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Tarrant lawmakers describe their highs and lows from the session

Posted Saturday, Jun. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Local lawmakers headed to Austin earlier this year with high hopes.

They arrived with a variety of goals, including boosting funding for public education, adding money for transportation, increasing transparency in government and protecting gun owners’ rights.

Not everybody got everything.

But most say they were able to accomplish at least some of what they wanted in the 83rd legislative session that ended Memorial Day. They immediately began a 30-day special session.

Here’s how Tarrant County lawmakers assessed the session:

Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury

Pro: He was proud to serve on the Sunset Advisory Commission this session because he hoped to cut government waste and curb unnecessary state spending.

Con: He was disappointed that the so-called “campus carry” bill didn’t pass.

Other: “As with any legislative session, I believe we are leaving this one with some wins and some losses. The biggest victory for Texans is that we have begun a conversation, in earnest, about the serious and ever-increasing need to expand our water resources and to determine a reliable means to sustain and expand our transportation infrastructure.”

Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth

Pro: She believes the Legislature’s key accomplishments include restoring $3.4 million for public education, passing an equal pay for equal work bill, ensuring that Texas tax dollars are used to hire Texans when contracting for highway construction, and helping veterans better ease into private employment.

Con: The Legislature’s inability to make “real progress” on job creation, healthcare, transportation needs, and strengthening ethics laws, as well as reining in abuses in payday lending.

Other: “The failure of Gov. Perry to lead on healthcare has left our state vulnerable,” she said. “Instead of leveraging and investing $4 billion in federal funding to improve access to healthcare to Texans and to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, he has stubbornly allowed other states to take advantage of our tax dollars.”

Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills

Pro: Passing Senate Bill 398, which helps Cowboys Stadium land Bowl Championship Series national championship games by adding language so that the NCAA’s new championship format — a four-team, three-game playoff starting in 2014 — remains eligible for funding through the state's Major Events Trust Fund.

Con: Seeing the death of a proposal, SB 675, that would have ensured that vulnerable Texans wouldn’t be denied life-sustaining treatment. He said the measure would have prevented a hospital ethics committee from allowing life-sustaining treatment to be withheld based on a patient’s age or disability or if they were terminally ill.

Other: “Texans will have fared very well with a balanced budget that creates no new taxes, preserves a strong Economic Stabilization Fund, provides needed tax relief and improves our education system. Additionally, important legislation protecting Second Amendment rights and making government more transparent and efficient was passed.”

Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound

Pro: Reforming the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas and enhancing preventive health services for women, improving mental health options and better serving the needs of children in programs operated by Child Protective Services.

Con: Seeing Senate Bill 11, requiring drug testing for Texans on welfare, die in the House.

Other: “Texans entered this legislative session in the best shape of any state in the nation, and we left it even better,” she said. “One of the most important things we did was protect Texas’ economy, which is the best in the country, and after this session I believe it will remain the best for a long time.”

Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth

Pro: Standing with House Democrats in refusing to agree to fund the water infrastructure project or roads before progress was made to restore cuts made to public education two years ago.

Con: The Legislature’s inability to fully restore the funding cuts made last session.

Other: “This is the least-damaging session we’ve had in a decade, so Texans fared well in that the Legislature didn’t do much harm. We largely avoided more attacks on women’s healthcare, public education and voting rights. However, we are still well short of providing the bare minimum in terms of public education funding, healthcare and environmental protections.”

Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake

Pro: Representing residents in District 98, serving as chairman of the Freshman Republican Caucus and fighting for “constitutional principles and limited government.”

Con: A lack of pro-life legislation reaching the floor, lack of infrastructure funding and a lack of prioritizing spending “to protect our financial future.”

Other: “I stood for the promises I made in the campaign and listened to the thousands of emails and phone calls my office received from District 98 residents. Some of the more positive aspects of the session included the focus on transparency for government agencies, disclosure for political officials, bringing the retirement pensions closer to financial soundness and supporting local measures.”

Rep. Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth

Pro: Drafting and passing House Bill 2620, which creates a task force to examine domestic violence against pregnant and postpartum women, and standing with state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, to talk to death the measure to require drug testing for Texans on welfare.

Con: Not being able to pass a measure creating a task force to study why so many minority children are being referred to special education.

Other: “I came to the Capitol with the number one goal of representing the interests of the residents of House District 95, and that's what I did,” she said. “Even legislation that we were not able to pass this session furthered the discussion in subjects that are important to my community.”

Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth

Pro: Passing legislation requiring politically active nonprofit organizations to reveal their contributors, even though the governor vetoed the bill.

Con: Not putting enough money toward the state’s transportation needs and having his “dark money” bill vetoed by the governor.

Other: He said he won’t give up efforts to require politically active nonprofit groups to reveal contributors. “It gave me reason to run for the House again,” he said. “It will be the first bill I file. ... We’re not trying to limit how much money people can spend. We’re not trying to say you can’t take money. We’re just trying to say, where does it come from?”

Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth

Pro: Passing his first bill, HB 1330, which helps the Benbrook Water Authority with enabling legislation and moving the date of the election for the directors of the authority.

Con: “I wish I had a little more say in the way things are run, but I understand I’m a freshman,” he said. “Hopefully, with more sessions under my belt, I’ll have more say.”

Other: “This is the highest honor of my life to represent District 97,” he said. “I pinch myself every day I go into the Capitol. It has been a huge learning experience.”

Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth

Pro: Adding amendments to protect businesses and to ensure that individuals receive quality care to Senate Bill 7, which overhauls how Medicaid is managed in Texas.

Con: Not seeing more bills pass that would curb government spending, protect gun owners’ rights and protect life.

Other: “I would have liked to see the state spend within its means this session,” she said. “I feel that withdrawing billions of dollars from the state’s reserve bank account, during a record surplus year, sets a bad precedent.”

Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth

Pro: Advocating for conservative public policy and helping pass the bill ensuring that the first college football playoff championship game will be played at Cowboys Stadium.

Con: Not being able to pass his “Come and Take It” Firearms Protection bill, which would have let Texas law officers enforce only firearms regulations on the books in the state — and let federal officials come to Texas to enforce any federal firearms laws they see fit.

Other: The theme of the session should have been “missed opportunities,” he said. “With 95 Republicans who mostly all ran on a platform of limiting government and conservative principles, one would have hoped that more conservative legislation would have been sent to the governor.”

Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington

Pro: The state budget that remained below the constitutional spending limit, gave more than $1.3 million in business tax relief and began truth in budgeting. Also important was the education reform bill to reduce the number of standardized tests.

Con: Little progress was made on transportation and infrastructure this session.

Other: “Texans expected us to address important infrastructure issues such as water, education, and transportation in order to keep a strong and flourishing economy,” she said. “The Legislature restored funding for public education as is necessary for providing an educated work force that can compete in a global economy.”

Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford

Pro: Passing a bill to give some children of military service members more time with their parents. The bill gives those children five days of excused absence from school when their parent is about to be deployed or has returned home from deployment.

Con: Not seeing pro-life bills reach the House floor.

Other: “I would give the session a C minus. We didn’t raise taxes, but we did spend all of a surplus without addressing the state’s most important needs. We passed a few bills improving our CHL [concealed handgun] laws, but we didn’t pass any major expansion of Second Amendment rights. We didn’t pass any pro-life legislation, but we also didn’t refund Planned Parenthood.”

Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie

Pro: Passing legislation to protect children, help Gold Star families, keep state waterways safe, make it easier for veterans to find employment and protect tenants from unexpected utility disconnects.

Con: That the Legislature didn’t expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Other: “The overall theme this session was about getting back to the true priorities of Texans and their families. The last session was a serious departure from those priorities, and it was my goal to get back to the Legislature and refocus on the issues that really matter and that really make a difference — healthcare, public education, transportation and water.”

Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington

Pro: Carrying a measure that would create a consortium to continue research, selection and use of adult stem cells. Even though it didn’t pass, he said it made headway and might have a better chance in the future.

Con: That his bill regarding adult stem cells didn’t pass.

Other: “My concerns are that we didn’t get anything done really with transportation. And I didn't like the way we did some of the funding. I would have preferred not to have taken as much money out of the rainy day fund. I would much more prefer to allow the increases in the general revenue to have been reduced and take some of that money out.”

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley

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