Transportation, public education and border security are among key issues as the Texas Legislature gears up for its upcoming session.
The 84th Legislative Session was the focus of a Dec. 10 luncheon of the Bay Area Houston Transportation Partnership.
Reps. Greg Bonnen, Larry Taylor and Ed Thompson were among attendees at the luncheon, along with representatives-elect Gilbert Pena and Dennis Paul.
Taylor told the audience that big changes are coming to Texas, and although the state has been blessed with resources and an economy that is doing well, there are also challenges.
One of those challenges, he pointed out, is the reason BayTran is here.While Texans did overwhelmingly pass Proposition 1 – the Texas Transportation funding amendment — it does not signal the end of the state’s transportation issues, Taylor said.
“That’s a good thing, but it’s not the only thing,” he said. “It’s not the complete solution to our problems. We will continue to work on that this coming session.”
Rep. Thompson, who represents Brazoria County, agreed that mobility will be a key issue this session.
Transportation is a topic he said he is often asked about.
“If you want to know how I’m going to vote on transportation, meet me in the middle of 288 at 6:30 in the morning,” Thompson told the audience.
Having served in economic development roles in Pearland, Thompson emphasized that roads actually are an economic development tool.
“I’m old enough to know and remember when the 610 Loop was built,” he said, “and if you ride around the 610 Loop and look at all the businesses, you drive around the Beltway and you see what’s going on and now the Grand Parkway, it’s pretty obvious to me that roadways are a really important economic development tool as well as very important to our economy and moving products and people.”
He agreed the passing of Proposition 1 is helpful, but not a complete solution.
“I fully see us addressing (transportation) in a big way,” he said.
Education is another key topic as the session begins, along with border security.
“As many of you have seen, there’s a lot of discussion around our border,” Thompson said. “Our border is just something I think we as Texans understand we are going to have to deal with and something we are going to address. From a federal standpoint, they’re going to sort of offload that to us, and we’ll continue to push back and try and get them to take that responsibility. I am very much in favor of doing what we need to do to protect our border and protect the citizens of Texas.”
Rep. Bonnen pointed out that the budget is central to the upcoming session.
“What will the top issues be? For sure public education will be a critical issue in this budget,” Bonnen said. “There is litigation that has been ongoing now for more than a couple of years.
Transportation, he said, will be the “water” of the 84th session.
“Water was the big infrastructure item when we met last session,” he said, “and it’s still of critical importance and will still require a lot of effort, a lot of energy and a lot of attention as we move forward. The steps that we took to address our need for water are part of a much broader plan that’s designed to carry us through the next 50 years.”
Now, he said, transportation has clearly moved to the forefront.
“The critical need that we have there is appreciated,” he said. “Certainly we appreciate that Prop. 1 passed, but there is more work to be done.”
He agreed with others that a sustained effort regarding border security also is a high priority.
“We know that if we put uniformed, well equipped, well trained law enforcement on the border it actually makes a difference,” he said. “We have the statistics; we have the data to demonstrate that.
The Department of Public Safety, he said, will likely be the vehicle of choice.
“Moving forward, we want to invest in DPS, have them raise the size of their force not neglecting the rest of the state,” he said, “but having people down on the border doing what we can to make that a safe place.”