Archive for January, 2017

Developing a Responsive Agenda for Texans

January 31, 2017

By Rep. John Zerwas

This last week marked the beginning of Texas’ 2017 legislative session. I am honored to once again have the privilege of serving the citizens of District 28. It is a responsibility that I do not take for granted, and one for which I have the highest respect.

The Legislature will contend with several issues that are impacting Texans all over the state, and must do so within the confines of a compressed economy. One of the Texas Legislature’s greatest responsibilities is developing and passing a budget each session that determines how taxpayer dollars will be spent for the following two years. We must ensure that taxpayer money is spent as efficiently as possible and demand accountability from state agencies for each dollar that the Legislature appropriates. The Legislature must also ensure that the state adequately funds our priorities while at the same time working to prevent unnecessary additional burden to the taxpayer by way of increased local property taxes.

Budget reductions in certain areas may be necessary, but cuts alone are a blunt tool that, in isolation without policy change, are likely to result in unintended consequences that can negatively impact vulnerable populations. Although the state should continue to make every effort to contain costs, we should also seek ways to foster policy innovations that allow state agencies to exercise flexibility.

I look forward to working with my colleagues on the issues that are important to Texans, such as mental health, reform of the foster care system, and funding of public and higher education. Although this legislative session will not be without challenges, I remain optimistic that much can and will be accomplished.

Representative John Zerwas, M.D. (R-Richmond) is serving his 6th legislative term and is a member of the Legislative Budget Board.

Shedding light on the political process

January 25, 2017

By Rep. Charlie Geren

The Texas Legislature has an opportunity to create a more transparent and accountable government. Governor Abbott has rightfully made ethics reform a centerpiece of his administration, and I am honored to carry a number of bills that would help shed more light on our political process. These proposals governing conflicts of interest, campaign nance reform and relationships with lobbyists, for example, were championed by me and my colleagues on the campaign trail. Our election on these platforms show us that this is an important issue for Texans. Now is the time to make good on our campaign promises.

Increasing transparency in our political process is not only the right thing to do, but it is essential if we are going to be responsive to the voters. Time and again, poll numbers have shown that Texans want more accountability in Austin. Consider that 75 percent of voters support a measure that would require all organizations spending money in Texas electoral politics to disclose the source of their donations and report their expenditures. Texans want to know their representatives are beholden to the voters, not special interests. Lobbyists also need to be held more accountable and my reforms will strengthen their reporting requirements.

The bottom line is that the public’s trust in our elected officials needs to be strengthened and, in some cases, restored. As responsible conservatives, we must be disciplined – and consistent – in our calls for transparency and reform. These are not new concepts. We have discussed and debated them in past legislative sessions. However, many of these bills are stripped of any worth by the time they make it through both chambers. The Legislature has the opportunity to deliver the kind of open and transparent government they deserve.

Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) represents parts of Tarrant County and District 99. He currently serves as Chairman of House Administration.

Obama turning out the lights

January 20, 2017

By Rep. Drew Darby

The end of the Obama administration cannot come soon enough. For the past eight years, Texas energy producers have been in the crosshairs with each new announcement of major rules and regulations. Some of these proposals became infamous for the audacity, from the Clean Power Plan, to the Water of the U.S. Rule, Methane Rules for cows, forests, homes and businesses, expansions of the Endangered Species classifications, Cross-State Air Pollution, and the Haze Rule. The list could go on and on and has. These initiatives were very costly to fight in federal court. In many cases they were turned back, but some were upheld and have become even costlier to administer and comply under. Lost jobs and higher cost for Texas energy consumers mattered little to this administration that was intent on pushing the boundaries of what was lawful.

While relief is coming, Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency is fast-tracking many midnight regulations with impacts greater than $100 million per year that could be difficult for President Trump, his administration and the Republican-controlled Congress to undo. These regulations threaten to turn out the lights by shuttering Texas’s fleet of electricity generating plants. I support Congress taking effective steps to reverse these rules and pass common-sense laws like the proposed Midnight Rule Relief Act to prevent any President from pushing onerous regulations in the closing days of their term. Bringing regulatory certainly to Texas energy producers and consumers keeps the lights on and makes this nation energy independent.

Rep. Darby represents Texas House District 72, which is comprised of Coke, Concho, Glasscock, Howard, Irion, Reagan, Runnels, Sterling, and Tom Green Counties. In the past legislative session, he served as Chairman of the House Energy Resources Committee and as a member of the House Ways & Means Committee.

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