I believe the Texas Senate works together best when each legislator adds his or her unique point of view to the policy conversation. Every one of my colleagues presents bills that reflect their core beliefs and inform citizens about their character. Read on and discover some of the issues I've helped address through legislation.
Improving Public Education
High-quality public education is both necessary for Texas’ continued economic prosperity and guaranteed in our Constitution. Unfortunately, too many people in state government view public education funding with a “whatever is left” mentality, rather than the most important investment that we can make in the future. When adequately funded, public education can lift not only families, but entire communities, out of poverty.
I have fought for several sessions to fully fund our public schools, and I will continue to be an advocate for our children, who deserve all the opportunities we can give them. Of course, funding alone doesn't ensure a successful public education system. Attention must be paid to education policy and curriculum, as the Legislature did in the 83rd session by reducing the number of high-stakes tests our students are required to take to graduate, as well as giving students more curriculum choices. Now, teachers can spend more time educating our children, not just creating good test-takers.
I have also supported legislation designed to ensure that every student is college- or career-ready when they leave high school, armed with the skills necessary to compete in the Texas of today, and the Texas of tomorrow.
Accessible, Open, & Transparent Government
Government should always strive to be easily accessible, open, and transparent. We live in an age where information is readily available twenty-four hours a day on the internet, so government information should be as accessible online as well.
I am a staunch supporter of the Open Meetings and Open Records Acts and, in the 83rd session, I carried a bill that would have allowed Texans to register to vote online. I have also supported legislation requiring homeowners associations to be more transparent and state agencies to post their audit reports online.
Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness
On Christmas Day in 2003, Jovonie Ochoa, a 5-year-old San Antonio boy, was starved to death by his family. This tragedy sparked an outcry in the community, and I was compelled to establish the Blue Ribbon Task Force. Since its inception, the task force has united concerned citizens, community leaders, and local and regional businesses in the fight against child abuse and neglect.
Blue Ribbon Task Force volunteers have joined me in a number of block walks that brought the message of hope and support to young families who need it the most. We routinely organize events in the district aimed at raising awareness about this important issue that also strive to foster a sense of community. Through the Blue Ribbon Task Force, I am able to help affect real change for a cause two which I have dedicated my public service—decreasing the instances of child abuse and neglect in Texas.
Texas is a vast state with abundant natural resources. Unfortunately, fresh water is not one of them. In 2013, Texans approved Proposition 6, a measure that dedicated $2 billion to funding water projects across the state. While this is a great first step, we have a lot of work ahead. I am committed to continuing my work on the Senate Natural Resources & Economic Development Committee so that even in times of drought, our families, businesses, and municipalities have the water they need to sustain our way of life, our economy, and our future.
Texas is undergoing a historic energy boom, thanks to drilling technologies that were not available even a few years ago. If industry can turn on a dime in the face of new technology, so must our state government. I’ve worked closely with the energy industry to assure that our communities are ready for and benefitting from this historic energy production activity.
As a member of the nationwide Energy Council, I will continue to play an important role in ensuring that industry, communities, and state government all move forward as partners invested in the success of the energy economy.
Thousands of Americans are moving to Texas every day, and our population is expected to double over the next fifty years. This increase in population means that many more cars and trucks will be on the road. Unfortunately, our road capacity has failed to keep up with population growth, and the resulting traffic congestion is getting worse every year.
Sitting in stop-and-go traffic is more than just lost time with your family and friends; it’s a warning sign that Texas is behind on expanding the infrastructure we rely on to keep our economy strong. The condition of our roads is also important, and nowhere is that need more apparent than in the areas of our state that are undergoing surges of energy production activity.
In 2013, I fought and secured additional funds for our county and state roads in areas affected by energy production. I also continue to fight the conversion of paved roads to gravel roads because it sets a dangerous precedent in a state that relies so heavily on the fortunes of the energy economy.