The Katy Area Chamber held a community discussion with State Representative Mike Schofield, R – Katy, and Austin Arceneaux, district director for State Senator Joan Huffman, R – Houston, …
The Katy Area Chamber held a community discussion with State Representative Mike Schofield, R – Katy, and Austin Arceneaux, district director for State Senator Joan Huffman, R – Houston, joined area leaders for an update on Texas’ 87th Legislative Session. The discussion was moderated by Robert Long, Raise Your Hand Texas’s regional advocacy director for West Houston.
“(Raise Your Hand Texas is) completely nonpartisan, so we don’t endorse or we don’t go against – we just make sure that the right voices for public education are connected with our lawmakers,” Long said. “And so, in this space, we just really wanted to create a space for our elected officials to be able to come in and give you guys an in-person update.”
The event which was organized by the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce and held at one of Katy’s newest restaurants, Pearl & Vine, covered a range of topics including the recent winter storm, redistricting, bail reform and other important topics.
Arceneaux said Huffman is chair of the redistricting committee which oversees the process which lays out the physical boundaries of each of the state’s legislative districts. However, Arceneaux said that, while redistricting is usually handled during the main legislative session, a special session will likely be needed this fall due to the U.S. Census Bureau’s delayed reporting caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Arceneaux said he expected that the districts that represent the Katy area and the rest of the west side of Houston would see additional seats in the legislature.
“The good thing is that there has been so much growth in the state of Texas, specifically out here on the west side of Houston that we are anticipating your (gaining some additional) seats,” Arceneaux said.
Huffman is also paying close attention to the issues with repricing electricity after Winter Storm Uri led to what many Texans consider price gouging by ERCOT and the Public Utility Commission as well as private electrical providers, Arceneaux said. She is hopeful that efforts in Austin will lead to relief for Texans.
Senate Bills 21 and 23 are also high on Huffman’s agenda, Arceneaux said. SB 21 is a bail reform bill that would ensure dangerous prisoners at risk of reoffending, especially violent offenders, would remain in jail while awaiting sentencing rather than being let out of jail on personal recognizance.
“We’ve worked with Houston Crimestoppers and Houston Crimestoppers has told us that now over 100 individuals in Houston have lost their lives to folks who are repeat violent offenders out on PR bonds,” Arceneaux said.
Huffman has also filed SB 23 which is known as the Back the Blue Act which would require a vote by residents before any city could reduce funding police departments beyond a percentage of citywide budget cuts.
Huffman continues to be an advocate for the fight against human trafficking, Arceneaux said, which is something Schofield also said he wants law enforcement across the state – especially the Houston area which is known as a hub – to continue fighting.
Schofield said he has filed a bill to help elderly Texans with rising property tax bills. The goal of the bill, he said, was to lock the maximum cost of seniors’ property tax bills the year they turn 65 so that their increasing values do not drive them out of their homes. As land values increase, so do tax bills, he said, and that can cause older Texans to have to move because they can no longer afford property taxes.
Schofield also said he had proposed HB 3241 which would prevent the government from shutting down businesses during emergencies without compensating them for their losses. In most instances, the government cannot take from a property owner without compensation. The law, he said, was unclear about shutting businesses down, so he is working to clarify that.
“We can use (emergency authority), but we have to pay,” Schofield said. “I have a bill that says if the government feels the need to shut your business down or tell your customers they can’t come or so limit your business that you can’t effectively function, they have to pay.”