Originally published on March 11, 2019.
183 years ago this month, Texas declared independence from Mexico. The following six weeks was a flurry of victories and defeats. The men of the Alamo were avenged on the fields of San Jacinto; General Sam Houston won the long game against General Santa Anna. The free and independent Republic of Texas was established.
The same desire for liberty that drove the first Texians to revolution continues to drive us today, though our battles look much different. Friday, March 8, marked the last day to file bills for the 86th Texas Legislature. More than 2,400 bills were filed; some pursue that idea of liberty. Many don’t.
My goal this session is to fight for those good bills that address the core issues: property taxes, education reform, the state budget. Though voting on the Senate floor has just begun, two bills have already passed.
The first bill to pass the Texas Senate officially was Senate Bill 3, providing a $5,000 raise to all classroom teachers and librarians. The teacher pay raise was coauthored by every member of the Texas Senate, passing with 31-0 support.
Parents aside, there is no greater impact on a child’s educational success than a teacher. And in order for this state to deliver on its Constitution promise of an efficient system of public free schools, we must have the ability to attract high-quality teachers to the field––and retain them.
We understand a simple salary raise alone will not keep teachers teaching, but it sure does help. The raise allocates $3.7 billion of the state’s general revenue and is the largest such state-funded salary increase in over 20 years. The Governor, Lt. Governor, and entire Texas Senate are in agreement that this investment is worth it for the future of Texas.
The second bill to pass was Senate Bill 10, which establishes the Texas Mental Health Care Consortium. Similarly, this bill was coauthored by every Texas Senator and received unanimous support. The bill allocates $100 million to foster collaboration among health-related institutions with the goal of researching and addressing mental health, specifically among youth. The Consortium will work hand-in-hand with parents, requiring consent before any assessment of a child. Mental health is an area in desperate need of more research and resources; this bill enables the state of Texas to help provide both.
These two bills are the first to finally pass through a chamber and shows the unity of the Texas Senate to tackle top priority issues. Many more are on the way.
Work continues in Senate Finance Committee, mapping out the state biennial budget. Finance Chair Jane Nelson has assigned Committee members to “workgroups” –– subcommittees of a sort, dedicated to inspections of specific areas of the Texas budget. I was assigned to two work groups: Articles I, IV, & V, covering General Government, the Judiciary, and Public Safety & Criminal Justice; and Article II, covering Health and Human Services. Otherwise, Criminal Justice Committee has its first meeting this week. Health & Human Services and Finance are also meeting.
In total, I have authored or coauthored almost 60 bills. We are approaching the halfway point in the Legislative Session; a little over 70 days remaining. Votes are beginning daily on the Senate Floor. Hundreds of letters and calls are coming in weekly from you, my constituents, on bills we are working on. Please keep it up, I need your feedback to represent you well: call (512) 463-0119 or send us an email at District19.Flores@senate.texas.gov. Adelante!