Priorities & Accomplishments
My priorities reveal my values, and my values are consistent across my personal and public life.
I believe that you, the constituents whom I have the privilege of serving in the Texas House of Representatives, have the right to know what my primary legislative priorities are. I also believe you should know the level of success my staff and I have in accomplishing these priorities for the good of the Texas Panhandle and for the good of our beloved Texas.
FAITH & FAMILY
My Christian faith guides and directly impacts my public policy decisions. To do otherwise would be inconsistent with my Christian faith. It is the source of my strength and comfort whether life’s circumstances are difficult or peaceful. My faith in my redeemer Jesus Christ permeates my entire life.
It is not surprising to me that the very first constitutional amendment of the United States Constitution provides for religious liberty.
I have consistently supported and voted for bills regarding religious freedom, beliefs and expression. These include: my supporting SB 1978, during the 2019 regular session, which was signed into law and pertains to protecting membership in, affiliation with, and support provided to religious organizations; and my joint sponsoring SB 24, during the 2017 regular session, which was signed into law and pertains to protection of a minister’s sermons from government interference.
Along with faith, family is very important to me. I am blessed to have the support of a loving Christian wife, Karen. Together, we did our very best to raise our children, now young adults, with love, nurturing support, and values. Knowing personally how family enriches my life, I have consistently voted for legislation that does not undermine families, but rather, strengthens the family unit. This includes making sure that we have sound fiscal state policies that allow families to keep as much of their income as possible by passing a sound state budget and that the state does not encroach on what should be within the authority of parents such as the right to choose what type of educational system is best for their children.
I love children, the unborn and the born equally, and I have consistently advocated for both of them.
I have supported all pro-life bills that were considered and passed in the Texas House Chamber. These include HB 16 in 2019, SB 8 in 2017, HB 3994 in 2015, HB 2 in 2013, second special session, and HB 15 in 2011.
I have authored and passed into law legislation that allows greater criminal penalties to be imposed on those who are convicted of abusing children, HB 220 in 2013. I have also authored and passed into law greater enforcement against synthetic marijuana, which purveyors of often target children, via HB 1212 in 2015 and HB 2804 in 2017. I have strongly and consistently advocated for laws that increase criminal penalties against the scourge of human trafficking which often includes children. I have also authored and sponsored legislation supporting the great work of our childrens’ advocacy centers across Texas, including SB 821 in 2019.
Education dollars, wisely spent, are the best investment a state can make in helping raise up the next generation of productive self-reliant citizens to continue to build upon a strong Texas – sound families and our sound economy. Thus, a primary legislative priority is supporting polices and legislation that enhance educational opportunities at all levels, including community colleges and technical training programs.
I fully support the rights of parents to determine what type of education they believe is best for their own children – whether public, charter, private, parochial, or home school; however, while I support parental choice, I do not support private school vouchers. I strongly support the mission of Texas public schools to provide educational opportunities so that all Texas children can live up to their fullest educational potential. As a product of Amarillo public schools, I know my teachers taught me well and helped prepare me for my future.
I frequently visit students and their teachers/professors, and I have always come away with a sense of hope and pride in Texas’ future. My staff and I stay in communication with superintendents, educators and college/university presidents. All of this engagement is vital to my advocating strongly in the Texas Legislature for enhancing our existing Panhandle educational opportunities. During the 2019 session, I coauthored HB 3, the historic school finance reform and funding bill that passed into law, and I strongly advocated for the adoption of the House budget provisions making the establishment of the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo a reality. During the 2019 session, I also strongly advocated for and helped secure additional funding for West Texas A&M University educational programs. Additionally, in recent years, I have advocated for the construction of West Texas A&M’s new agricultural sciences facility and the expansion of its Amarillo campus, as well as for the enhancement of a hospital simulation facility at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Amarillo.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & JOBS
The Texas economy is the tenth largest economy in the entire world. This is not an accident. It is due to the grit and entrepreneurial spirit of her people and the sound fiscal policies that the Texas Legislature has enacted over the past decade. I believe in private enterprise and property rights. Our nation’s continued prosperity will be defined as to how well we adhere to these basic principles of capitalism.
It is the inventor who dreams, the person willing to risk private capital, and the fledgling entrepreneur wanting to build his or her small business, who in a significant way helped to shape our country. I will continue to do all I can to help preserve this spirit in Texas. This includes careful evaluation of all bills as to how they may aid or deter economic development and job creation. Does the bill contain a regulatory component, and if so, does it make sense and is it absolutely necessary?
I am proud to have supported meaningful pro-business legislation, including reducing taxes; providing property tax reform; maintaining Texas’ excellent credit rating and a healthy balance in our state economic stabilization fund; encouraging expansion of state tourism; and supporting the state’s key businesses, including those within our agriculture and energy sectors.
During the 2019 session, I voted for SB 2 which passed into law and puts into place greater property tax reform and transparency for taxpayers. I authored and passed bills creating a governor’s broadband council to come up with solutions to provide more internet connectivity in rural areas, HB 1960; protecting those employees 55 years of age and above from discrimination in training programs, HB 1074; and allowing for increased tourism development statewide by providing greater flexibility at the local level, HB 1136.
An additional key factor to our state’s economy concerns the transportation of goods. This is why I authored and passed HB 1079, which requires the Texas Department of Transportation to conduct a comprehensive study (with extensive local input) regarding the feasibility of expanding Interstate 27 in both directions to more than just the stretch between Amarillo and Lubbock. I also communicate with local Amarillo TxDOT officials on a frequent basis regarding area highway construction and safety enhancements.
When asked the question – whether one would rather be healthy or wealthy – overwhelmingly people choose health. This makes perfect sense to me because good health of body, including sound health of the mind, directly impacts one’s ability to properly function and influences much of their mood and attitude towards life. Without health, the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment is very difficult.
Health and the delivery of healthcare are among the most often discussed issues around the ‘kitchen table’ of many families, and, in recent times, the conversations have also included mental health concerns involving family members, friends, neighbors, classmates, and coworkers.
My legislative efforts in health public policy began when I authored a bill during my very first legislative session designed to improve the brain health of student athletes in Texas public schools. House Bill 2038 of the 2011 regular session passed into law and has had a tremendous positive impact on further educating student athletes, parents, coaches and school administrators of suspected head trauma occurring either during practices or games, the necessary medical protocols to safely return to play, and how to avoid future brain injury.
My interest in brain health has also influenced my passion to improve mental health delivery throughout Texas. I have authored and passed several bills regarding mental health, including strengthening mental health resources available in our public schools and on higher education campuses, the funding of community mental health services through matching grants, and within the criminal justice setting. I have also successfully passed into law legislation requiring health insurers who provide mental health coverage as part of their health plan to treat mental health on par, or in parity, with other medical conditions for which coverage is provided to and paid for by the insured. Also, I have worked on legislative solutions to improve and expand the infrastructure capacity within our state’s psychiatric hospital system.
My work on mental health has not been exclusive of other healthcare concerns and matters. I have worked vigorously in support of our rural hospitals and to improve rural access to healthcare by supporting public policy measures that will grow the number of healthcare professionals in our current healthcare workforce from physicians to nurses to allied health professionals. I have passed into law legislation that unshackles from unnecessary and unreasonable bureaucratic regulation the delivery of healthcare and medicine through telehealth and telemedicine. I confronted the opioids crisis not by interfering in the physician-patient relationship regarding how much a physician should prescribe because there are legitimate situations where patients are living with chronic pain. Instead, I passed into law a bill I authored that strengthens the continuing medical/health education requirements of all healthcare professionals who prescribe narcotics. Now, all such prescribing healthcare providers are to receive education on these classes of drugs and the potential for, as well as, signs of abuse. I am very optimistic that this will save lives. To further save lives, I recently authored and passed legislation that will increase the opportunities to sign up and become an organ donor.
We all desire and need clean water and air and the preservation of natural spaces, such as state parks and wildlife refuge areas, for life, recreation and relaxation. As an avid outdoorsman, I enjoy fishing, hunting, hiking and generally any activity that allows me to be outside and enjoy the wonders of God’s creation. This includes all the outdoors has to offer from the exhilarating to quiet moments like a Texas sunrise or sunset.
Throughout my service as your state representative, I have worked on several legislative measures concerning our natural resources, including:
- Helping to ensure that Texans have water in times of severe drought. Specifically, I joint authored the historic House Bill 4 during the 2013 legislative session. House Bill 4 was in direct response to the 2011 major drought that shattered several records when compared to the drought of the 1950’s. The legislation proposed a constitutional amendment creating the State Water Infrastructure Fund for Texas (SWIFT). Texas voters, by a margin of 73 percent in favor, approved the creation of the SWIFT fund during the 2013 Constitutional Amendment Election. The fund, a revolving low interest loan program, is administered by the Texas Water Development Board.
- Supporting the proper funding of our state parks and recreation areas by voting to end the diversion of funds that should be going to the Texas Department of Parks & Wildlife; funds that are dedicated for these purposes through the collection of sales taxes from sporting good purchases by consumers.
- Protecting the private property right to use one’s groundwater resources while at the same time ensuring for the greater good against the waste of this precious water resource.
- Supporting Texans right to hunt and fish by placing before the voters a proposed constitutional amendment recognizing the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife subject to laws that promote wildlife conservation. During the 2015 Constitutional Amendment Election, Texas voters approved this proposition by a margin of 81 percent.
I strongly believe that the best conservationists are outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen in the tradition of perhaps the greatest American conservationists of all time, President Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt. He was an avid hunter and fisherman, who also enjoyed hiking and horseback trail rides. He even explored the Amazon and was at one point in time a rancher. He thoroughly understood what the outdoors provided for man’s inner being, and thereby, he set out to preserve many of our national treasures, many of which are our U.S. national parks. Professor Douglas Brinkley authored a wonderful book on this topic entitled, The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America. In the book, Brinkley details how this “naturalist president” accomplished setting aside more than 230 million acres of spectacular natural beauty for posterity between 1901 and 1909. Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, is among my favorite presidents, the others being Presidents Washington, Lincoln and Reagan.
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