ELECTION Q&A: Texas Senate candidates for District 7 share top priorities

Contested races for the Nov. 6 election include State Senate District 7. Get to know the three candidates vying for the seat: incumbent Paul Bettencourt as well as candidates Tom Glass and David Romero.



Paul Bettencourt (incumbent)
Party affiliation: Republican
Occupation: CEO of Bettencourt Tax Advisors and state senator for District 7
Experience: served as Harris County tax assessor collector from 1998-2008; has served as state senator for District 7 since 2015
Top priorities: property tax and appraisal reform, construction of a third reservoir in the West Houston area, improving ballot integrity statewide and ending elections on nonuniform election dates that raise property taxes, expanding on the legislation to stamp out inappropriate student-teacher relationships
Phone number: 713-554-9208
Website: www.paulbettencourt.com

What is the first piece of legislation you would file if elected?
I plan to reintroduce Senate Bill 2, the Texas Property Tax Reform and Relief Act, in the upcoming 86th Legislature with Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s strong support. As appraised values go up, property tax rates rarely come down. SB 2 will “rollback” property tax rates by cutting the current rollback rate in half and require a vote of the public if a taxing entity wants to exceed that limit. This bill will also include automatic disaster reappraisal of property tax values in affected areas following disaster declarations, such as Hurricane Harvey. 


What would you do to prevent future flooding in District 7?
The construction of a third reservoir in the west Houston area is a priority for me. Immediately following Hurricane Harvey, I organized a bipartisan group of senators in areas impacted by the storm to outline our public policy goals in response to Hurricane Harvey. One of these major goals is supporting the construction of a third reservoir along with a coastal barrier and other items that we all asked to be included in interim Senate charges by the lieutenant governor. Senate committees have been studying these issues and will issue reports before the end of the year.

What, if anything, should be done to improve the public education funding system for school districts statewide?
There are some good things happening in the public school system in Texas. Cy-Fair ISD, for example, has one the best administrative cost ratios in the state of Texas. Other examples of best practices that the Commission on Public School Finance has seen across the state are the P-Tech and Promise Programs in Dallas ISD. This is a collaboration between Dallas ISD and Dallas community colleges with the private sector—with companies like American Airlines and IBM—to offer career pathways and earn college credit while in high school. These programs have been a huge success. Legislation I passed in 2015, Senate Bill 1004, expanded dual-credit opportunities for students in Harris County, and there has been tremendous growth in those opportunities, with 40 percent, 50 percent and even 70 percent growth in those programs since the bill was passed. This lowers education costs for students, parents, and even the state. I plan to file legislation in the upcoming 86th legislative session to expand statewide on the success we have already seen in Harris County.






Tom Glass
Party affiliation: Libertarian
Occupation: retired ExxonMobil systems analyst
Experience: I have worked at the Texas Legislature to urge it to pass bills I supported for a number of years. My first testimony at a Texas legislative hearing was in 1986. I also have a law degree from the University of Houston, which better helps me participate in the legislative process.
Top priorities: eliminate property taxes, enforce the Constitution, constitutional carry
Phone number: 713-467-2989
Website: www.tomglass.org  

What is the first piece of legislation you would file if elected?
Eliminate or phase out the [maintenance and operations] portion of school property taxes.

What would you do to prevent future flooding in District 7?
My home on Spring Creek flooded in [Hurricane] Harvey. Flood control is primarily a county responsibility. As a Texas legislator, I would make sure that the counties have enough resources to address the issue.

What, if anything, should be done to improve the public education funding system for school districts statewide?
I want to increase the amount of money provided per capita to independent school districts that come from the state while eliminating local school property taxes. In addition to respecting property ownership in Texas, this would solve the "Robin Hood" problem, too. 






David Romero
Party affiliation: Democrat
Occupation:
 litigation paralegal
Experience: 10 years
Top priorities: public education reform, flooding, equality for all and school safety
Phone number: 832-773-9515
Website: www.davidromerotxsenate.com 

What is the first piece of legislation you would file if elected? 
Overturn portions of House Bill 72, including but not limited to standardized testing [and] pass legislation to make sure that any charter school is being held to the same accountability as public schools.

What would you do to prevent future flooding in District 7? 
Work with the city regarding approving the topography of not just Harris County and the contiguous areas but also the state of Texas. I will propose a look into pumping water out of flood areas to hold and reserve to use at a later time to get to areas in Texas that are in droughts.

What, if anything, should be done to improve the public education funding system for school districts statewide?
Stop spending $90 million for a five-year contract with Pearson Education to develop the standardized tests for public schools. Eliminate the "Robin Hood" plan and make sure that everyone is paying their fair share of property taxes.


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By Danica Smithwick

Danica joined Community Impact Newspaper in May 2016 after graduating with a journalism degree from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. She covers public education, local government, business, demographic trends, real estate development, nonprofits and more in the Cy-Fair community.


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