State Reps. Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredericksburg, and Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, joined The Texas Tribune Tuesday for a conversation on their Central Texas districts.
Isaac recently stepped away from his state House seat to run for Congress and is now in the grips of a crowded Republican primary race that recently expanded to include Chip Roy, a former staffer to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. Biedermann, a freshman state representative from Fredericksburg, has drawn attention this year for launching an anonymous Facebook campaign against a local parks bond and for polling Muslim constituents about whether they favor designating the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization.
Here’s what they had to say:
There’s enough money already being spent on public education — it’s a matter of smart allocations, both lawmakers said. Isaac said the Legislature did not pass a much-discussed school finance fix this session because of “a lack of leadership” — but neither lawmaker said the system itself requires more money.
“Why put more money into a broken system?” Biedermann asked. “Let’s fix the system and get the money where it needs to go.” And Isaac said the federal government needs to roll back some of the costly regulations it currently imposes on school districts — a measure he hopes to champion on the national stage.
And some parting shots at the speaker. Both lawmakers criticized longtime House Speaker Joe Straus, who announced this fall he’ll retire after five sessions leading the lower chamber, as an overbearing leader during his time at the helm. Biedermann said that under Straus, “we were not given a voice.” While neither would name a candidate they’d favor to replace Straus, both advocated a weaker role for the leader of the House.
“We weren’t allowed to represent our districts,” Biedermann said. “Policy was lacking because there were so many personality conflicts.”
“There were some of us that were punished because we were conservative,” Isaac said.
Me too? Asked whether U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold should resign after reports surfaced recently that he settled a sexual harassment claim with a former staffer using $84,000 of taxpayers’ money, Isaac and Biedermann both demurred. Isaac said it is “appalling” that taxpayers funded the settlement but wouldn’t say whether Farenthold is fit for office.
“I don’t want to rush to judgment,” Isaac said. “I don’t live in that district, I don’t speak for those constituents.”
“Don’t we have innocent until proven guilty?” questioned Biedermann.
Both lawmakers advocated for solving problems of sexual harassment at the Texas Capitol with new policies.