed into law.
As a result of this work, and other measures benefiting veterans and their families, Chris has been repeatedly recognized by leading veterans’ organizations:
- 2010 “Legislator of the Year,” Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars
- 2010 “Legislator of the Year,” Vietnam Veterans of America, Texas State Council
- 2009 “Freshman of the Year,” bi-partisan Legislative Veterans Caucus
- 2009 recipient, Texas Veterans’ Commission Leadership Award