AUSTIN, Texas — Texas lawmakers are still settling back into their homes now that the 86th Texas Legislative Session is over, but members of the Austin delegation came to KVUE Thursday to sit down with Anchor and Political Reporter Ashley Goudeau to share their thoughts on the last 140 days.
The senior lawmakers on the panel, Senator Kirk Watson, Representative Donna Howard and Representative Celia Israel, agree the 2019 session was much more collaborative than in years past. The lawmakers said that while there were some divisive issues this session, they are proud education was the focus.
Freshman lawmakers James Talarico and Sheryl Cole noted they were impressed by Speaker Dennis Bonnen's decision to place them on important committees, despite this being their first session, based on their talents and experience. Cole serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means, Redistricting and County Affairs. Talarico, a former middle school teacher, is on the House Committee on Public Education and Juvenile Justice and Family Issues.
The Democrats said every Texas lawmaker gets to go home with a trophy this year. For instance, House Bill 3, known as the school finance reform bill. It injects $11.5 Billion into the public school finance system with money to fund full-day pre-K for low-income children, pay teachers more and buy down property taxes. Members of the Austin delegation said the bill passed because all of their colleagues shared that common goal.
"We actually came in with the idea that we're going to try to do something that we have the political will for and the money for, and that was really address school finance and reforms," said Watson.
"We came in with money, that's always a game changer," added Howard.
"We came in with an election that changed the makeup of the body, especially on the House side, we came in with pent up frustration, I think, on the part of voters that, 'Hey, you guys are not paying attention to the things that are going to make a difference in the day-to-day lives of Texans.'"
While all the lawmakers were pleased with House Bill 3, they all voted against Senate Bill 2, known as the property tax bill. It reduces how much cities and counties can increase your property tax rates without voter approval from 8% to 3.5% and 2.5% for schools.
The delegation agrees, it won't deliver real relief for homeowners.
"It, in my view, was set up to be an effort by those in control at the Capitol to blame somebody else for their high property taxes, when really the cause of their high property taxes was because those in control at the Capitol had refused time and time again to fix the school finance system," said Watson.
"We already have property tax caps in the state and they're called elections," added Talarico. "And no one wants the Texas Legislature to be the city council of Texas. We elect city council members all across the region to do this important work, and it's not our job as legislators to interfere with that work."
To see more from the round table, tune into Texas This Week Sunday, June 2. It airs during KVUE Weekend Daybreak at 8:40 a.m.
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