Government

Latest Columns

Bipartisanship inspired by our nation’s heroes

The Veterans Apprenticeship and Labor Opportunity Reform Act (VALOR) Act makes it easier for businesses to offer apprenticeships to veterans. By cutting out redundant bureaucratic red tape and unnecessary procedures at the VA, this bill smooths a veteran’s transition from the battlefield to the workplace.

Fired up over barbecue carve-outs

Restaurant lobbyists will have a chance to fix scale regulations during the new legislative session in 2019. I will be there again to oppose them. Until then, I must implement the law as written. While some barbecue restaurants are now exempt from regulation of their food scales, most are not.

The decline of Democratic influence in the Texas House: 2009-2017

Centrist Republicans rule the roost in the Texas House. That has not changed since the 2009 coup that ousted Craddick. What has changed is the structure of legislative alliances. Between 2009 and 2014, the dominant alliance was between Democrats and centrist Republicans, with many movement conservative Republicans often finding bills they opposed passing over their objections.

Rolling back the red tape

Federal rules and regulations are a very real and expensive burden on Americans. They drive up the cost of everyday items families need and make it harder for the economy to grow — a critical feature of job creation. And they are often a barrier to agencies, charities and even brave individuals taking quick and emergency action to get people help.

Hiding a real problem behind a bogus property tax reform

The Senate’s proposal to limit cities and counties from raising the funds they need to pay police officers, firefighters and paramedics is a bad idea. Senate Bill 1, as this proposal is called in this special legislative session, would also threaten local funding for health care, parks and libraries. Fund public education and the rest will take care of itself.

An open letter from one disabled person to another

In 2014, I tried to go to the polls to vote. I knew the additional voting requirements of showing a photo ID would likely pummel any hopes that the disability community would have in accumulating political power. I realized I had an opportunity to shine a spotlight on how the law had disenfranchised me of my voting rights.

The new United States of America

An alliance of states was announced to follow the Paris agreement’s terms and it became clear that the states had begun to reassert themselves. California has reached an accord with Quebec. The Canadian government is in talks with Texas, Florida, and other states. They are ready to take on responsibilities abandoned many years ago.

George Washington set the standard on term limits

Setting limits on the time politicians can serve in a particular office will not solve all the problems with Washington’s broken culture. However, I believe it will help achieve a much-needed, positive dynamic: more courage to solve the big problems for our country rather than congressional leaders planning their careers and protecting their longevity.

Ethics, vetoes and pay-for-play politics

Appointing officials to state boards and commissions is one of the most important roles of the Texas governor. Individuals appointed to positions in public agencies and on state boards should be chosen on the basis of their qualifications, not their ability to donate money. We owe it to the people of Texas to take money out of the equation, ensuring that all Texans can be equally considered for these appointments on the basis of merit alone.

We lawmakers didn’t do enough for average Texans

Sometimes I wonder if the august body of the Texas Legislature remains true to the Reagan ethos of servant leadership. Where is the humanity? Where is the compassion for the least among us? Can the blind ideology of libertarianism adequately address the pain and suffering of our fellow Texans? This session, it seems as though some members have chosen fealty to an unseen, nihilistic special interest over the lives of those who they were sent here to represent.

What Rainy Day Fund?

Legislators frittered away the Rainy Day Fund long ago. Sure, it has a cash balance — according to the books, anyway. But that cash, amounting to roughly $10 billion, is offset by debt, amounting to roughly $50 billion.

Acts of war and the limits on presidential power

Our founders were both realists and idealists. They knew the terrors of war and prepared for its eventuality. They also believed the decision to commence war, or even engage in potentially provocative and aggressive offensive military action, was too terrible and momentous to entrust to one or even a select group of elected officials.

The Economic Stabilization Fund: A Texas legacy

The irony with long-term issues is they don’t need to be solved immediately, yet because they do not need to be solved immediately, those issues are rarely adequately funded in each state budget. The Texas Legacy Fund within the ESF would allow the state to better manage long-term issues, which are the greatest threat to our state’s AAA credit rating.

In Texas, libraries transform

From enrichment to education, libraries transform how we as patrons engage in the world around us by providing access to resources and by developing programs specific to the needs of our communities. In the years ahead, the services that libraries provide will be essential as more and more cities adopt aging-in-place initiatives.

Outdated sales tax system thwarts Texas businesses

Ten percent of retail transactions are now online, and this proportion increases every year, while sales tax collection for the state of Texas has increased anemically. As our sales tax collections stagnate, lost revenue will be made up with higher taxes elsewhere, most likely through property taxes and additional cuts.

The only bill the Texas Legislature has to pass

State government will close its doors on Thursday, August 31. The only way those doors will open the next day is if the Legislature can pass a budget that is certified to balance by Comptroller Glenn Hegar and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott. While an early start to the Labor Day weekend might sound good to students, failure is not an option.

A smart wireless strategy for Austin

Wireless connectivity amplifies every aspect of daily life, from improving transportation and public safety to enhancing business and personal communications. Yet Austin's current wireless infrastructure is as frustratingly clogged as its streets and highways.

Don't blame oil prices for budget woes

A 4 percent budget cut may not seem like much to the casual observer, but for a state that already underinvests in critical public services like education and health care, it represents potentially significant cuts to services that help Texans compete and succeed in life.

Abbott's constitutional wish list

There is much to be said for Gov. Greg Abbott’s call for a new convention to revise the U.S. Constitution. Unfortunately, ours is the most difficult to amend in the world, making his proposal more of a wish list than a practical program.

Criminalizing moving apps hurts Texas

If Texas wants to retain its status as the envy of the nation in terms of opportunity and economic growth, it must not allow government to restrict the advance of the free market to the point of criminalization just to serve the narrow business interest of industry incumbents.

The fallacy of the separation of church and state

Those who would remove religion completely from the public square have hijacked the phrase "separation of church and state," to the point that many believe those five words are found in the Constitution. Of course they are not, and neither is this radical doctrine of a religion-free culture.

Kill the margins tax

Given the potential for big economic benefits, Texas lawmakers would be wise to use every available dollar this year to fully repeal the state's business tax, also known as the margins tax.

Reform state purchasing now

Texans must feel confident that their tax dollars are being used wisely and fairly. As the state's chief financial officer, I'm committed to transparency and trustworthiness in the contracting and purchasing process.

A gross overreach in Houston

In today’s polarized society, it’s often hard to find areas of consensus. But thanks to the city of Houston's outlandish subpoenas of pastors' sermons, we’ve found something that we can all agree on.