It’s been just over a week since the legislature adjourned “Sine Die,” meaning the 84th Legislative Session is in the history books. If you saw what went on during those 140 days in the Capitol, you’d probably agree that the end could not have come soon enough.
Recently, I was asked by a local paper to describe the “theme” of the session. My response: “Do just enough to get by, but avoid as many tough issues as possible.”
Certainly, there were some accomplishments. The Legislature finally funded long-overdue Tuition Revenue Bonds for public universities, including $70 million for UT-Arlington for a science and education innovation and research building. This facility is essential as the school continues to establish itself as a leading urban research university.
If approved by the voters in November, homeowners will see an increase in their homestead exemption – from $15,000 to $25,000 a year – which will slightly ease property tax increases (but don’t expect your bill to go down).
I was grateful to get significant parts of my legislative agenda passed in what was a very challenging political environment. After three years of work to ban elected officials “double dipping” a salary and a pension at the same time, I passed a bill to end that practice. In addition, a bill I authored to protect police officers from forms of online retaliation and retribution also made it to the governor’s desk.
I’m also proud of the work my Democratic colleagues and I did to block several mean-spirited and ill-advised measures. These included efforts to further discriminate against LGBT families, repeal the Texas Dream Act, limit a woman’s access to reproductive healthcare, and terrible anti-worker and anti-consumer bills.
However, the Legislature’s inaction on the major, pressing issues that affect millions of Texans is the big story of this session, in my view. The Legislature failed to address our troubled school finance system, take any meaningful measures to expand health care access to the 17 percent of people in our state who remain uninsured, and resisted all efforts to bring even modest reforms to the predatory payday lending industry. And once again, the House passed a measure to ban the dangerous practice of texting and driving, only to see it die in the Senate.
Each of the three legislative sessions I have served in have been different. The one constant for me is that is an incredible honor each and every day to represent the people of our district in the state Capitol. It’s great to be home in District 101, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work on the issues important to the families and businesses of our district.