Q&A: Candidates for Texas House District 135 discuss priorities, COVID-19 response



HOUSTON



Texas House District 135





Responses have been edited for length and clarity.



*indicates incumbent








Jon Rosenthal*



D



Occupation: I'm a mechanical engineer by trade, but currently on hiatus from the industry to serve full time as state representative for HD135


Experience: When first running for office in 2018, I had no experience as a politician (maybe some folks consider that a positive attribute in this environment). My integrity and my values are my best qualifications. I’m guided by logic, kindness, honor and respect. In addition to my personal values, I rely on my background as an engineer and project manager. I’ve worked mainly in the oil and gas industry for over 25 years. I’ve designed and built machines, managed large and small teams, and I’ve been in leadership roles on projects with scope value in the hundreds of millions of dollars.






Why are you running to represent District 135?



JR: I’m running to represent District 135 to advocate for our communities, and to continue as a pragmatic and progressive voice in the Texas Legislature. I’m driven to build on our efforts to improve public education, to expand access to health care, and to fight for equity justice. The 87th Legislature will confront tough issues like reduced budget revenue and drawing new district boundaries, and I’ll always push for equitable, data-driven solutions.



How would you address COVID-19 response and economic recovery efforts during the 87th Legislature?



JR: The key to economic recovery is to address the health crisis and get this pandemic under control. We must wear masks until a proven vaccine and/or therapy is available. But testing is key. Testing needs to be everywhere with fast results. Would you feel safer at a restaurant if every worker there tested negative in the past few days? Testing will help stop the spread of COVID-19 and build confidence at the same time.



If re-elected, what would you do to help mitigate chronic flooding in District 135?



JR: In 2018, I advocated for regional disaster planning and coordination since floodwaters do not respect political subdivisions. In the 86th session we passed [Senate Bill] 7 and [Senate Bill] 8; landmark legislation for disaster relief and mitigation with $1.7 billion in new funding and statewide planning to manage these efforts. I always advocate for our district, independent of partisan lines, and I will continue to work with local and state to assist both affected and prone areas of our region.



Following landmark school finance legislation in the 86th session, what are your top priorities regarding public education?



JR: We must work to keep the gains from last session in the face of a massive budget shortfall, and we must continue to fight to increase funding for public education and for our Teachers’ Retirement System who are long-overdue cost of living increase. But my long-term goal is to "repeal and replace" the STAAR test. First steps are to decouple it from school accountability and increase pilot programs for modern testing and evaluation systems.









Justin Ray



R



Occupation: business development


Experience: mayor and councilman for the city of Jersey Village Texas (2012-2019). Jersey Village Crime Control and Prevention District board member (2012-2019), Jersey Village Planning and Zoning Commission member (2010-2012). Cy-Fair Education Foundation Solute to our Heroes board member






Why are you running to represent District 135?



JR: The Cy-Fair community is my home where I was raised and where my wife and I are raising our three kids now. I am running to represent our district because I uniquely understand the community’s many opportunities and challenges. Our community needs representation in Austin that will strongly advocate for our public schools, deliver property tax reform, strengthen public safety and keep the Texas dream alive.



How would you address COVID-19 response and economic recovery efforts during the 87th Legislature?



JR: Texas can once again provide national leadership with bold COVID-19 recovery efforts. A resurgent oil and gas industry will drive Texas back to economic prosperity and provide thousands of good paying jobs. I will work on pro-energy policies as well as identifying ways to diversify a growing and dynamic Texas economy. This period in history also opens the door for boldness in addressing Texans’ healthcare needs by creating unique Private/Public solutions, such as telemedicine, to increase affordable healthcare options.



If elected, what would you do to help mitigate chronic flooding in District 135?



JR: I was mayor of Jersey Village during the catastrophic Tax Day flood of 2016. In response we commissioned an award winning flood mitigation plan of infrastructure improvements that resulted in over $6.5 million in Federal grants. Taking that extensive knowledge to Austin I will seek funding sources for the newly created state grant and loan programs. I will ensure the [Texas Division of Emergency Management] is structured to streamline grant distribution procedures to get shovels in the ground faster.



Following landmark school finance legislation in the 86th session, what are your top priorities regarding public education?



JR: As the husband to a special education teacher and father of three Cy-Fair elementary students, a strong and effective Texas public school system is a top priority for our family. Our top priority in the next session is to continue the assurances provided in last session’s Republican landmark school funding legislation. Additionally, Texas needs to continue evaluating STAAR test efficacy and ensure the Teacher Retirement System continues to serve our retired educators.









Paul Bilyeu



L



Occupation: account manager


Experience: managed numerous successful businesses and people at my current long-term employer. Also, a 9-year Navy veteran.






Why are you running to represent District 135?



PB: I am tired of the duopoly. Aren't you? Promises of change and no change occurs. It is time for people to recognize there are other options on the ballot with new ideas. People that aren't owned or beholden to special interest groups or their party handlers. Democrats and Republicans have enjoyed a monopoly on government for 100+ years and things continue to get worse. What makes you thing this time will be any different? It won't. Try something different.



How would you address COVID-19 response and economic recovery efforts during the 87th Legislature?



PB: Governments only role in pandemic response is to provide information and guidance. In no reality should government be shutting down businesses, mandating masks, require contact tracing or mandatory vaccinations. Individuals are responsible for their own safety and that of their families, not government. Businesses are responsible for their customer's safety, not government. We continue to foster this nanny state asking government to provide everything. That needs to end.



If elected, what would you do to help mitigate chronic flooding in District 135?



PB: As a state legislator, my goal would be to return as much money to the people and communities as possible. Let local communities determine the best flood control plan for their area. Centralized state government is inefficient and ineffective. Why allow them to solve this problem? I will not solve flooding issues, nor will any state bureaucrat. If they try, it will surely cost 10 times what private entities or communities could do themselves.



Following landmark school finance legislation in the 86th session, what are your top priorities regarding public education?



PB: This is not a popular answer but I will share it anyway. We need to end government provided education. Government should not be in this business. Abolish Article 7 of the Texas Constitution. Abolish property taxes. Return monies to property owners. Eliminate government barriers to small business entry. With the advances in technology and the free market, private education will flourish. Education options will abound. Teachers will be more successful and more profitable. It will not be easy. Drastic change never is. But if we just take the leap of faith, the end result would be magnificent within five years.


By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.