While the makeup of the Texas House and Senate changed slightly following the November 2018 election, what didn’t change is the main focus, which Rep. Trent Ashby said will be school finances.
The recently re-elected District 57 Republican Ashby, who represents Madison County, said that schools will top the list of issues of the biennial session, which begins Tuesday, Jan. 8.
Also, Ashby said that there will be a new Speaker of the House in Texas, at least as far as his tenure is concerned, which will bear some watching. The presumptive speaker, Dennis Bonnen, is a friend, he said, and is an exciting development for the district.
Public education will have to be placed front and center of any policy issues, Ashby said.
“While we made some strides in the last session, we still haven’t addressed our broken and inequitable finance system,” he said. “Our top priority must be to fix this in a way that increases the state’s contribution to public schools rather than relying on the local taxpayers to foot the bill through property taxes.”
We must assure that schools have the resources to provide quality education and take care of active and retired educators, he said.
“This will be an education session,” he said.
Following that, school safety will be another top issue for legislators to focus on.
“Following the tragedy of the shooting in Santa Fe, Gov. Greg Abbott directed several discussions to find improvements that can be made in the area of school safety,” Ashby said. “The is a framework that exists now that is multi-faceted, and includes mental health screenings, expanded improvements to police staffing, and allowing schools to join existing programs for arming school staff.”
The only item that is mandated by the state Constitution to be addressed is a state budget, and Ashby said there is good news for that, because sales tax revenue is growing, in some cases by 10 percent.
“This economic growth is great news for the state,” he said. “This is important as we have expenses, such as health care, payments for natural disasters (like Hurricane Harvey) and other items that need to be addressed.”
Other issues that should be important to District 57 and the state include eminent domain and a new issue that has become forefront in the nation — opiod addiction.
Ashby said he hopes to see more transparency, strengthened private property rights and reduced litigation in connection with eminent domain actions.
“It is becoming more important that we strike a balance between the necessary infrastructure growth and fair and just compensation for landowners,” he said. “In our most recent session, I authored legislation that would have leveled the playing field, and I plan to support similar measures.”
Ashby said Texas has not escaped what has become a national crisis, as opiods have been found responsible for more than half of the overdose-related deaths in the state, claiming the lives of at least four Texans a day.