State Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Katy, of Texas House District 132, is now in his second term in the Texas House of Representatives. He serves Katy and part of Cypress in areas that encompass Katy, Cy-Fair and Waller ISDs. Schofield worked for over a decade as an advisor to then-Gov. Rick Perry prior to being named Freshman of the Year for the 84th legislative session.
Schofield discussed the 85th legislative session, which began on Jan. 10, in an exclusive Q&A with Community Impact Newspaper Katy edition.
What issues do you think will be most discussed during the 85th legislative session?
With money as tight as it has been, trying to construct a balanced budget that takes care of our state’s core needs without raising taxes will be our No. 1 priority. Last session, Texas adopted a conservative budget that left money on the table, while other states spent every penny they could get their hands on. That decision has kept our current decline in revenue from wrecking our state budget and will allow us to avoid having to choose between tax increases or severe cuts in essential services. I will continue to fight to make sure that the legislature prioritizes the protection of property rights, fair elections and keeping Texas’ taxes among the lowest in the country. I also expect the legislature to take up a bill to end sanctuary cities and protect our border.
What are some of the key issues that you intend to advocate for on behalf of local, Katy area stakeholders—constituents, municipalities and school district(s)?
The two biggest issues that I hear about from my neighbors in Katy and Cypress are protecting our border and making property taxes less oppressive and fairer. I believe the legislature is committed to continuing to prevent the drug smuggling and sex trafficking that occurs when the federal government ignores the constant illegal crossing. Texas will need to stay engaged until the Trump administration can get control of the border. And I will work with Sen. Paul Bettencourt to fight for a more reasonable property tax system, while we work to lessen and eventually eliminate local government’s reliance on this tax, which keeps Texans from ever truly owning their homes. Most of our district is in unincorporated Harris County, where the citizens are paying taxes to cities where they don’t get a vote, since they are in the city’s “extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ).” I want to make sure that we aren’t subject to perpetual taxation without representation by putting a limit on how long a city can control your property if they don’t intend to annex it and provide you with full city services. At the same time, the city of Katy has enjoyed a fairly good working relationship with Houston on this issue and I want to work to ensure that this continues.
What are some of the key lessons you learned from your first session that you plan to carry into this session?
I worked for Gov. Perry, dealing with the legislature for six sessions before I was elected to the House, so I was pretty familiar with the process. The biggest thing I learned that will help me better represent the residents of Katy and Cypress in the House is how easy it is these days to communicate with constituents through social media and get their input on issues that are important to them before we vote on those bills, rather than just telling people back home what we did after we have already done it.
What bills are you most passionate about, and which ones do you think will be the most contentious?
In addition to several bills to ensure our elections are fair, I have filed bills to eliminate the franchise tax on Texas businesses and to prevent state spending from exceeding the growth in our population and inflation. I also want to make sure that cities cannot reach far from their core to control extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) where they have no interest, or ability, to provide services. The bigger government gets, the less freedom we have, both because big government tends to dictate how we have to live our lives (as we saw with Obamacare) and because the more government spends, the more Texans have to work in order to earn the money to pay for it in taxes.
How has the presidential election affected Texas politics, especially with several Texans— including your former boss Rick Perry—potentially holding cabinet positions?
The biggest effect of the recent presidential election was that people who feel that government never listens to them rose up and asserted themselves to make sure their voices were heard. I think the result in Texas politics will be that officeholders—and candidates—will realize that they cannot afford to ignore the needs of the working Texans who pay for everything, many of whom didn’t feel their voices were being heard. After eight years of calling for a secure border and a healthcare system that doesn’t tell them how they have to insure their family or which deprives them of their choice of their family doctor, they are going to demand real change. I expect that with several Texans in high places in the new Trump administration, including my former boss, Gov. Perry, key people who understand our issues will have the president’s ear. I am very hopeful that the new administration will be more inclined to help Texas succeed than the last one.
In your own words, what is the purpose of House Bill 771, which deals with the Electoral College, and why do you think it is necessary for future elections?
The purpose of the Electoral College is to ensure that each state has a voice in electing the president. When electors ignore the votes of their state’s citizens and substitute their own favorite candidate, they cheat the voters out of their chance to elect the president. My bill would ensure Texas’ voters’ votes count by joining 29 other states in requiring our state’s electors to vote for the candidate the voters chose. If they don’t, their vote will be canceled and they will be replaced. I am proud to have Senator Paul Bettencourt join me in this effort. Together, we will ensure that your vote counts.
Do you intend to stay on the Elections and Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence committees? If so, how will you use your membership to benefit the local community?
Like all House members, I have to wait to see who the Speaker assigns to each committee. I have asked to remain on the Elections and Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence committees, so I can protect the fairness of our elections (including our Voter ID law) and defend the tort reform that has enabled our state’s economy to keep growing when other states have stagnated. I worked on these committees for the governor for six sessions before I was elected and have a deep understanding of the bills that these committees hear. Without fair elections, voters don’t have a real voice in any other issue their government deals with, so I am very passionate about my bills to remove non-citizens (who can’t legally vote) from the voter rolls and to put the large-scale illegal vote harvesting operations out of business, so Texas votes can decide who win our elections and who will represent them in their government. Regardless of what committees I am assigned to, I will continue to devote myself to fighting on these issues.