Rep. Cecil Bell Jr. is running for re-election for state representative, District 3. He has served as the District 3 representative since 2012.
Bell will face Democrat Lisa Seger in the Nov. 6 election.
Community Impact Newspaper asked Bell four questions about his candidacy. His responses, edited for publication style and clarity, are listed below.
Q: What is the first piece of legislation you would file if re-elected?
A: At this time, I’ve got several pieces of legislation we’re looking at. As the constituency continues to weigh in, we’ll define what piece of legislation is actually the most critical. The role of state representative is not to come up with creative ideas to push out for citizens, although that can be the case sometimes. The role is to be cognizant of the legislative needs of the community and prioritize those needs. We know there are issues on every topic, but what has historically been the case is that as the legislation gets closer, the priorities begin to shape themselves.
Q: What would you do to prevent future flooding in your district?
A: To prevent future flooding is too broad of a question because there are so many variables that go with flooding. What we are already doing is working with the San Jacinto River Authority to make sure that we are better prepared as citizens in the event that we have another release like what occurred during Harvey. We’re working with other local governance and citizens to figure out what needs to occur to minimize the amount of flooding. The issues go from construction in flood-prone areas to the secondary challenges that come from Harris County. Whenever Harris County can’t handle the water they’re receiving, it prevents the water we have from getting out. We’re working with them on their relief.
Q: What, if anything, should be done to improve the public education system for districts statewide?
A: Some of the changes are as simple as moving dollars from the different programs into the base funding allotment. By putting the money there, it’s more equally balanced, it reduces the disparity between chapter 41 and 42 districts. That’s been the efforts from the 83rd and 84th legislative sessions—to reduce the amount of moving pieces in there. I’m one of those people that believes that, if we don’t get hit with another major catastrophic event, this could be a session that does pick up and focus more on educational funding. There are conversations about restructuring how that funding would look and shift it away from its current dependency on ad valorem taxes. We’ve also got to get away from unfunded mandates who are pushing programs that have cost out on our school districts and leaving them to come up with solutions to deal with those costs. The other piece that I have certainly been in dialogue with our school districts about is: what facets of the business of public education are strictly there because of the bureaucracy that is pushed out by legislative effort? If we can reduce the amount of unnecessary functions that school districts are required to do, that are not tied to educational aspects or extracurricular activity, then we can do more things with those same dollars. We need to determine how to take the burden of bureaucracy off of our public schools and we’ve got to get our arms around how to maximize the dollars we receive from the federal government.
Q: What national issue do you think is of greatest concern or importance for your district?
A: Immigration reform is the biggest issue across the nation right now, and if you listen there are some very conservative solutions available. Ironically I have written an immigration reform plan even though I don’t get to carry federal legislation, as a state representative concerned about citizens and about the economic viability of not only Texas, but the country, figuring out an answer to immigration reform ties into figuring out the solution to establishing a domestic workforce adequate in education and size to address the economic drivers that are in place right now.