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Area political groups gear up for legislative session

January 4, 2019

With the 86th Texas Legislative Session beginning on Jan. 8, political party groups in the area are preparing to advocate for their laws and goals for Texas, including topics like public education and criminal justice reform.

Both the local Democrat and Republican party groups are outlining not only their hopes for the legislative session, but also their goals as a party. While local groups like the Cy-Fair Area Democratic Club are looking to see education reform and the performance of newly elected Democratic officials, the Harris County Republican Party are aiming to get support for tax reform and constitutional carry.

Paul Simpson, chair for the HCRP, said the party is also looking to see changes in both mental health treatment in Texas schools, as well as a change in funding for public schools. He pointed to District 130 Representative Tom Oliverson as a proponent for those issues. Simpson said the party is looking to find a way to fund public schools properly other than by property taxes.

“From the Harris County area we have legislators looking at a lot of issues,” Simpson said. “I’d say three broad categories are education reform, tax reform and flooding mitigation. The party is always interested in election integrity too. We take a big role in that, ensuring fair and honest elections.”

According to the official Texas GOP website, the party’s other outlined priorities include constitutional carry, which would allow anyone legally possessing a handgun to carry it without a permit; pro-life advocacy; ending taxpayer-funded lobbying; and religious freedom and privacy, which is described as “legislation that protects the privacy and safety of women and children in multi-use facilities such as bathrooms, locker rooms and showers in all Texas schools and government buildings and [opposes] legislation that would undermine these privacy and safety protections.”

The CFADC and other state Democrats are focusing on education reform and funding, as well as voter rights, including same-day voter registration, online voter registration, repealing the Texas voter ID law and increasing voter turnout for the 2020 election.

Michael Floyd, Texas Democratic Party Treasurer, said education is a non-partisan issue, as some Democrats in the state, including himself, oppose the “recapture” legislation which allows some property tax revenue to be taken from wealthier districts and distributed to other districts.

Floyd said improving quality of education is a large priority for state Democrats, but the funding needs to be solved in a fashion that does not negatively impact economically disadvantaged students who go to school in a wealthier district.

“Public education has been, of course, slashed in Texas,” Floyd said. “We are ranked number 43rd in the nation in quality of education. We have the second largest population following California; the largest landmass in the contiguous United States, but we’re 43rd in education.”

Along with their previously mentioned priorities, Democrats are focused on criminal justice reform, including bail reform, which the party said is biased against certain demographics, including low-income and minority groups; and a ban on sub-minimum wage, or wages considered below the minimum amount.

Floyd said overall the session will be a chance for his party to represent itself in the House, as well as a chance to gain support for future candidates.

“We flipped two state senate seats,” Floyd said. “We’ve flipped two congressional seats in (congressional districts) 7 and 32. Across the board Democrats gained in over 31 congressional districts and several more … So, a couple things I think we can do as Democrats to make sure that we can actually gain in 2020. We need to make sure that we are sustaining members to the party itself.”

The legislative session begins on Jan. 8 in Austin. Representatives elected during the Nov. 2018 election will officially be sworn in to office on the same date.

chevall.pryce@chron.com

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