I am truly thrilled at the outcome and correct overturning of Roe v Wade by the Supreme Court. This ruling will certainly save many lives and I believe will serve our country and all its people well going forward.
There are many aspects to this decision and it will have a number of future consequences. I thought I would simply make a list of my thoughts as they stand right now and share them with you:
- What this means (and what it doesn’t mean) – This ruling simply acknowledges what has always been true. The Supreme Court does not have the authority to create rights out of thin air. This ruling doesn’t make abortion illegal in this country, but merely overturns a creation of a law by a body that does not actually have the authority to create laws. So essentially this puts the decision about life/abortions back in the hands of elected officials at both the state and federal level (where it always should have been). The Feds have never passed laws on this issue, so the laws that govern abortion in this country will be those created at the state level.
- Personal – When does a human life begin? Because, once life begins, then government has a role and truly a responsibility to protect innocent life. I fully acknowledge that this right is made exceedingly more complex by the location of that life and by the fact that this burden is 100% born by women.
- Texas – I am thankful that Texas had been preparing for months in advance of this ruling. By passing the “trigger ban” (thanks to my deskmate Giovanni Capriglione) during the 2021 legislative session, the state’s laws will begin fully protecting life 30 days from the date of the Dobbs decision. This law provides exceptions for the life of the mother as those very complex decisions should not be made by the state, but at the personal/family level.
- The country – It’s both important and truly sad that even after the overturning of Roe, many states in the country will still allow abortion until the moment before birth. These states align with only 6 countries around the world that allow abortions after 20 weeks. Let me say that again, out of over 200 nations in the world, the United States is one of 7 that allows abortion after 20 weeks. Even after this ruling.
- What’s next – For those who are thrilled with this decision, it is not the time to gloat. In addition to the sobering reality that much of the country will continue to perform third trimester abortions, we must also make sure we are prepared to help new families in our state and communities going forward. The state also prepared for this last session by expanding Medicaid benefits for new moms from 2 months to 6 months after birth. But government programs are a poor replacement for individual involvement in the lives of individuals in the time of need. Far too many times, I see people (including me) focusing on changing the world, when really we just need to be the change in the the life of one person.
Ultimately, this is an issue that has been and will continue to be difficult for the opposing sides to find common ground. If you believe that the unborn child is a clump of cells, then it will never make sense for government intervention in a woman’s healthcare decision. If, however, you believe that the unborn child is a person, then you will always believe that it is imperative for the government to intervene to protect that child’s life from being extinguished. I don’t see how that ever changes.
Please feel free to share your thoughts with me as this issue will be one that we will no doubt be dealing with for a long, long time.
As always, please reach out to me or my staff if there is ever anything we can do for you.
I know it felt like we just had an election, but we have another one starting today when voters will have the opportunity to vote on two potential amendments to our state constitution. Early voting runs from April 25th through May 3rd and election day itself is on May 7th.
Both of the amendments up for consideration for this election deal with reducing property taxes. The ballot language may seem confusing so here is my take on the amendments–I hope you will consider voting “FOR” these propositions as you cast your ballot!
In plain English, Proposition 1 would lower the cap on taxable value (“freeze value”) for seniors and those with disabilities. If it passes, it will lower school district tax bills for seniors and those with disabilities. Proposition 2 raises the homestead exemption for homeowners from $25K to $40K so that they pay taxes on a smaller amount of their value.
As a reminder, for amendment proposals to make it onto the ballot, they must first be approved in the form of a Joint Resolution by a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the Texas Legislature. It is difficult to get the necessary votes to get an amendment on the ballot. As such, most amendments are fairly non-controversial and easily approved by voters.
Both of the proposed constitutional amendments in this election were passed during the special sessions this past fall.
Additionally, I recently posted a fairly lengthy explainer on Facebook about why the huge increases in property appraisals do not mean commensurate huge increases in your property tax bills next year. We’ve included that post in the body of the newsletter below but the summary is this:
- The appraised value is just the first step in a 5-6 step process to eventually determine your total tax bill.
- Unless local taxing entities (county, city, school district) ask for voter approval, they WILL HAVE TO REDUCE TAX RATES substantially specifically because the values have gone up so much.
Please reach out with any questions, comments, or concerns on these or other topics.
In most of our state the upcoming primary election is much more important than the more talked about general election in November. That is because in the large majority of races across Texas, we know with near certainty which party’s candidate will win regardless of who wins the primary. This is likely true even of the statewide races. The bottom line is that these races are important, since the winner of the dominating party’s primary in any given region will win the general election.
For essentially all of the counties in this district, that means the Republican Primary. For that reason, I will share my thoughts and some picks on the statewide races on the Republican side.
Let me say that my opinion is no more important than yours. I have one vote and you have one vote. The chart on the next page shows you who I will be voting for, with the notable exception of the Attorney General. I am still mulling that decision over, as all four candidates have unique strengths as well as some challenges. I may send an update email if I decide before I enter the voting booth.
I will be voting for both incumbents for Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Greg Abbott will win handily, and I believe is in the best position to soundly beat Beto in November. I am still a big fan of Dan Patrick on most policy issues.
Glenn Hegar does a fantastic job as Comptroller of the State and has my vote and unqualified support.
The Office of Agriculture needs a change and James White is the person for the job.
The last race I will comment on is only for my constituents in Wichita County. I strongly believe Jim Johnson is the clear choice in the race for Wichita County Judge. (Though the only thing that really matters is your opinion.)
I hope this helps. If you agree with my thoughts, great. If not, that is the beauty of a free country. You can vote for whomever you want.
As many of you are aware, next Monday begins a very important election where the residents of Wichita County will be casting primary votes for a new county judge. The purpose of this newsletter is to explain what the role of county judge actually is and to share my thoughts about who you should consider supporting with your vote. I assure you that I don’t think my opinion is any more important than anyone else’s, but given my familiarity with both the role of county judge and one of the candidates, I thought at least some of you might be interested.
For the record, I will be voting for Jim Johnson and if you have time to finish this letter I think you will see why.
What does the County Judge Actually Do?
The role of the county judge is an incredibly important one in Texas government and yet many people really don’t understand what a county judge does. I have outlined in detail in the newsletter what the county judge actually does because the primary election begins Monday, Feb 14th (Election day is Mar 1). Given that the county is currently close to 75% Republican, the winner of the primary is almost certain to win the general election in November and become Wichita County Judge in January 2023.
Though the article below gives much detail on the role of the county judge, the Cliff’s notes version is that the judge is the:
- Presiding officer of the commissioners’ court, which is made up of 5 people with the other 4 being separately elected commissioners.
- Chief Budget Officer of the County – Wichita County has nearly a $60 million budget.
- Emergency Management Officer for Wichita County – A role that we have seen exercised extensively during the COVID pandemic.
- Election Oversight Officer – The county judge plays a central role in the administration and oversight of elections.
- Constituent Services Provider – Staying connected with and serving constituents in the county is a huge part of the job of an effective county judge.
- Judge – Many county judges do not actually perform judicial functions. In larger counties their administrative role takes precedence over any judicial functions. He or she can perform certain civil, probate, misdemeanor, juvenile, criminal and mental health cases.
Who is Jim Johnson?
Jim is a lifetime Wichita Falls resident. He and his wife, Sarah (also from WF) have been married for 14 years and have one son, Jacob. Jim was a National Merit Scholarship winner who graduated from Rider High School. Though he did cross the Red River to graduate from OU, he has spent essentially all of his adult life in this area (with the notable exceptions of 5-month Austin stints for the past four sessions). He has spent the past 8-years as my Chief of Staff and has done a truly fantastic job. He also served in Congressman Thornberry’s Wichita Falls office handling constituent issues for 5 years. His knowledge of the inner workings of government are unmatched, however, his perspective and focus have always remained with the constituent (not the government). He is genuinely conservative in his personal life, his beliefs and in his political convictions.
There are few men on the planet that I respect more than Jim Johnson. I have known him for many years, and have worked with him very closely over the past eight years as he has served as the Chief of Staff for my state representative office. In that role, he has been instrumental in working with the 6 county judges that I represent, working constituent issues, working with state agencies, and he has become intimately familiar with the state budget. He has also handled all interviewing, hiring and managing the rest of my legislative staff. He has developed strong working relationships with our other elected officials at the state and local levels. In fact, his knowledge and work ethic have earned him the endorsements of the Wichita Falls Association of Realtors, the Wichita Falls Police Officers Association, Congressman Ronny Jackson, State Senators Springer and Perry along with Mayor Santellana.
Why vote for Jim?
Let me make it abundantly clear that I do not think my opinion is any more important or valid that anyone else’s. I do; however, want to share my thoughts on this very important race with anyone who is interested (and I doubt you would have made it this far if you weren’t – LOL).
I am supporting Jim Johnson for County Judge because after carefully reviewing the job description for county judge (See comments above and article below) and knowing Jim’s talents, character and temperament, I believe with all of my heart that he is the right person for the job. A well-run county is important for the quality of life citizens and county employees alike.
Finally, who we elect to represent us is important at all levels. I really appreciate you taking the time to consider my thoughts and encourage you to vote regardless of whether or not you agree with them when early voting starts on Monday Feb 14th (Election day is Mar 1).
Over the past two weeks, there have been a number of events that I have participated in. On the political front, I spent two days last week with our state senators, Charles Perry and Drew Springer, participating in town halls and meeting with local leaders. While I currently share three counties each with these senators, Wichita County will essentially be split down the middle when redistricting is finalized in January 2023. The senators were in town to meet and field concerns and try to make this transition go as smooth as possible. I truly think that it could be very beneficial for the area to have two senators representing it for the coming decade.
I was also able to participate in MSU’s 100 year anniversary celebration. It is amazing to remember the kind of impact that MSU has had on this area over the years. I am truly excited about the relationship with the Texas Tech System and what that will mean for the University and the City going forward.
We also had the first major winter storm since last year’s winter storm Uri and while this wasn’t nearly as severe as Uri, the grid appeared to handle the extra load very well and the communication and coordination were much better than last year (as should be expected).
Finally, primary elections (for those races where more than one person filed in either the Republican or Democratic Primary) begin February 14th and finish March 1st. I will be sending out several e-mails over the coming week to discuss these important races at both the state level and the local level.
As always, please reach out to me or my staff if there is ever anything we can do for you.
It’s hard to believe that it is already political campaigning season! Last month, I officially filed to run again as the representative for a much larger House District 69. Now that the filing window is past, I am pleased to announce that I will not have a Republican primary opponent in March. I do, however, have a Democrat challenger for the first time in November. While this will be my first contested race, I truly look forward to discussing the very different visions for our area, the state and the country that I have compared to today’s Democratic Party.
On the policy front, there’s been some movement regarding vaccine mandates at both the state and federal level that I address further down in the body of the newsletter. If you or someone you know has been affected by the various mandates, I encourage you to read it to see what options might be available for you.
During the interim, I try to catch up on reading and wanted to share a couple of pieces that I think speak well to current issues. The first is President Eisenhower’s farewell address. His words, while specifically addressing the dangers of the military-industrial complex, are prescient when looking at the almost complete government control of funding of medical research.
I also read a great article last month about restoring the proper constitutional balance of power between the states and Washington, D.C. last month (LINK). I agreed with these sentiments when President Trump was in office and I agree with them now that President Biden holds power. I’d encourage you to take a look at it and would love to hear your thoughts as well. Just drop a note to email@example.com.
Finally, Alisha and I would like to wish all of you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year! While this can be a hectic and stressful time of year, we hope that you are able to spend it and enjoy it with family and friends. We’ll see you in 2022!
After nearly 10 months of being in Austin for session (through May) and 3 different 30-day special sessions, I am thrilled to finally be back home. The 3rd–and hopefully final–special session ended a little after 1am Tuesday morning. After dealing with topics like election integrity and a 13th check for retired teachers in the previous special session, Governor Abbott put ten items on the call for this third special session:
- Appropriating federal relief and recovery funds,
- Prohibition on COVID vaccine mandates from government entities,
- Transgender athlete participation in UIL sports,
- Dog tethering,
- Property tax relief (added with 28 days remaining in the special),
- Bail reform constitutional amendment (added with 28 days remaining in the special),
- Increases in penalties for illegally voting (added with 20 days remaining in the special),
- Prohibition on COVID vaccine mandates from all entities (added with 8 days remaining in the special),
- Higher education improvements (added with 4 days remaining in the special)
As a reminder, when we are in a special session, we cannot pass bills that are not on the Governor’s agenda.
The biggest and absolute MUST-PASS item was redistricting and we were able to pass all of the necessary maps on time. Every ten years, the Texas Legislature is tasked with drawing the districts for the Texas House, Texas Senate, State Board of Education, and Texas’ Congressional seats. Our state’s growth over the past ten years resulted in Texas gaining two seats in the US House of Representatives, which means two additional congressional districts had to be drawn into the state.
Closer to home, our Texas House district (HD-69) needed to grow by about 30,000 people. To gain that population, the district is growing from 6 counties (Archer, Baylor, Clay, Foard, Knox, and Wichita) to 14 counties (by adding Cottle, Fisher, Hardeman, Haskell, King, Motley, Stonewall, and Wilbarger).
Of those 9 items listed above, there were a couple of topics that did not make it across the finish line. The most notable issue that did not make it to the Governor’s desk was the prohibition on COVID vaccine mandates. I supported legislation that would have protected individuals from mandated vaccination by either the government or business owners, but in the end the votes were not there to get something passed out of either the House or Senate. The Governor did issue an executive order that accomplishes the same thing and that is effectively law until his emergency declaration on COVID expires.
Below, we have provided a brief breakdown of each of the bills passed this special session. If you have any questions about what passed (or did not pass) over the past ten months, please reach out to me or my office.
The Cost of a Thankless Heart, The Importance of Being Grateful, and Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation November 26, 2021
“Never in the history of man have so many had so much, and thought they had so little.”
This in my estimation is American life in 2021. By just about any measure of material well-being, Americans are fantastically wealthy compared to the vast majority of people alive in the world today and certainly at any point in world history. Yet, if our suicide rates, drug usage and reported mental health problems are any indication we are an increasingly unhappy people despite our abundant wealth. While many will point to increased income inequality as the culprit, today’s poor in this country are fabulously wealthy compared to most other countries and, again, any earlier time.
It’s almost as if there is more to life than material possessions. While there are many issues at the heart of our collective unhappiness as a country, I believe one of the root causes is that as a culture and as individuals, we have lost our sense of gratitude and have forgotten the source of our blessings. We live in a world with dueling ideologies where the worst of one side has made the pursuit of money (greed is good) a god that will somehow satisfy, while the worst of the other extreme has made an idol out of envy and jealously of anyone who has more than they do (regardless of their own blessings). Regardless of whether envy or greed, the result is feeling that you never have enough.
I am certainly not immune to this thankless attitude that seems to permeate our society. It is why I think having a national day of Thanksgiving as a country is such a potentially important day. Imagine if everyone focused on what they as individuals have for which to be thankful. Imagine if we actually acknowledged the source of these blessings as a country, instead of looking at what we don’t yet have or what someone else has that we don’t.
I realize that many of you may be going through trials that make you feel as if Thankfulness is unattainable for you or somehow you don’t need to be grateful. This is why every year I reread the Thanksgiving Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln, who did not allow the bloodiest war in American history from deterring him from giving thanks. In fact, I would guess that his willingness to recognize his (and this country’s) many blessings and their source, was likely the only thing that sustained him during some of the darkest hours in our county’s history.
For many of us, the best thing we could do for our mental health and for the well-being of those around us would be to cultivate gratitude and be the kind of people who are focused on the gifts we have received rather than the things we do not have. We compare our wealth to the titans of industry, our looks to the most beautiful in Hollywood and our athletic prowess to professional athletes. Meanwhile in the real world, we could simply spend any amount of time with real people in our own cities to realize just how blessed most of us are.
It is my hope that you have a happy and truly thankful Thanksgiving with family and friends.
It is difficult to get the necessary votes to get an amendment on the ballot. As such, most (but certainly not all) amendments are fairly non-controversial and easily approved by voters. While they are all important, Proposition 6 has a special place for me as it is the result of a ton of hard work by my staff and individuals across the state to ensure that nursing home residents are never again denied their right to in-person visitation by a loved one. In addition to Prop 6, I will be voting in support of 7 of the 8 amendments.
The proposed amendments are as follows:
Proposition 1: Allows charitable foundations linked to professional rodeo associations to conduct raffles.
Proposition 2: Provides municipalities the authority to finance infrastructure in underdeveloped areas.
Proposition 3: Prohibits the state from limiting religious services.
Proposition 4: Raises the qualifications to serve as a judge or justice on certain courts.
Proposition 5: Allows the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to investigate and take action against judicial candidates in the same manner as they do for sitting judges.
Proposition 6: Establishes the right of individuals in long-term care facilities to designate an individual as an essential caregiver for in-person visitation.
Proposition 7: Places a tax freeze on school district taxes on the homesteads of eligible surviving spouses of disabled individuals.
Proposition 8: Creates a property tax exemption for the surviving spouse of a servicemember killed in the line of duty.
We’ve included a more in-depth explainer on each proposition below. The Texas House Research Organization also has produced a good non-partisan briefing on the amendments that you can read here. As always, feel free to reach out with any questions you may have.