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Attending University of North Texas: BA Political Science, Minors in Philosophy and Communication Studies
Founder and President of the Secular Student Alliance at the University of North Texas, an organization promoting civic and political involvement for secular and nonreligious students. The organization stresses education of humanism and secularism, as well as understanding and tolerance of the nonreligious by the wider campus community. This has included having talks and lectures led by group members and statewide and national speakers. We have volunteered with Homeless Nexus (formerly known as DFW Atheists Helping the Homeless), which helps put together and deliver care packages for homeless and at-risk people.
Volunteer with Youth First Texas, an LGBTQ youth center providing community and resources.
Freethought Equality Fund PAC
When the Secular Student Alliance at UNT had to get speakers and guests for our education lecture program, I led the organization by creating a vision of what our group needed and showing strong leadership skills in managing multiple people, giving them tasks and assignments, and creating realistic deadlines that made our program one that was the envy of other student organizations.
President Lyndon Baines Johnson understood the work that President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were advocating for, and he continued that work through legislating to achieve his Great Society. The Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act were some of the most significant pieces of legislation this country has ever seen that promoted fairness and equality.
I am running for office to better represent the constituents of my district and the interests of their families in the Texas legislature.
For far too long, the district has been underrepresented by Tan Parker. He has repeatedly claimed to be fighting for everyday Texans, but every day while in office, he fights against us. He claims to support a strong public education system and then votes for $5.4 billion in cuts to public education. He also sponsored an amendment to the 2011 Frac Focus bill that prevented chemical disclosure, keeping valuable information from the people of Texas needed to protect their families' health.
The drought that Texas has been experiencing is a challenge that we can most certainly overcome with a statewide education program on water conservation, saving Texans money and the Texas landscape.
The public education system in Texas has been unconstitutionally cut by the legislature, even with the subsequent restorations that did not make up for all of the cuts. Once in office, I would not only restore funding to education but increase funding to ensure a quality education for all Texas children.
I would cut oil and gas subsidies. Their business is already thriving and does not require any further assistance from the Texas taxpayer.
With the money saved by ending oil and gas subsidies, the state of Texas can invest in small businesses, the real engines of job creation.
The state of Texas refused billions of dollars in federal funds to expand Medicaid, leaving more than a million Texans without access to affordable healthcare. As well, subsidized housing for hardworking low and moderate income Texans needs to be expanded.
Even with the increased spending, Texas is low on mental health professionals. I would increase opportunities for those seeking education in the field of mental health.
Texas' regulatory agencies knew about the high stockpile of ammonium nitrate but neglected to tell federal agencies. I would require all state agencies to comply with state laws already on the books and to conduct regular inspections and audits of plants with stockpiles of chemicals.
While I support initiatives to promote science, technology, engineering, and math, this should not come at the expense of other programs and the overall quality of our state's higher education system. I would vote to restore the funds that were cut under the leadership of Gov. Rick Perry.
We can show that the state's accountability system is working by increased graduation rates, increased SAT and/or standardized test scores, teacher retention, training and certification.
The state of Texas needs to restore all of the cuts that were made to public education, and I will vote for any and all means to do so.
Instead of spending taxpayer money on slush funds to benefit companies that contributed to Gov. Perry's political career, we could better fund our state's roads and bridges.
There needs to be a higher burden of proof in the courtroom to warrant the sentence of the death penalty. As well, the appeals process should be made more accessible and streamlined for those already on death row. Any administration of the death penalty must be humane, and any untested methods of administration should be prohibited.
I support the rights of all Texans to exercise their Second Amendment rights, but common sense measures to protect public safety are needed in order to do that, which would include having times and places where it is inappropriate to have an unholstered firearm.
Strict mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenders must be ended. In addition, only the illegal substance in question should be weighed when determining sentences when it comes to the case of edible marijuana products.
Yes, because I believe Texans should have the right to choose any necessary and available treatment.
I oppose any attempts made to bar Texans from viewing a legislative session or hearing of their elected officials, because it is their right to hold their government accountable.
Yes, but if the legislature refuses to step up and properly protect the health and safety of Texans, then local governments are needed to do that in its place.
Payday lenders are forcing hardworking Texans into a cycle of poverty with outrageously high interest rates and predatory lending practices. Setting reasonable interest rates that Texans can actually meet is the first step towards creating a fairer payday lending system.
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40 year resident of Texas and I have lived in my district for 15 years.
BA from The University of Dallas and Masters from The London School of Economics
Currently, I have the privilege of serving my fourth term as a member of the Texas House of Representatives, where I am the Chairman of the House Committee on Corrections and have previously passed successful legislation on numerous topics as diverse as economic development to child protection initiatives to government efficiency and lake recreational safety.
I also serve as a fellow to the British/American Project since 2012, a widely regarded organization focused on improving transatlantic relations, both from a diplomatic and economic perspective. My participation in numerous local organizations round out my civic involvement. Examples include being on the advisory boards of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Denton County and Communities in Schools North Texas. Additionally, I am also a member of the Board of Trustees at the University of Dallas.
As an appointee of Governor Rick Perry, I served as Chairman of the Texas Industrial Development Corporation, that included creating and expanding job creation and economic development strategies for Texas.
I served in a volunteer capacity at the United States Commerce Department in London, England; served as a volunteer in the White House under President George H.W. Bush at the direction of C. Boyden Gray, the former Counsel to the President, and served as a member of the e-Texas Initiative, dedicated to making the state more efficient, effective and e-enabled.
I have been involved in civic activities, including historically coaching youth sports, church involvement, and co-chairing a major gala for Bryan's House. I have a long record of service to the Republican Party that dates back to my youth.
Current Officeholder, State Representative for House District 63
As reflected on the most recent campaign finance report filed with the Texas Ethics Commission, I have $286,244.66 available to spend on this general election campaign.
Mr. and Mrs. Chris and Sue Bancroft
Mrs. Nancy Reed
Mr. Dennis Berman
Due to the 2011 session’s record budget shortfall, there were legitimate talks within the Legislature to end Texas’ sales tax holiday weekend. However, I was able to organize and lead a group of like minded lawmakers in preserving the sales tax holiday weekend and successfully moving it to a more convenient weekend for back to school shoppers.
Ever since I was a very young child I have always admired President Ronald Reagan and how he helped to bring the nation together during a very critical time in our history. Our 40th President did this nation a great service and accomplished much in office by working with different political factions but without compromising his core values and beliefs. It was one of the great blessings of my life to be able to spend time with President Reagan and many aspects of our interaction together continue to guide me today.
I am running for re-election as the State Representative for District 63 because Texas needs continued strong conservative leadership and a business oriented mindset in the Texas House of Representatives. Next session, lawmakers need to focus on the economic issues facing this state, from our regulatory policies to strengthening our workforce and our overall tax policy. Additionally, we need to continue to live within our means and find ways to make Texas even more globally competitive which will require the funding of key budget items such as education and transportation. I believe that my experience in both the legislature and as a private businessman makes me a highly effective advocate for Denton County on these and the many other important issues facing Texas.
From being a citizen invested in this community to serving as the state representative since 2007, I have spent much of my life listening to and understanding the hopes, needs and challenges people in this area face. Being accessible, even offering monthly Saturday office hours, and advocating public service are traits people know they can depend on me for. Additionally, my conservative record to managing the affairs of our state is a closer reflection of House District 63 than the opinions offered by my opponent.
Despite our tremendous economic success and the overall well-being of our state, Texas does face its own set of unique challenges that must be addressed during the upcoming 84th Legislative Session. Certainly, crafting a fiscally responsible two-year spending plan that effectively allocates our tax dollars based upon the priorities of this state ranks at the top of that list. I also envision water and road infrastructure improvements being top priorities. We made drastic improvements on both fronts last session, but more work is needed in order to ensure that Texas has the critical infrastructure necessary to continue to be our nation’s beacon for economic growth.
Texas also faces a workforce readiness challenge that we must address next session through continuing to strengthen public education and career training. As our economy continues to grow, so will our employers’ needs for well trained, highly skilled and educated individuals. As a state we cannot afford to simply sit back and assume that high paying jobs are going to continue to come to Texas unless we proactively focus on readying a future workforce to compete in a global economy.
Finally, serving as Chairman of the House Corrections Committee has afforded me the opportunity to deeply understand the challenges facing our criminal justice system. We must continue to look for new and effective ways to make an inmate’s sentence productive time spent by providing them with the tools necessary to succeed once they re-enter society. Likewise, we must continue to engage the private sector in providing many of our correctional processes at the high rate of service we expect, but at a lower cost to the taxpayers of Texas.
Though many important issues will be discussed and debated during the 84th Legislative Session, I expect these topics to be most predominate.
I have always advocated for responsible spending levels in the core areas of government. Key examples of such core public services include public education, transportation infrastructure, public safety and border security funding. In my opinion, each represents a component critical to our continued prosperity. Certainly no one can argue against the importance of adequate roads and an educated workforce. Likewise, as we are clearly seeing now we must step up and do the job of the federal government that has failed Texas and secure our international border once and for all. As Corrections Chairman, I clearly see the link between those that would cross our border illegally and the corresponding impact on crime and incarceration levels in Texas, which is why a sufficient budget for public safety is imperative to protecting our society.
As our economy continues to grow, we can certainly meet these funding needs through our existing revenue streams. We absolutely do not have to raise taxes or fees to find additional funds for our classrooms, roads and public safety. We can also look for ways to continue reducing spending in other areas of government. I certainly support using budget surpluses to accelerate the repayment of our state’s debt as a way to reduce the amount of our annual debt service payments, which totaled over $4 billion in our most recent budget. If we could expedite the repayment of Texas’ most expensive debts and possibly cut our service payments in half then we would have an additional $2 billion to spend in more core areas of government services without raising overall state spending. Likewise, lawmakers should continue to look for services that we can effectively privatize at a lower cost to our taxpayers.
Once the next session has concluded I am confident that lawmakers will have made great advancements in our areas of critical funding and have done so without growing our state spending by more than what is necessary to compensate for increases in population and inflation growth.
Our business climate is a job magnet as it exists today, but that will not always be the case if we don’t take further action on economic and job creation matters. The first way that I advocate improving upon our business climate is by focusing on readying our future workforce. Without adequate numbers of capable workers to handle the employment needs of businesses, Texas will not continue to economically thrive in the future. This is a real challenge that must be addressed, as we are already starting to see certain industries in Texas struggle to find highly trained, skilled employees to fill certain critical positions. One way to better fulfill our workforce needs would be to build upon the momentum created last session for emphasizing career and vocational training for those who do not desire to attend college after graduating from high school.
Next, I would look for ways to continue reducing the tax burden on Texas businesses. In my observation as a businessman for 20 years, nothing is going to accelerate job creation quicker than reducing or eliminating the tax burden upon our business community. As such, lawmakers should look at possibly raising and permanently indexing the small business exemption to the franchise tax or phasing it out all together over a period of time.
Finally, I believe Texas needs to overhaul its occupational licensing laws. While certain professions that directly impact public health and safety need to remain a licensed profession, we must move away from recent trends that now see nearly 1 in 3 United States workers needing a license to engage in their chosen profession. Our current system is a disincentive for entrepreneurship, and a barrier to entry in a growing number of professions. That is why I have a strong record of voting against new and unnecessary licensing requirements and why I support Greg Abbott’s plan for reforming many of Texas’ professional licensing laws.
Texans place a strong emphasis on caring for those who have truly fallen upon hard times and are in need. The primary objective of the Texas Workforce Commission is to be the safety net for those who are trying to re-enter the workforce or seeking to acquire the skill set necessary to make a career change. Some examples of services offered through this agency are the ability to secure childcare services so that a person can actively seek employment or participate in workforce training programs. They also sponsor a variety of workforce training programs that seek to train individuals for career caliber positions that employers have a high demand for filling. Of course, the Texas Workforce Commission also administers our unemployment insurance program that provides a person who has lost their job through no fault of their own with temporary monetary assistance to make up for their lost wages while they secure new employment.
As a state, we also offer the many assistance options that fall under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Combined with the proven efforts of the Texas Workforce Commission, these services offer a safety net for those needing security. The changes to these programs that I would advocate for center around the broad goal of ending fraud and abuse so that all of our resources can be concentrated on those who are truly in need.
After the tragedy of Sandy Hook at the end of 2012, the Texas Legislature made addressing mental health care a top priority, however next session we must focus on how to build upon this recent momentum. As the Chairman of the House Corrections Committee, I have seen first-hand the growing concern of mental illness in our prison population, where almost 7 percent of the department’s medical budget is spent treating mental health conditions.
To address this growing issue, the House Committee on Corrections recently held a public hearing specifically to look at alternative, innovative ways to treat individuals with mental health issues. An intriguing option that we are currently studying and will take a hard look at during the upcoming legislative session is the concept of social impact bonds (SIB). A SIB is an innovative government financing program for social partnerships. Unlike its name, it is not a bond or a traditional financing model. A SIB gives private investors the opportunity to provide operating funds for initiatives that have the potential to prevent or mitigate serious social problems, such as mental health issues, while saving taxpayer dollars.
In Texas, we already have several groups collaborating together to develop proposals to meet this existing need in our juvenile population. State officials, local law enforcement, nonprofits and investors want to see our Texas youth succeed, and if we can address mental health issues early in a child's life, we may be able to keep them out of the criminal justice system altogether. We are currently discussing different options to make this happen, and I look forward to reviewing several proposals in the works right now to bring this innovative financial tool to Texas.
The fertilizer plant explosion in West was a tragic event that reminded us all how important it is to properly store and maintain hazardous materials. Throughout the interim state lawmakers have been researching this issue, looking at the best practices developed in other states and holding committee hearings to receive the public’s input.
Most recently, the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety debated this issue in an open forum with draft legislation aimed to prevent another West style incident from ever occurring in Texas. I have been kept apprised of the committee’s work, and I know that they are striving to coalesce around legislative language that will adequately address the public safety issue without placing an undue burden on our communities and storage facilities. I look forward to reviewing their suggestions and considering legislation on this topic during the next session.
The current “Closing the Gaps” goals were developed to help Texas reach parity with other states in relation to student enrollment and degree completion. To keep our economy strong, the next master plan should focus on goals and initiatives that correlate with making Texas competitive in a global economy. We must understand that just graduating from college isn’t enough anymore. The degrees that our students earn should match workforce needs in order to provide more value to both those entering the workforce and our economy. In that light, I would also hope that the next generation of “Closing the Gaps” has a metric to measure affordability, with a focus on reducing student debt loads.
I am proud of the work lawmakers did last session to reform and revitalize our state's education system. A critical component of these reforms was new legislation passed to provide greater accountability, transparency, and local control to our public school curriculum. This included giving students more flexibility to explore their individual interests by providing multiple pathways to graduation, and prohibiting state agencies and schools from using the Common Core Standards Initiative curriculum as a part of the Obama Administration's national education plan. Texas has long been a leader in setting high standards for our students, teachers, and school systems, and with the passage of key legislation last session, lawmakers ensured that Texas will continue to produce students fully prepared for what's next, whether that be continuing on to a university or immediately entering the workforce.
While there are multiple ways we as a state can try to measure whether our accountability system is working for public education, I believe there is no better indicator than our school's graduation rates. A recent report noted that Texas' graduation rates set an all-time high for the Class of 2013. Students in our public schools are receiving the teaching, testing, and opportunities needed for them to be successful, and I believe the numbers speak for themselves. As a state, I believe we have achieved the right balance of setting high standards in place and then giving local districts and schools the latitude they need to make those high standards a reality for our students.
I will continue to monitor graduation rates closely and be responsive to what families and school districts advocate for in the future.
I was proud to support our current state budget that fully funds our student enrollment growth and provides for an increase of $3.4 billion to the Foundation School Program. Still, the dollar amount spent on education aside, we certainly can look for a more modern and efficient way to fund our public schools.
Efficiency in public school funding must first start in our schools where we can continue to look for ways we can do more with our current dollars. We must also reduce the number of unfunded mandates that our public schools face, which would free up their ability to be more creative and responsive to their district needs in how they utilize their K-12 funding.
Next, I believe that Texas needs to move away from its current system that relies too heavily on local property taxes. The pitfalls of this process are many, including that certain parts of the state are forced to rely on property tax dollars from elsewhere, and that school property taxes have grown to the point that they are a hindrance to homeownership in Texas, which historically rates near the bottom in a 50 state comparison. That is why I would support a more fair revenue stream for public schools that focuses on a consumption tax that will more fairly address the funding needs of our public school system.
Before we talk about new revenue for transportation projects in Texas, I think it is important to first end all diversions of transportation dollars that deplete the financial resources we have to build roads. Over the last several sessions the legislature has done a great job of whittling down these diversions, and I support leadership’s initiative to complete the task by moving the funding of the Department of Public Safety out of our transportation related tax revenue and into the general revenue account. This move will result in another $1.3 billion every two years for road construction in Texas.
Certainly, an additional $1.3 billion each biennium is another significant step in the right direction, but more work will be needed. That is why I also support dedicating future growth in the sales tax revenue collected from vehicle sales in Texas to be specifically allocated to transportation funding.
I believe Texas is on the forefront for criminal justice reforms, including the death penalty. For instance, Texas has two offices dedicated to assisting indigent defendants facing death-penalty sentences. We have also recently enacted the Michael Morton Act to allow all parties (prosecutors and defendants) to have access to all police reports and witness statements taken in a case. I voted for this act because I believe that we should make as much case information available to the defense as possible. Likewise, all defendants with death-penalty sentences should be able to fully exhaust their appeals before their execution. By expanding the testing and preservation of DNA, Texas has taken steps to ensure that no innocent person is ever sentenced to death.
Still, I believe that once a fair trial and the appeals process has been exhausted that Texas should deliver swift justice while not having to sacrifice the critical importance that we place on the humanity of the process. As such, I do support protecting the identities of manufacturers who provide any materials that are used in an execution so that these service providers can continue to work with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in keeping our executions humane and problem free, and do so without the fear of retaliation from those who do not agree with the idea of the death penalty.
As a pro-2nd Amendment conservative, I support all initiatives that allow responsible, law abiding Texas citizens to be able to protect themselves and their property. I have a strong record of supporting advances in this area, such as legalizing CHL holders ability to keep their guns safely stored in their vehicles while at work so that this basic level of personal protection would be immediately available to them at the conclusion of the work day. As a result my campaign is supported by the leading 2nd Amendment advocates, including my A rating with the National Rifle Association and the Texas State Rifle Association.
Like every session, I expect multiple bills to be considered on the House floor pertaining to our 2nd Amendment rights. In keeping consistent with my stance, I will support those that will enhance a law abiding person’s ability to protect themselves from imminent danger.
First and foremost we must remember that marijuana possession is a crime in Texas. However, we can certainly change our approach in how we handle these offenders, many of whom are non-violent. Our prisons are full of drug-related offenders, many of whom have served prior time for another drug-related offense. With such a large burden on our taxpayers, we need new solutions in our war on drugs. We must continue to move past the days of locking up offenders without a plan for rehabilitation. It is imperative that we give those released from prison the tools to succeed and not be a further burden to society.
I do believe that we can more intelligently treat certain non-violent drug offenders in Texas through the use of expanded probation, proven drug treatment programs and extensive counseling as opposed to costly and lengthy jail sentences.
Likewise, Texas prisons are addressing the need for productive punishment in our system today. As Chairman of the House Corrections Committee, I have toured many of our different prisons across the state, and have been able to observe innovative programs firsthand. Given these recent successes, many of our correctional challenges are being addressed by being smarter with how we rehabilitate inmates. A great example of rehabilitating inmates is vocational training. Vocational training is one of the top ways I believe we can meet our end goal of fewer incarcerated people. All people want to feel productive and the same is true of our prison population. We need to focus our attention on providing the tools while inmates are in the system so they can be successful on the outside. Certain not-for-profit groups operating within our prisons provide vocational and leadership training to inmates who qualify for the programs. These groups have noted recidivism rates as low as 7 percent for their graduates, which is much lower than our state average of 22.6 percent.
Like so many other Texans, I have a first-hand understanding of how difficult it can be to meet unique healthcare challenges within our existing framework. I do support new and innovative approaches to treating those who are terminally or otherwise extremely ill. For example, I recently attended a legislative seminar on the topic of allowing terminal patients who have exhausted all other treatment options the ability to employ experimental treatments that are still in the testing phase and not yet approved for wide use. I do think it is important that we grant those whose lives are at risk every treatment option possible to cure their condition and live a productive life.
Medical marijuana is a topic that has been discussed in the Texas Legislature since I was first elected in 2006. Like any other issue of public policy, it is one that is always evolving and I look forward to continuing to compile new data and information on the topic. However, I am currently considering support for tightly written legislation that would provide marijuana on a strict prescription basis for very specific conditions that have clearly demonstrated medical benefits, such as epilepsy.
I believe that Texas is the model for sunshine in government that other states should be following. In Texas we have constitutionally mandated record votes of the legislature, our state’s checkbook is made available on-line on the Comptroller’s website and any interested person can request documents and information of interest from governmental entities. Still, there is always room for improvement.
That is why last session I supported a bill to require county governments, school districts and municipalities of a certain size to record their regularly scheduled open meetings and archive that footage online. While this bill, unfortunately, was not passed in time to be signed into law, I look forward to continuing to support it and any new initiatives that build on Texas’ strong record for open government.
Certainly, we need to manage oil and gas drilling with the utmost concern for the health and safety of our citizens. As long as our operations maintain a high level of responsibility to our environment and population, the oil and natural gas exploration that is currently going on in Texas has the potential to secure our continued economic prosperity for decades to come.
This question is in direct relation to the ongoing situation in Denton, where local voters will be called upon to weigh in on a potential fracking ban. Before taking a position on the appropriate role that the state government should have on this matter, I believe it is prudent to first see how this process concludes in November and the impact that outcome will ultimately have on this discussion.
I do believe that payday lenders provide a valuable service to our economy in the form of access to capital. I have visited with several individuals who have shared with me their positive experiences with payday lenders and how that access to capital helped them navigate their way through difficult economic times. The measures passed by the legislature during the 2011 session have, in my opinion, adequately addressed the public concerns associated with the payday lending industry and I would not support any further regulations at this time.