Simpson: Legislature faces 2011 challenges
Dec. 3, 2012 at 11 p.m.
The 83rd Texas Legislative Session will have many elements that occupied the 82nd Session two years ago, the Republican representing Gregg and Upshur counties lamented to a Longview tea party audience Monday.
Rep. David Simpson was encouraged, nonetheless, that pure conservatism could prevail this go-around thanks to the continued influx of new members to the statehouse in Austin. That's especially true in the House of Representatives where 43 of 150 members will be freshman, and another 24 sophomores, including Simpson.
"This freshman class will not have the luxury of just sitting down and watching - they need to hit the ground running," Simpson told about 60 members of We The People-Longview. "Pray they will maintain their principles, their zeal and not just go along to get along."
No one could accuse Simpson of doing that in his first session. Voting against the two-year budget because it postponed some payments and pushed up some tax collections to achieve balance, Simpson last summer had wry praise for Gov. Rick Perry for saying the same thing about the 2012-13 spending plan.
"What we need are statesmen, not politicians who put their finger to the wind," Simpson said, praising the tea party group as part of " ... the renewed determination of people engaged in the political process."
The challenges of 2011, however, are among the chief challenges Simpson anticipates when lawmakers convene on Jan. 8 - public school funding, balancing a budget, redistricting.
"I'm afraid we are going to have to redraw the maps," he said, without mentioning a federal court's displeasure at racial discrimination it saw in the political lines drawn by the GOP supermajority in 2011. "I was hoping not to mention (redistricting) until I was in office about nine years from now. ... I believe the (House Republican) leadership did not intend to discriminate, but when you read the (court) depositions and you read the (legislators') emails, you wonder who is running the state. Redistricting is a political battle - there are winners and losers, but we put political gain ahead of decency."
Legal challenges also continue over how the lawmakers funded public schools in 2011. Simpson is clear that he'd rather see individuals, families and churches take up the mantel of public education, but he is equally emphatic the state constitution says it's the legislature's responsibility.
"It's time that the legislature make that a priority," he said. "But, I fear that the lawsuits are going to continue to drag on, be appealed and go all the way into fall of next year."
He repeated a consistent stand against vouchers, which would put tax money in parents' hands to spend at private schools.
"I appreciate the desire for the money to follow the student," he said. "But, I believe it should be done in the pubic sector - I think public money should go to public institutions. I cannot support monies, tax monies, going to private individuals."
Simpson didn't mention the coming decision on whether or not to expand Medicaid as called for under national health care reform. He rather gave his philosophy on how Texas takes care of its poor and disabled residents.
"We need to think real carefully about this," he said, adding that most federal taxes go to Medicare and Medicaid. "We've gotten into a system of dependence. Texans should take care of Texans. That should be a long-term goal."