Local legislators said the state is better off after the 84th Texas legislative session, which ended June 1, although it may depend on one’s point of view, they said.
At the 2015 Legislative Luncheon hosted by the San Marcos Area Chamber of Commerce on July 30, Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs; Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels; and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, each of whom represents portions of Hays County, gave their takes on the session.
Evan Smith, CEO of the nonprofit news outlet the Texas Tribune, moderated the event. Smith opened up by asking each legislator if Texans were better off now than before the session started.Read more
“I feel that we are better off,” Campbell said. “Change is slow to see sometimes, but we came in with a lot of new faces and a lot of folks had to get oriented. We took issues that are very important to Texans, and we took them very seriously.”
Among the familiar faces in new positions during the 84th session were Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Texas senate.
Zaffirini said the outlook on the most recent session depends on one’s point of view. For conservative Texans, lower spending and smaller state government would be considered victories from the most recent session.
“Two years ago I said [the 83rd Legislature] was the most conservative legislature in the history of the state of Texas, and it generated a round of applause,” Zaffirini said. “If you applauded then, you should be even happier today because I believe that this legislative session was the most conservative—even more conservative than the 2013 session.”
Zaffirini said the legislature missed an opportunity to tackle issues like education spending and health care.
“If your perspective was to increase funding for education—from early childhood education to higher education—if your perspective and goal was to increase funding for different aspects of health and human services, then you might not see it as successful,” she said.
Smith said many have made the argument that the population boom in the state of Texas is good, but the legislature needs to ensure the state’s investment in infrastructure keeps pace.
In response, Isaac applauded Prop. 7, which will be on the November ballot and would allocate a portion of sales and use tax revenue to the state highway fund to go to more road construction projects.
Sen. Campbell and Rep. Isaac celebrated the passage of the campus carry law, which allows licensed gun users to carry handguns on college campuses in the state. They said designated gun-free zones—at college campuses, churches and hospitals—encourage shootings because those looking to do harm to others know in those areas they will not meet other people with guns.
The three legislators agreed the federal government has failed in its duty to secure the Texas border, an endeavor the state allocated about $800 million to during the most recent session.
“[The $800 million] is certainly going to help,” Isaac said. “It’s the failure of federal enforcement along our border, which is a federal responsibility. So if the federal government is not going to act we must step in and act, and we’re having to lead on the border. This will allow for more agents on the border. It will allow for agents to work more hours than they’ve been allowed to work in the past. … If they truly want to work more hours and they’re willing to do it and they’re serving and protecting our state, that’s going to be great.”
Senator Zaffirini, who lives in Laredo, said she is often asked if she feels safe in the city and if she has a bodyguard. She said the problem is not on the American side of the border, but across the Rio Grande.
“Our focus has to be on fighting drug trafficking,” Zaffirini said. “That is the danger to the border. A lot of people like Donald Trump have a misunderstanding about the dangers along the border. There is no danger [in El Paso and Laredo]. The danger is across the river and from the cartels.”