Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, and Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress, joined The Texas Tribune Monday afternoon at Lone Star College in The Woodlands for a conversation about their districts, Hurricane Harvey relief and what the Legislature did — and didn’t — accomplish during this year’s regular and special sessions.
A look back. Creighton and Oliverson both said the Legislature’s accomplishments brought positive impacts to their constituents, even though several of Gov. Greg Abbott’s legislative priorities failed to pass. On one of those priorities, property taxes, Creighton said the distance between the 4 percent rollback rate proposed by the Senate and the 6 percent rate favored by the House was too great to bridge. Oliverson touted legislative achievements that bolstered anti-abortion measures and eased regulations on business.
Back to the bathrooms. Speaking on what was perhaps the most divisive issue of this year’s regular and special legislative sessions, Oliverson said he “quite frankly [doesn’t] see how” legislation restricting the bathroom usage of transgender individuals could hurt the state’s business climate (though many high-profile business leaders urged lawmakers not to pass such a measure).
The lawmakers also weighed in on House Speaker Joe Straus’ new House Select Committee on Economic Competitiveness, which many consider a bulwark against any future bathroom bills and whose purpose Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick publicly questioned this weekend. Creighton said he wouldn’t wade into the House’s business of deciding what to study during the interim, but noted that “we’re the leader of economic competitiveness in the nation.”
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“If Jeff Bezos or anyone else wants to basically hold us all hostage and say, ‘Well, we’re not moving here unless you change your social policy to fit our needs,’ then quite frankly I don’t want his business,” Oliverson said. Creighton had a similar message about the possibility of losing a high-revenue sports tournament — it would be worth losing such an event, he said, “to keep us safe.”
And on Harvey. Both lawmakers said it’s too soon to predict exactly how the devastating storm may impact the Legislature’s budget when legislators reconvene in 2019. “It’s early — we’re still getting the numbers, still seeing federal dollars roll in,” Creighton said. “It’s going to be expensive.”
Oliverson also expressed concerns that homeowners are not being given “useful” information about their likelihood of flooding, echoing a complaint many coastal residents have raised in the wake of the storm.