Daily Record file photo
Area state senators prepare for 87th legislative session
State senators Donna Campbell and Judith Zaffirini, who represent portions of Hays County, are preparing for the 87th Texas Legislative session beginning this week.
“My first priority is helping Texans recover from COVID-19 by making critical services, including health care and education, accessible and affordable,” Zaffirini said.
She has pre-filed legislation that would expand Medicaid, mitigate student loan debt for frontline workers, establish pre-kindergarten for three-year-olds and make higher education and community colleges tuition-free for persons with an annual household income of less than $100,000.
Zaffirini continues to focus on supporting public schools and teachers, creating jobs and developing our infrastructure, preserving our environment and alleviating climate change, promoting universal broadband access and ensuring access to justice for all Texans.
Campbell said, “Next session Texans can count on me to support our law enforcement officers, protect the economic liberty of private businesses, support our veterans, protect our military installations, help pass a balanced budget, support free and fair elections, and shore up the economic benefits of the oil and gas industry that continues to benefit all Texans.”
Zaffirini and Campbell agree one of the greatest challenges this session will be the budget.
“The pandemic has reduced the income from sales taxes, oil and gas and other historically reliable revenue streams and created a significant budget deficit,” Zaffirini said. “We will be forced to find new revenue sources, make cuts or both. Count me among the members who believe we should explore every option but avoid making painful cuts to education or health and human services.”
“We are going to have to work with a tight budget next session, but our number one priority is shoring up HB 3 and education funding,” said Campbell. “We are in challenging times, but this too shall pass. We will defeat this pandemic and rebuild our economy. We will not take our eye off the ball when it comes to our children’s education. The value of education cannot be overstated and we want our children to have every advantage. We are committed to keeping Texas strong, because we don’t have another Texas to move to."
A stricter Senate schedule likely will result in fewer committee hearings and less legislation passed, according to Zaffirini.
House Bill 3, the landmark education legislation that was passed last session, should be protected from seemingly inevitable budget cuts. The $11.6 billion school finance measure increased teacher salaries and per-student funding and helped more than 460 school districts establish or expand their pre-K programs.
“It's one of the most consequential education bills we have ever passed, and preserving it is absolutely necessary,” Zaffirini said. “I hope the (budgetary) impact is limited, however, because we have much important work to accomplish.”
Zaffirini expects widespread bipartisan support for improving broadband infrastructure statewide, especially in low-income or rural communities.
“Many households still lack reliable Internet access, which makes online schooling nearly impossible for children,” Zaffirini said. “It's clear to Democrats and Republicans alike that closing the digital divide is a critical step toward providing equal learning opportunities for all Texas children and promoting broader, fairer prosperity across the state.”