The Texas Legislature heads back to work in a few weeks amidst a pandemic.
State Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster) just got elected to Texas Senate District 30 after a runoff with Dallas salon owner Shelley Luther.
“We have got really 21 days before session starts. So, it’s getting up to speed, moving from one side of the building to the other side, getting staff up and ready, and making sure we are working with constituents,” Springer said.
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He puts the COVID-19 response at the top of his priority list.
“I think the top priorities need to be dealing with our COVID response and that is also addressing the governor's executive powers. It is one of the first bills I filed, and so I think that is going to be one of the top priorities. After that, you know, you’ve got the budget, you’ve got redistricting. But I still want to make sure we are working on property tax and there is a handful of other bills I think are important too,” Springer said.
On the other side of the aisle -- Texas Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, also puts COVID-19 at the top of the list.
“Recovering from COVID-19, it has to be the priority for this next legislature. We have a health care crisis in the state where a lot of people have been affected by the pandemic. We have the highest number of uninsured of any state in the nation. In addition, the pandemic has caused a lot of economic damage to people across our state. Unemployment stands at over 8% now, which is incredibly high for Texas, so we have a lot of work to do to help Texas recover from the pandemic both in terms of the economy and in terms of our health,” Turner said.
In addition to the budget, this is the year that lawmakers will take a look at the census numbers and draw new district lines. Education will also be discussed.
“It is critical that we protect the gains that we made in public education two years ago," Turner added. "We can’t go back on that progress, that is going to be vitally important to do that, but clearly, I think that the legislature is going to have to tackle a lot of different priorities this session."
One big question for lawmakers: Should the state tap into the rainy day fund?
“It’s absolutely is time to use the rainy day fund. That is what that fund is for is for times like this. We absolutely must do that, and we have to prioritize,” Turner said.
“We used the rainy day fund last session. I think we are definitely in an economic downturn. I think using some of that rainy day fund will be part of the solution, but look, we also need to tighten our belts, look at where we have become too big and make cuts where appropriate, but I think it’s a balance of those two things,” Springer said.
A lot of balancing is likely to happen as lawmakers get ready to meet on Jan. 12.