Texas House Republican Caucus Statement on Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

June 28th, 2015

The Texas House Republican Caucus issued the following statement regarding the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling:

The Texas House Republican Caucus is extraordinarily disappointed in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision. We believe this is a direct assault on the 10th Amendment and the sovereignty of Texas. The Supreme Court was intended to interpret the laws of the United States, not create them as a legislative body.

Texas House Republicans signed a declaration on May 15, 2015 supporting traditional marriage in Texas, and we stand by that declaration. The Texas House of Representatives also pass during the 84th Legislative Session “The Pastor Protection Act” that serves to safeguard the closely held religious beliefs of pastors. This piece of legislation is even more important now in light of the Supreme Court’s decision. We believe our position is supported by the majority of Texans, as evidenced by the passage of Proposition 2 in 2005 with support from more than 76 percent of Texans. The Texas House Republican Caucus will continue to stand firm in its support of religious liberty.


REPRESENTATIVE SMITH COMPLETES ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL LEGISLATIVE SESSION

June 19th, 2015

AUSTIN–Representative Wayne Smith (R-Baytown) and his fellow Republican legislators in the Texas House delivered one conservative victory after another in the 84th Legislature by cutting taxes, making the border region safer, improving education, funding transportation, protecting life and defending Second Amendment rights.

This session Rep. Smith worked with his colleagues to continue to keep Texas on strong fiscal ground by passing a state budget that keeps growth beneath 2 percent per year. The budget, House Bill 1, grows less than population and inflation, it stays well beneath the constitutional spending cap and it leaves more than $11 billion in the state’s Rainy Day Fund. Even as it limits spending, the budget provides additional funding for education, border security, transportation and child protection.

“Texas had a great session,” said Rep. Smith. “We delivered on tax relief, border security, the Second Amendment and many other key issues. Conservative Republicans can and should be proud of this record.”

With a budget surplus provided by the success of the private sector, House republicans worked throughout the session to deliver tax relief. Those efforts paid off as the Legislature approved nearly $4 billion in tax relief: a 25 percent reduction in the business margins tax, as well as a $10,000 increase in the homestead exemption, which will provide relief for homeowners.

The House demonstrated its commitment to border security early in the session by passing House Bills 10 and 11. House Bill 10 takes new steps to fight and eliminate human trafficking. House Bill 11, of which Rep. Smith was a co-author, provides hundreds of new state troopers along the Texas-Mexico border while strengthening efforts to fight and prosecute border-related crimes. In addition, the budget provides a historic amount of funding – more than $800 million – for border security.

The Texas population and economy are growing rapidly, straining roads and highways. The state addressed transportation this session without raising taxes, fees or tolls. The budget ends diversions of the State Highway Fund, meaning all of the money in that fund will pay for transportation instead of other programs. That change increased transportation funding by $1.3 billion over two years. Rep. Smith supported Senate Joint Resolution 5, a proposed constitutional amendment that would dedicate at least $2.5 billion of state sales tax revenue to transportation every two years. Finally, House members took the lead in making the Texas Department of Transportation more transparent and accountable by supporting House Bill 20.

The Legislature has repeatedly defended the rights of the unborn in recent years and continued to do so in this year’s session. House Republicans passed critical pro-life bills, further defunded Planned Parenthood and expanded funding for alternatives to abortion. House Bill 3994 reforms the judicial bypass process for minors seeking abortions. These reforms will protect and strengthen parents’ rights while also increasing oversight of the bypass process. The House also passed House Bill 3374, which requires a medical provider to furnish information about treatment options and resources for Down syndrome to new or expectant parents following a Down syndrome diagnosis. House Bill 3074, another crucial bill passed by the House, addresses end of life issues and requires artificial hydration and nutrition to be provided to patients in the natural process of death.

The Legislature also achieved two long-sought Second Amendment priorities this session with the passage of House Bill 910, which allows for the licensed open carry of handguns, and Senate Bill 11, which will expand the rights of Concealed Handgun License holders to possess their guns on college campuses. In addition, House Republicans provided the leadership needed to pass Senate Bill 2065, which protects pastors from lawsuits or criminal prosecution if they refuse to perform marriages that violate their sincerely held religious beliefs. House Republicans also passed a number of bills providing needed services to Texas veterans. As a Vietnam veteran, Rep. Smith keeps the needs of his fellow veterans first and foremost in mind as he works to represent them at the State Capitol in Austin.

“The House began the session with a conservative agenda and ends the session with a conservative record of accomplishment,” Rep. Smith said. “Our work this session will create growth in the private sector while defending and expanding critical rights for the people of Texas. I believe the members of the Texas Legislature delivered the results we were sent here by our constituencies to achieve.”

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Representative Wayne Smith represents Texas House District 128, including Baytown, Deer Park, La Porte, Crosby, Highlands, Morgan’s Point and a portion of Pasadena.


Republicans Reflect on a Successful Session

June 1st, 2015

By The Texas House Republican Caucus

(Austin, Texas) Republicans in the Texas House delivered one conservative victory after another in the 84th Legislature by cutting taxes, making the border region safer, improving education, funding transportation, protecting life and defending Second Amendment rights.

House Republicans also continued to keep Texas on strong fiscal ground by passing a state budget that keeps growth beneath 2 percent per year. The budget, House Bill 1, grows less than population and inflation, it stays well beneath the constitutional spending cap and it leaves more than $11 billion in the state’s Rainy Day Fund. Even as it limits spending, however, the budget provides additional funding for education, border security, transportation and child protection.
“Conservatives had a great session,” said Rep. Tan Parker of Flower Mound, the Chairman of the House Republican Caucus. “We delivered on tax relief, border security, the Second Amendment and many other key issues. Conservative Republicans can and should be proud of this record.”

With a budget surplus provided by the success of the private sector, House Republicans worked throughout the session to deliver tax relief. Those efforts paid off as the Legislature approved nearly $4 billion in tax relief: a 25 percent reduction in the business margins tax, as well as a $10,000 increase in the homestead exemption, which will provide relief for homeowners.

The House demonstrated its commitment to border security early in the session by passing House Bills 10 and 11. House Bill 10 takes new steps to fight and eliminate human trafficking. House Bill 11 provides hundreds of new state troopers along the Texas-Mexico border while strengthening efforts to fight and prosecute border-related crimes. In addition, the budget provides a historic amount of funding – more than $800 million – for border security.

The Texas population and economy are growing rapidly, straining roads and highways. House Republicans addressed transportation this session without raising taxes. The budget ends diversions of the State Highway Fund, meaning all of the money in that fund will pay for transportation instead of other programs. That change increased transportation funding by $1.3 billion over two years. House Republicans also supported Senate Joint Resolution 5, a proposed constitutional amendment that would dedicate at least $2.5 billion of state sales tax revenue to transportation every two years. Finally, House Republicans took the lead in making the Texas Department of Transportation more transparent and accountable by supporting House Bill 20.

The Legislature has repeatedly defended the rights of the unborn in recent years and continued to do so in this year’s session. House Republicans passed critical pro-life bills, further defunded Planned Parenthood and expanded funding for alternatives to abortion. House Bill 3994 reforms the judicial bypass process for minors seeking abortions. These reforms will protect and strengthen parents’ rights while also increasing oversight of the bypass process. The House also passed House Bill 3374, which requires a medical provider to furnish information about treatment options and resources for Down syndrome to new or expectant parents following a Down syndrome diagnosis. House Bill 3074, another crucial bill passed by the House, addresses end of life issues and requires artificial hydration and nutrition to be provided to patients in the natural process of death.

House Republicans also achieved two long-sought Second Amendment priorities this session with the passage of House Bill 910, which allows for the licensed open carry of handguns, and Senate Bill 11, which will expand the rights of Concealed Handgun License holders to possess their guns on college campuses. In addition, House Republicans provided the leadership needed to pass Senate Bill 2065, which protects pastors from lawsuits or criminal prosecution if they refuse to perform marriages that violate their sincerely held religious beliefs. House Republicans also passed a number of bills providing needed services to Texas veterans.

“The House began the session with a conservative agenda and ends the session with a conservative record of accomplishment,” Chairman Parker said. “Our work this session will create growth in the private sector while defending and expanding critical rights for the people of Texas. House Republicans have delivered the results we were sent here to achieve.”


House Approves Fiscally Responsible State Budget

May 30th, 2015

AUSTIN – The Texas House gave overwhelming final approval Friday to House Bill 1, a balanced and disciplined state budget for the next two years. The budget was also approved in the Texas Senate and now heads to Governor Greg Abbott.

The $209 billion budget represents growth of 3.6 percent in All Funds, or less than 2 percent per year, and it stays beneath the spending limit in the Texas Constitution. While restraining overall spending, it prioritizes education, transportation and border security. It also reflects the House’s considerable efforts to increase transparency and accountability in state spending.

House Bill 1 highlights the following priorities:

Education: The bill pays for an increase of roughly 80,000 students per year in the state’s overall public school enrollment. On top of that investment, it provides an additional $1.5 billion for public education. The budget also provides more resources for higher education, including graduate medical education and TEXAS Grants, the state’s signature financial aid program.

Transportation: Reversing a decades-old practice, the budget uses all of the money in the State Highway Fund for transportation instead of using some of those dollars for other programs. It also includes an infusion of oil-and-gas tax revenue made possible by voters’ approval of a constitutional amendment in November 2014.

Transparency: In addition to using all of the State Highway Fund revenue for transportation, the budget takes a number of other steps to use taxes and fees for their intended purpose. Using more revenue as intended allows House Bill 1 to provide additional resources for hospital trauma care, state parks and other priorities.

Border Security: House Bill 1 provides $840 million in All Funds for border security. That investment, a significant increase over the current budget, will allow for the hiring of 250 new Department of Public Safety troopers and allow a 50-hour work week for all troopers. It will also fund the implementation of House Bill 11, which will bring consistency to the state’s border security strategy.

Long-Term Obligations: The budget provides funding to address a shortfall in retired teachers’ health care and to address the solvency of the state employee pension system.

Mental Health: The budget increases funding for behavioral health and substance abuse services by $151 million, providing additional resources for both inpatient and outpatient services.


House Passes Major Conservative Legislation

May 27th, 2015

(Austin, Texas) Late last night, the Texas House of Representatives passed two major pieces of legislation, just in time to beat the midnight deadline for the House to pass Senate Bills on second reading. Republicans in the Texas House proudly fought to preserve conservative principles in Texas and were successful.

Senate Bill 11, which authorizes a concealed handgun license holder to carry a concealed handgun while on a college campus passed after hours of extensive debate. SB 11 allows for universities to establish rules, regulations, or other provisions concerning the storage of handguns in dorms or other residential facilities owned or operated by the university.

On the passage of SB 11, Allen Fletcher (R-Tomball) said, “I’m proud of the Texas House for passing strong Second Amendment legislation this session. This bill will ensure that license holders will have the right to protect themselves on college campuses the same way they are able to in any other location in the state. The Concealed Handgun License program has been successful in Texas for almost 20 years, and today the House stood behind that program and its 825,000 license holders.” To be eligible for a concealed handgun license in the state of Texas, citizens must pass state and federal background checks, pass both an educational course and shooting proficiency test, and be over the age of 21.

Senate Bill 9 reforms the current method for limiting the growth of state spending. This fiscally responsible legislation was strongly supported by House Republicans, and will head back to the Senate for final approval before heading to the Governor’s desk.

“This is another great step in the House’s goal of bringing budget transparency to the process,” said John Otto (R-Dayton), Chairman of Appropriations.

For additional information, please contact Kelly Carnal, Executive Director of the House Republican Caucus, at kelly@texashousecaucus.com.


REP. WAYNE SMITH COLLABORATES WITH LEE COLLEGE ON DUAL-CREDIT LEGISLATION

May 20th, 2015

AUSTIN–Following close collaboration with Lee College, State Representative Wayne Smith (R-Baytown) authored and co-authored legislation that would increase access for high school students seeking to enroll in dual-credit courses at public colleges and universities. House Bill 505 passed both the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate and is now at the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature.

H.B. 505 amends current law relating to a prohibition of limitations on the number of dual credit courses or hours in which a public high school student may enroll. Currently in Texas, high school students may not be enrolled in more than two dual-credit courses per semester and the opportunity to participate in these courses is limited to juniors and seniors unless a student in a lower high school grade level obtains a waiver to allow participation. Studies show that students enrolled in dual credit courses are more likely to complete high school and enroll in college. State law allows both school districts and colleges to obtain state funding for dual credit courses, allowing a student to take more higher education courses at a reduced cost. H.B. 505 prohibits the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) from adopting any rule that would limit the number of dual-credit courses or hours in a which a student may enroll while in high school or in a given semester or academic year and, following an amendment by Rep. Smith, removes limitations on the grade level at which a high school student may be eligible to enroll in a dual-credit course if those students are able to meet the academic requirements currently in place.

“House Bill 505 brings Texas closer to the goal of expanding access to higher education for all students while maintaining rigorous academic qualifiers,” Smith said. “By removing limiting factors such as grade level and the maximum number of courses allowed in a given semester, Texas high school students can advance their education earlier in their academic career and thereby enter into their chosen profession timelier.”

Lee College offers a variety of dual-credit opportunities to allow high school students to gain college-level credit, and has seen the participation in the dual-credit program grow considerably in the last few years.

“Lee College and the other 49 Texas community colleges are excited about the passage of H.B. 505, co-sponsored by Representative Wayne Smith,” Dr. Dennis Brown, Lee College President, said. “Through Rep. Smith’s efforts, all Texas high school freshmen through senior students who are college-ready will be able to begin pursuing college courses through the state approved dual-credit program. Rep. Smith’s legislation will assist students in more quickly building their college transcript, and earning transfer and technical certificates and degrees much sooner.”

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Representative Wayne Smith represents Texas House District 128, including Baytown, Deer Park, La Porte, Crosby, Highlands, Morgan’s Point and a portion of Pasadena.


Texas House Passes Bill to take Public Integrity Unit from Travis County Prosecutors

April 21st, 2015

(Austin, Texas) Today, the Texas House of Representatives passed House Bill 1690, which will relocate the Public Integrity Unit from the Travis County District Attorney’s Office to the Department of Public Safety, giving the Texas Rangers the authority to investigate public integrity offenses.

“I’m proud to have supported this bill,” said Wayne Smith (R-Baytown). “It’s important that the citizens of Texas have confidence in the agency that’s responsible for upholding the public’s trust.”

The change removes the power of the Travis County District Attorney, a county elected position, to prosecute statewide elected officials, government employees, and officials elected in other districts and counties. Under 1690, the investigation process in these cases would be handled by the Texas Rangers and then referred for prosecution to the elected official’s home county.

“I’m proud to support HB 1690. We owe it to our citizens to transfer the responsibility of protecting the public trust out of one county office and vest it in our premier law enforcement agency, the Texas Rangers,” said Kenneth Sheets (R-Dallas), a joint author of the bill.

The House passed HB 1690 with a vote of 94-51, with near unanimous support from the members of the House Republican Caucus.


Texas House announces $4.87 billion tax cut package

April 8th, 2015

{via The Austin American Statesman}

The Texas House’s Republican lead tax policy writer announced a $4.87 billion tax cut package Wednesday that includes across-the-board cuts to the business franchise and sales tax rates.

House Bill 31 would cut the 6.25-percent state sales tax rate to 5.95 percent, costing the state $2.3 billion over two years but saving the average household of four $172 per year.

House Bill 32 would cut the business franchise or “margins” tax rate by 25 percent across-the-board and also lower an “EZ” calculation rate, which state Rep. Dennis Bonnen said “will substantially lower the cost of compliance for thousands of small businesses.”

The Angleton Republican, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, described the plan as superior to the $4.4 billion tax cut plan the Texas Senate already has approved, which cuts property — rather than sales — taxes and also includes an across-the-board business franchise tax rate, but favors smaller businesses in that it also exempts an additional 61,000 of them from having to pay the tax at all.

The Senate’s school property tax cuts would save homeowners more than $200 a year on average in 2016 and 2017.

But Bonnen said at a Capitol news conference Wednesday that the House plan is the “biggest, broadest and boldest tax plan that will have been proposed this legislative session.”

He argued that a property tax cut would be masked by local tax increases and skyrocketing appraisals, citing $14 billion worth of property tax cuts the Texas Legislature passed in 2007 that he said no one really noticed.

A sales tax rate cut is “tangible tax relief that will benefit families of all sizes every time they buy something,” he said. “Texans won’t have to take our word for it that we cut their taxes … they will see it.”

He also described the package as “the only tax cut plan that has widespread support from business groups,” referencing big business opposition to the Senate’s plan because it favors small businesses.

That was backed up by a Wednesday statement from the Texas Association of Business, which said, “the House tax cut plan will benefit all Texas citizens and businesses. It is fair, balanced, and is a winner for everyone.”

House Democrats rebutted the plan Wednesday, though, emphasizing it is not a “Texas House plan” but one proposed by House GOP leadership.

Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, said it is “irresponsible” of the House — and Senate — to take money off the table when they have yet to settle on a budget plan that addresses several pressing needs, including relieving traffic congestion and funding a fast-growing program that waives tuition for military veterans or their families.

“You can’t give away the store and not have met the state’s immediate needs,” Turner said.

(END)


Texas House Passes Conservative Budget

April 1st, 2015

AUSTIN, TEXAS – Today, the Texas House of Representatives passed House Bill 1 and took an important step toward finalizing a budget that will be balanced and fiscally responsible for the next two years. The Texas House budget dramatically reforms state government through increased transparency, and addresses the needs of our growing state while staying below the constitutional spending cap. HB 1 invests significant resources in public schools, boosts formula funding for higher education, invests additional general revenue in transportation, and promotes border security and public safety. Additionally, HB1 accomplishes this by limiting overall spending growth to less than what is necessary to account for population and inflation increases.

“I am very proud that the Texas House passed a two-year state budget that lives within our means, came in well under the spending cap, and prioritized for essential state services such as education, transportation, border security and public safety. The public demands that we be good stewards of their tax dollars while meeting the future needs of the state and promoting continued economic prosperity. I believe we have done this in the budget that we passed.”

Following this vote, HB 1 now heads to the Texas Senate. When the Senate passes their version, HB 1 will head to a conference committee for final approval.


Texas House of Representatives Creates Long Term Plan to Secure the Texas Border

March 19th, 2015

(Austin, Texas) Today, the House of Representatives passed House Bill 11, a bill aimed at creating a comprehensive long term solution to Texas’s border security problems. Specifically, HB 11 authorizes an additional 300 DPS troopers for border security operations, criminalizes the act of inducing a person to enter the country illegally, strengthens state smuggling laws to effectively target the organized criminal element infiltrating our border, along with other reforms. The legislation also protects local control by creating the “Texas Transnational Crime Intelligence Center”, which would be staffed by local police and sheriffs to serve as a real-time, around-the-clock intelligence hub for state and local law enforcement agencies.

Upon passage of HB 11, the bill author Chairman Dennis Bonnen stated that, “Texas would be the only state in the nation with a consistent plan, unlike our federal government, that Texans can count on to address criminal activity at our border and make our communities much safer.”

Chairman Bonnen’s bill also found the support of many South Texas Lawmakers, whose districts are hardest hit by their proximity to the border. “By establishing a long term plan to secure our border, we are ensuring the lasting safety of our Texas families. I am proud to join my House colleagues on both sides of the aisle in achieving such a historic bipartisan solution,” said Representative Rick Galindo.

“The Texas House Republican Caucus is proud to support HB 11,” said Chairman Tan Parker. “Today House Republicans fought to protect Texas citizens by giving local law enforcement the tools necessary to protect our border, including tougher penalties for the cartels and gangs that operate on our southern border, threatening the safety of our state and country.”

The bill passed the Texas House today with overwhelming Republican support.