Forty-two days after the end of the 2019 Texas Legislative session ended, state Sen. Larry Taylor used two words to describe this year’s happenings in Austin.
Stressful and successful.
“Think of it like the championship in its closing seconds in the game in the fourth quarter with all the stress that’s going on, but then you won,” Taylor said. “That’s how I felt this session.”
But for all that grueling work, Taylor said lawmakers claimed two victories out of the latest biennial session: reforms to the state’s education funding and tax laws.
Taylor and the two other men who represent most of Galveston County in the legislature — state Reps. Greg Bonnen and Mayes Middleton — spoke at a luncheon held by the Texas City-La Marque Chamber of Commerce on Monday at the Doyle Convention Center in Texas City.
Education reform has been Taylor’s major focus for years. He’s the chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, and was one of the architects of the final version of House Bill 3, the education funding bill that Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law last month.
The bill made major changes in the way Texas public schools are funded, including lowering the amount that so-called property rich districts, including the school districts in Galveston and Texas City, have to pay out to other school districts.
“We passed landmark legislation, transformative legislation, more state funding is dedicated to where it’s needed the most,” Taylor said. He specifically touted increases for funding for programs to improve students’ reading by third grade.
Bonnen touted the Legislature’s balanced budget and tax reforms, and urged the crowd to vote for an income-tax banning constitutional amendment that will be on ballots statewide in November.
“I think that will ensure that for the foreseeable future, hopefully many, many years to come, there’s no worries about whether Texas is going to have a state income tax,” Bonnen said.
Middleton, who served his first term as a state representative this year, closed the luncheon by also noting some of the more socially conservative laws the legislature passed this session. Lawmakers passed, among other things, a bill prohibiting cities from taking action against businesses because of religious beliefs, and another that requires Texas universities to allow freedom of expression on their campuses.
Both bills were conservative causes this session. The former stemmed from an incident in which the city of San Antonio blocked a Chick-fil-A restaurant from operating in its municipal airport. The latter was in response to incidents such as when Texas A&M University in 2017 canceled an event planned by white nationalist Richard Spencer.
“Local government cannot discriminate against a business for its sincerely held religious beliefs, like we saw San Antonio do,” Middleton said. “Public universities were allowed to discriminate against certain kinds of free speech, and that’s not allowed anymore. What we’re saying is all speech should be respected at our public universities.”
“This session was a good session for faith and family,” he said.
Monday will probably not be the last time the three men tout their successes of the 2019 legislative session. Presuming they choose to run again, all three men would be up for re-election in the May 2020 primaries and the November 2020 general election.