At a Texas Tribune event this Thursday in Laredo, Reps. Tracy King, D-Batesville, and Richard Peña Raymond, D-Laredo, talked with Tribune CEO Evan Smith about topics that affect the communities they represent in South Texas: the next legislative session, healthcare, border security and more. Here are some of the highlights:
Looking back at Texas last legislative session, what got done and what didn’t?
One success from 2017, according to Raymond, was the passage of a Child Protective Services reform bill, which received bipartisan support.
“We passed legislation that I believe will continue to build a system to take care of the kids that are the most vulnerable in our society and who have some of the toughest stories you can ever imagine,” Raymond said.
Asked why the Texas Legislature waited for the CPS issue to become a crisis, King said that’s just the way it is, but that it’s important to recognize that the Legislature stepped up when it was needed.
“That’s the human condition, people start exercising after getting their first heart attack,” King said.
Why does Texas have such a high number of uninsured residents?
In one word: money, King said.
“If we had all the money that we would love to have and everything was available to us, we could make sure that everybody had adequate healthcare and adequate insurance, but it’s a money issue,” King said.
Raymond, on the other hand, said it’s a challenge to educate Texas legislators about the benefits of expanding Medicaid.
“Let’s be clear, part of why you don’t have an expansion of Medicaid is a lot of our colleagues still are not engaged enough to understand how many of their constituents qualify for Medicaid,” Raymond said.
What’s going on with school financing?
Raymond said that it’s up to Republicans to take action to fix the way the state funds its public schools.
“When it comes to public schools in the state of Texas, there hasn’t been the will by my Republican colleagues to make that leap, unless the Supreme Court makes us,” Raymond said.
In light of the Texas Supreme Court 2016 ruling that upheld the state’s public school funding system as constitutional, both Raymond and King agreed that the state should spend more on education. In fact, Raymond said he plans to introduce a bill that would require the state fund 50 percent of public education through appropriations.
“My bill would simply say this, before we do anything else in the appropriations bill, 50 percent of public ed in the state of Texas has to be funded. You have to pass that bill first,” Raymond said.
He added that it would cost about $10 billion a year, and it would be up to the legislators to decide how to pay for it.
Should Texas continue spending money on border security?
Raymond and King agreed that the federal government should be mostly responsible for border security, not the state of Texas, but Raymond said that Texas must step in if the federal government doesn’t step up.
“I represent Laredo, and we are one of the safest communities in this country, so is El Paso. But that’s because we invest a lot of money in public safety,” Raymond said.