Issues & Accomplishments

All candidates make promises. Most have good intentions. But the real measure of legislative success is how effective a candidate is after election. While there is much that needs doing, my hope is that you will find my service both honorable and effective.

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Education

My main reason for seeking election was to try to improve education. Much of my time in the Legislature continues to be devoted to education issues. I have served on the Higher Education Committee (80th Session) and the Public Education Committee (81st and 82ndSessions). As a member of the Appropriations Committee I have served two sessions on the Article III subcommittee. That subcommittee’s task is to hear testimony and allocate resources to both Higher and Public Education. I am one of only two members of the Legislature with current experience on both the Public Education policy committee and the Article III Appropriations subcommittee. The other member, Rep. Hochberg (D-Houston), has announced he will not seek reelection. My colleagues in the Legislature will now look to me to find better solutions for school finance. That task must be Priority One for the upcoming session and will likely require one or more special sessions. During my three sessions, I have been author (including joint or coauthor) on almost twenty education related bills that have actually become law. That list includes:

  • Bringing Texas A&M University-Central Texas to Killeen
  • Securing funding for the first building at TAMU-CT (and tentatively a second building)
  • As one of the authors of HB4 and HB275 during the 82nd Session I helped make $5.8 billion available to Public Education. Without those bills the cuts to Public Education would have more than doubled.
  • Tuition exemption for children of disabled or K.I.A. veterans
  • Promoted career and technical instruction and coordination between high schools and colleges
  • Allowed teachers to record grievance hearings to assure fairness
  • Developed a path to create more “Tier I” research universities
  • Enhanced use of digital instructional material saving millions of dollars
  • Extended free public pre-kindergarten eligibility to military dependent children
  • And numerous others

When you vote to reelect me you can be assured that I will continue to put education as my top priority, and you can also be assured that my fellow legislators trust my judgment and experience.

Veterans & Military

Almost all of my adult life has been linked to Ft. Hood and veterans. I served as Post Veterinarian from 1970 to 1972. After signing out of the Army in 1972, I began private practice – obviously many of my clients for the next 30 years were veterans. Being a Veteran and serving veterans, I understand the issues that are important to veterans.During the past three sessions there have been many bills passed in an effort to help veterans. My position is simple – If it helps veterans, I vote yes. Some of the major accomplishments I have supported are:

  • A constitutional amendment that allows exemption from property tax on the homes of disabled veterans
  • Enabling legislation to extend the property tax exemption to surviving widows of disabled veterans
  • College tuition exemption for dependents of disabled veterans and veterans killed in action
  • Specialty license plates honoring veterans
  • Reduced fee for handgun licenses for veterans
  • Extended pre-kindergarten eligibility to veterans’ dependent children and stepchildren
  • Exempted deploying soldiers from a variety of fees including copies of documents, marriage licenses, property transfers, etc.
  • Enhanced loans to veterans by the Texas Veterans Land Board
  • Enhanced parental custody rights for deployed veterans
  • Expanded “Disabled Veterans” parking license plates
  • Extended waiver of hunting and fishing license fees
  • Exemption from probate fees for K.I.A. veterans

There were many more veterans’ issues. As you can see, I have supported and continue to support veterans’ issues. After all, I am a veteran.

Appropriations & Budget

At the start of the 82nd Legislature (2011), the message from voters was very clear…

“Do Not Increase Taxes”

Whether or not one agrees with that message, it was clear from the beginning that the economic slump would require the state to make hard choices in cutting billions of dollars in spending.

Unlike the Federal Government, Texas cannot print money. Texas also has a “Balanced Budget” amendment in our state constitution. Therefore, when the State Comptroller provides the Biennial Revenue Estimate, that figure is the maximum the Appropriations Committee can appropriate. (Tax increases must originate with the House Ways and Means Committee – not Appropriations.)

The first draft of the budget was short of revenue by more than $27 billion. About $9.8 billion of the shortage was in education. Another large portion of the shortage was in the Medicaid Program. ALL areas of the budget were closely scrutinized for places to reduce spending. Several programs were eliminated completely.

As chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Current Fiscal Condition, I along with several other Appropriations members was able to pass two very important bills – HB 4 and HB 275 – that had the net effect of reducing the budget shortfall significantly. As a result, the budget was reduced by about $15 billion (instead of $27 billion). Education cuts were reduced to $4 billion (instead of $9.8 billion). That entire discussion lasted for many hours both in Committee and on the House Floor.

Near the end of the session my position on the Article III Appropriations Subcommittee allowed me to advocate for and secure funding for “Communities in Schools” and “Big Brothers/Big Sisters.” Had I not been there, those programs almost surely would have been eliminated.

There were and are no easy answers to balancing the state’s needs against its revenue resources. Our revenue has been essentially flat for three biennia. At the same time, our population is growing rapidly. In recent months the State Comptroller has reported revenues exceeding her previous estimates. If that trend continues, I am hopeful that some of the very painful cuts can be reversed.

Water & Environment

During my tenure in the Legislature, we have addressed both the quality and quantity of our future water supply. The Texas Water Development Board recently completed their mandated plan for meeting water needs for the next 50 years. It will now be incumbent upon the Legislature to begin implementation of that plan.Another important aspect of water planning is the need to maintain sufficient flow in our streams to protect the environment. This is especially true for the “End Stream Flow” needed to keep our bays and estuaries healthy. During the 82nd Session I succeeded in passing HB155. This bill not only helps our local Water Control and Improvement District #1 better assure our future water supply, it has also allowed that Board to refinance bonds saving citizens more than $45,000 per year. It has also enabled W.C.I.D. #1 to begin operation of a brush/biosolids composting operation that will save over $200,000 annually while reducing environmental pollution and saving water. Additionally, TXDOT will use much of the mulch to reduce erosion on state highways.

Another accomplishment was the passage during the 82nd Session of HB 338. That bill more clearly defined the agency responsibilities in correctly listing noxious and invasive plants which are to be excluded from trade.

Transportation

If Central Texas is to continue its growth, transportation infrastructure must keep up with the increase in traffic. Decisions on transportation are decided by Texas Department of Transportation, not by legislation. Therefore, effectively advocating for transportation issues involves establishing good relations with both area and state decision makers. I believe my relationships have resulted in unprecedented attention to the transportation needs of Central Texas. Some of the issues I have advocated for include:

  • Overpass at S.H. 195 and F.M. 201
  • Completion of S.H. 195 to I-35
  • Widening U.S. 190 from Killeen to Ft. Hood
  • Copperas Cove by-pass
  • F.M. 2410/U.S. 190 turnaround
  • Completion of I-35 thru Bell County
  • “Pass-through Funding” for local projects
  • Extensive efforts to encourage the “second runway” project at our airport

Assignments While in Office

  • Chair, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Current Fiscal Condition (82nd)
  • Member, House Appropriations Committee (81st & 82nd)
  • Member, House Appropriations Article III Subcommittee (81st & 82nd)
  • Member, House Public Education Committee (81st & 82nd)
  • Member, House Higher Education Committee (80th)
  • Member, House Agriculture & Livestock Committee (80th)
  • Member, Legislative Council
  • House/Senate Interim Select Committee on School Weights & Allotments (81st)
  • Member, Energy Council
  • House Caucus Memberships:
    • Veterans Caucus
    • Rural Caucus
    • Texas Tourism Caucus
    • Conservative Caucus
    • Sportsman Caucus
    • Clean Air Caucus