As elected officials prepare to convene for the 87th Texas legislative session, which runs Jan. 12-May 31, Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, said there are likely to be three top issues that play out at the Capitol: the budget—the state faces an estimated $4.58 billion budget shortfall, as Community Impact Newspaper previously reported; economic recovery; and redistricting, or the process of redrawing district boundaries for equal voter representation.
As of Dec. 30, Creighton has filed or co-authored two bills: Senate Bill 208, which would prohibit the distribution of an application form for an early voting ballot—a maneuver that made headlines in Harris County and prompted questions of legality that were struck down by a federal ruling in November; and Senate Bill 215, which relates to the creation of the office of inspector general at the Texas Education Agency. Among others, Creighton said he plans to also file a bill related to the preservation of historical monuments.
Community Impact Newspaper sat down with Creighton, whose district encompasses Conroe and The Woodlands, to discuss his legislative priorities and what may be in store for the upcoming session.
This interview has been edited for conciseness and clarity.
Q: What will the upcoming legislative session look like?
A: Usually, one or two major issues dominate the Texas legislative session. We always think we have it figured out when we are going in, and then, we find out quickly that we don’t. But the issues that we thought were going to remain at the top—they usually do. In this session, that would be the budget, redistricting and, I would say, most certainly, economic recovery, starting with small businesses and going from there.
Q: What are your legislative priorities?
A: [One is] higher education and [improving the portability of credits and credentials] so adult learners can receive credit for work experience they’ve had in the past, whether it’s a two-year credential or a trade certificate or a four-year degree. This is so they are more competitive in an evolving economy.
Also for higher education is bringing public-private partnerships together. We have a company working with the San Jacinto College in the Houston region where they’ve not only built buildings and laboratories, but they’ve set up systems to help the college evolve. We want to scale that model all across the state. We also want to integrate data systems at the K-12 and higher education levels.
Other higher education issues include paying college athletes, protecting free speech—including conservative free speech—and revisiting sexual harassment policies. Those are all blockbuster issues, but the other ones, such as credential programs—that’s the nuts and bolts. But it’s our responsibility to continue to vet those controversial issues so the public knows at least we are thinking and challenging ourselves.
Separate from higher education, our small-business recovery act will address what we want to see continue from the executive orders that have helped businesses during the pandemic. Alcohol to go, for example, was huge for keeping the doors open for restaurants who needed any competitive edge.
Q: What about election fraud?
A: Right now, we have very specific eligibility requirements in place for a reason, but under the COVID-19 era—it kind of blew the doors of all of that. I am assuming we will have bipartisan support on SB 208.
Q: What might redistricting look like?
A: This session, my district is over in population, so there will be some changes to my map. I don’t know how it will work or how those decisions will be made. We’re not the only area that’s growing. It’s a process, and we will have to work that out, but the census count requires us to go into a redistricting session. If the census is not certified by the time we are finished, then we will just have to guess and do our best to put maps together, and then, there will be either massive round of applause or litigation, and y’all can guess which one will probably be the case.
Q&A: Texas Sen. Brandon Creighton’s 2021 legislative priorities include education, small-business recovery
In addition to serving as the Texas House District 16 representative, Brandon Creighton is an attorney, a small-business owner and a rancher. (Courtesy Brandon Creighton)