By Joe Southern
State Rep. Ron Reynolds presented his “good, bad and ugly” review of the 85th Texas Legislature Thursday at the Missouri City Leadership Luncheon held at the Ben E. Keith company.
The Missouri City Democrat didn’t have very many highlights to report in a session dominated by Republican majorities in the House, Senate and Governor’s Mansion.
“We’re not proud of our federal government right now … and some of that has spilled into the Texas Legislature,” he said.
Reynolds said the Legislature passed the biennial state budget 135-14.
“I cast a no vote. I was one of the 14,” he said.
He said the two-year budget falls about $2 billion short of funding basic necessities and cut $1.2 billion from public education.
“This budget envisions Texas as a static place and represents the misguided priorities of state leadership,” he said.
He said the budget will force local districts to raise taxes to fill in the gap from state funding cuts.
“This pushes off the cost of public education to local cities and districts,” he said.
“We cannot balance budgets on the backs of the middle class and poor,” he added. “I know we can and must do better.”
He talked about his push for bills on elections, human trafficking, standardized testing in schools, mental health and also passage of the Sandra Bland Act which reforms accountability in law enforcement.
Reynolds’ “bad” bills were ones he said that should have passed but did not. Among those were bills supporting equal pay for equal work, full-day pre-kindergarten, school finance reform and ones championing small business. He said lawmakers were on track to pass finance reform for public schools when Republican leadership “added a poison pill to it” in the form of vouchers.
Reynolds said that a lot of the “ugly” bills are ones that passed that he feels should not have. Those bills include the sanctuary city bill that requires law enforcement officers to cooperate with federal authorities and to honor requests to hold non-citizen inmates who are subject to deportation. Part of the bill allows officers to question a person’s immigration status upon detainment.
One bill that did not pass but will be the centerpiece of the special session of the legislature that was to begin Tuesday is the so-called bathroom bill that requires people to use the restroom that correlates to their biological gender. The bill has been vilified by gay rights supporters as being discriminatory against transgendered people.
In an earlier interview with the Fort Bend Star, Reynolds said there are some things in the special session he is looking forward to.
“A few surprising and positive items on the Governor’s special session call are approving a $1,000 pay raise for public school teachers, create a commission to study the Texas school finance system, studying the causes of our rising maternal deaths in Texas, and addressing issues of mail ballot fraud. As the author of HB 861 during the regular session, which would have provided teachers with a pay raise, and as a member of the Elections Committee, I am looking forward to working on these important issues that actually matter to Texans,” Reynolds said.
In concluding his remarks to the Leadership Luncheon, Reynolds said, “we need to invest in classrooms, not bathrooms.”
In press releases sent last week, Reynolds went into more detail about some of the bills he plans to push during the special session. Reynolds filed HB 133 to raise the minimum wage in Texas to $15 an hour.
“Raising the minimum wage in Texas to $15 an hour will put more money into the pockets of hard-working Texans and it is a critical step in creating an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few. We need to close the economic gap here in Texas, working work-full time and trying to support a family on less than $15,000 a year is impossible,” he said.
He will also be urging his colleagues to support the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as “Obamacare.”
“Access to affordable healthcare should not be a partisan issue. As per the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution, it is our right to promote the general welfare of the people. Within this right is the power to ensure each American has access to quality health care,” Reynolds said.
“I am pleased to announce the filing of House Concurrent Resolution 17 which urges the United States Congress to preserve the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” he continued. “Moreover, HCR 17 invites the Texas Secretary of State to forward copies of the resolution to the President of the United States and to be admitted in the U.S. Congressional Record as a memorial.”