Representative Goodwin’s Priorities
The 86th Legislature passed monumental school finance reform, in great part as a result of the 2018 elections and the voices of many teachers, parents, and school officials expressing the need to better fund our public schools. Here are highlights from HB 3, the school finance bill:
Increases the basic allotment, per student funding, from $5,140 to $6,160.
Guarantees pay raises for teachers and other school employees. Schools must spend at least 30% of the increase in basic allotment on raises.
Provides for full-day Pre-K for all 4-year-old students who qualify. This is no longer a grant program for part-day Pre-K, but is incorporated into the funding formula.
Decreases property tax rates - $.08 the first year and $.13 the second year. In other words, if a district’s tax rate was the maximum $1.17/$1000 valuation previously, it will go to $1.09/$1000 valuation in 2019 and $1.04/$1000 valuation in 2020.
No voucher program was debated or passed.
While this was a great achievement, it was merely a step forward, with more work to be done in the next Legislative Session. Here are suggestions going forward:
A more sustainable source of revenue, or a variety of sources, would allow for continued investment in our children even during an economic downturn.
Even with the raises, Texas teacher compensation will still be below the national average. Continuing to raise teacher pay will ensure we have the best and brightest teaching our next generation.
Full-day Pre-K could be extended to 3-year-olds.
More resources for special education are needed.
I was a part of the House Democratic Caucus Special Committee on Public Education in the 86th Session, and I plan to continue to work on public education issues in the 87th Legislative Session.
REDISTRICTING & GERRYMANDERING
While the 86th Legislative Session was focused on School Finance Reform, the 87th Session will focus on Redistricting after the 2020 census. Redistricting will have a significant impact on the next decade of representation at both the state and national level. There was no consensus on establishing an Independent Redistricting Committee to draw Congressional and Legislative boundaries during the 86th Session, and bills filed to do so never made it out of Committee. I will continue to advocate for a fair and nonpartisan redistricting process throughout the interim and into the next session.
Small gains were made in the area of health care during the 86th Legislative Session. As a result of several new laws, there will be more transparency in billing and no surprise billing, drug costs will be kept in check, and low-income women will be notified they may be able to access post-partum health care through the Healthy Texas Women Program once their Medicaid for Pregnant Women expires.
However, there are still too many uninsured Texans, and Texas is still not taking advantage of expanded Medicaid and bringing our federal tax dollars back home to Texas. Here are some of my goals for next session:
Expand Medicaid to provide more health care to more people, including therapies for children with disabilities and mental health treatments
Put women in charge of their own health, in consultation with their physicians
Ensure everyone has access to affordable health care
We all know Central Texas, with its continued growth, has not kept up with infrastructure needs. We have several transportation issues that need to be addressed. We need solutions for congestion and bottlenecks, better mass transit, and we also need to ensure our roads are safe. Over the past year, I worked with TxDOT, CapMetro and CTRMA to ensure they are prioritizing mobility in my district. Here are a few things I did in 2019:
Attended Open Houses relating to expansion of 360 near the Courtyard
Attended Open House for Route F in Steiner Ranch
Participated in the ribbon cutting for SH45 SW, opened June 1
Attended the ground breaking for the cut-through near Four Points
Brought CapMetro and Lago Vista city officials together to work on improved transit there
Filed a Safety Corridor bill to give local law enforcement more teeth when it comes to ensuring we are driving safely on our highways
I will continue to advocate for improved mobility and transit, as well as safer roads. I will also continue to work on the Safety Corridor solution during the next Legislative Session.
Texans must preserve and improve the environment to ensure clean air, clean water, and green spaces. Additionally, we must start a dialogue about ways to reduce our carbon emissions. During the 86th Legislative Session, climate change was not even whispered about in the Capitol. I joint-authored a bill with Rep. Rafael Anchia to establish a Commission on Climate Change, but the bill didn’t even get a hearing in committee. That must change.
We did take a step forward with regards to the TERP (Texas Emissions Reduction Program) Fund to make sure the fund can be utilized for its original purpose. In past years, the fund has been used to balance the budget, and the money has not been appropriated for emissions reduction programs as it should. Additionally, I was able to pass legislation to allow for a confirmation election for the Southwestern Travis County Groundwater Conservation District. Here are my plans going forward:
Continue to push for a Climate Change Commission in Texas
Ensure incentives for renewable energy and plug-in electric vehicles stay in place
Educate residents in the Southwestern Travis County Groundwater Conservation District about the upcoming confirmation election in Nov. 2019.
gun violence prevention
Having just served on the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee of the Texas House, I now realize the uphill battle we face in changing the dialogue about guns and gun violence in Texas. During a hearing in which I advocated for my bill to allow public universities to make the decision whether or not to allow guns on college campuses, I was scolded repeatedly by gun rights advocates who came close to threatening me for my bills. These “constitutional carry” supporters led to their own demise when they showed up at Speaker Bonnen’s home scaring his wife and children.
The one gun violence prevention bill that had advocates on all sides was Rep. Donna Howard’s “Safe Storage and Suicide Prevention Public Awareness Campaign.” Even that bill stalled out in the House. However, funding was added to the budget, so we may see the Safe Storage and Suicide Prevention campaign in coming months. I will continue to advocate for:
Requiring universal background checks on all gun sales and closing loopholes
Holding firm against “constitutional carry”
Adding additional safety training for gun owners, particularly for school marshals
In order to maintain Texas’ vibrant economy and low unemployment rate, we must invest equally in a business-friendly environment, our public education system, accessible health care, and a clean environment. I believe it’s time to put together a group of state leaders who will look at ways to broaden the tax base and develop new revenue streams that balance the needs of the state. We should also look at current tax exemptions and loopholes to ensure the exemptions are relevant and needed, and loopholes are closed. In the 86th Legislative Session, I filed a bill to close the agriculture exemption for properties located within gated, residential communities. Since the bill did not make it through the process, the Agriculture Committee may be studying the issue to determine if changes can and should be made in coming years.
“We the people” means ALL people, including sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ability, country of origin, and faith. I will always:
Treat all people with compassion, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity
Support anti-bullying legislation and efforts by educators and parents to squelch bullying in schools
Advocate for women’s rights and equal pay for equal work
As our federal government continues its stalemate regarding immigration, at the state level we must continue to take action to ensure fair and just treatment of immigrants from the time they cross the border. I will continue to advocate for reuniting children with their family or sponsors as quickly as possible. We should not split families in the first place.
For more, please see my Facebook posts on my statement on the border crisis, my visit to the Carrizo Springs HHS Shelter, and the July 2019 joint committee hearing on the border crisis.
STATE AGENCIES AND STATE EMPLOYEES
Throughout session, I heard from many state employees who haven’t received a raise in many years, and who are often getting training at state expense, but then moving on to work in private industry where the pay is greater. With the talk of teacher raises, I often heard, “What about us?” Next session, we must work to rectify the low pay for state employees.
While passing legislation is the focus of session, another important task of Legislators is to oversee state agencies. While on the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee (HSPS), I became familiar with the role of DPS, the Department of Public Safety, as well as TDEM, the Texas Department of Emergency Management. After the Deer Park fires, our committee, along with the Environmental Regulation Committee, met with the Texas Department of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and TDEM to ask questions about the fires and the response. During the interim, we will continue to follow up to ensure these agencies are taking the most appropriate action to ensure the safety of people in Texas.
In the 86th Legislative Session, local control was once again under attack. The state imposed a 3.5% trigger on local property taxes, meaning if the city, county, or emergency service districts raise the effective property tax rate above 3.5%, an election must be held so voters can approve the increase. The bulk of these budgets is for public safety: police, fire fighters, and EMS professionals. Local budgets also cover things like local road maintenance, parks and libraries, the court system, and other beneficial government services. I agree that budgets need to be transparent, and local entities should be fiscally smart, but tying the hands of our local governments doesn’t make sense. I will continue to work with and listen to the mayors and county officials within House District 47 to monitor the effect of this new legislation.
The state also tried to pre-empt cities from having local rules regarding such things as paid sick leave, breaks for workers, and short-term rentals. I believe in local control and allowing cities to set rules that serve their citizens. Regarding paid sick leave, several cities have now passed ordinances requiring businesses to provide paid time off for sick employees or employees who need to care for sick family members. Already 85% of businesses provide this benefit, and it has benefited both employees and employers. It’s time for a statewide policy so businesses that operate in multiple cities won’t have different rules to follow in each city.