Central Texas Lawmakers Speak Out About the 86th Legislative Session

Interviews with the team representing 2.1 million Austin metro residents

It's hard to imagine the 86th Texas Legislature being any crazier than the last three, or four, or five sessions, but as our state grows ever larger and more bumptious, so do the built-up political pressures under the pink dome. With a new speaker, a much purpler House, an electorally chastened Senate (and lieutenant governor), and an awful lot of new faces, the Legislature faces many possible outcomes as it wrestles the greased anaconda of school finance and deals with the rest of the state's business. The team representing the 2.1 million residents of the Austin metro area – more people than live in 15 of the 50 states, but only the fourth-largest urban area in our own state – reflects both what's different and what's the same as the Lege goes back into session. We asked our local reps what they're expecting, hoping, and aiming to achieve during the 2019 season. The following interviews have been edited for length and clarity; our longer conversations with the delegation can be found online. – Mike Clark-Madison

Sen. Kirk Watson (Senate District 14)

Austin Chronicle (Michael King): What are your general expectations?

Kirk Watson: The feel as we go into this session is significantly different than when we went into the last session. We're not hearing the sort of far-right agenda that we heard as we went into the last session. The flip side of that coin is, instead, the priority is at least being said to be on public education.

AC: How do they think they'll be able to cut property taxes while putting more money in public schools?

KW: If you start looking at something like the compression of the tax rate [that the governor's office is advocating], and you also look at the Legislative Appropriations Requests that were filed by the Texas Education Agency ... the TEA requests presume 6.7% growth in property tax revenue per year in the biennium. The governor's proposal would compress that growth down to 2.5%. ... That ends up being a delta of about $3.8 billion, a deficit that would be an ongoing, structural problem. I'm not confident there's a plan or strategy [to close that gap] right now.

AC: Health care will certainly be another big issue.

KW: Unfortunately, I don't feel as optimistic there. I don't think the Legislature is thinking about health care from the perspective of what do we need, and then, let's figure out how we pay for it. I think what will happen is we will get a series of piecemeal approaches. So, TRS-Care [Teacher Retirement System], managed care for medically fragile children, and mental health care are the three areas where I think you'll see some movement in health care.

AC: The governor proposes strangling local jurisdictions on property taxes.

KW: I think this will be one of the big debates and fights during the session. I think we see it as one of those wedge issues that will rise up and take significant time and oxygen out of the building. A strong case can be made that the state does so little to help local governments, that it ought to just get out of the way, instead of taking just another step in the wrong direction.

Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (House District 51)

Austin Chronicle (Mary Tuma): What are your top priorities this legislative session and why are they important to your district?

Eddie Rodriguez: My priorities, broadly, have to do with affordability. [My] homestead preservation district bill passed in 2005, and cities have now adopted it. I filed a bill last session [to ensure Austin remained covered by the HPD legislation] – [that] was vetoed by the governor, and I'm not sure why, maybe out of spite. So I'm refiling that bill. Public education is very important as well. I want to support the idea of community schools that offer services to both kids and parents. I'm also filing food access bills, including a bill to ensure fair taxes for local farmers. And gun safety is increasingly becoming one of my main concerns.

AC: We saw a new low when it came to immigrant rights last session; do you foresee more of that sentiment this session?

ER: First of all, 12 new Demo­crats will help change what bills are going to be heard and will be potentially voted on. I also think how [last session's Senate Bill 4] ended up on the floor could have been handled very differently, and I think that's the result of a Joe Straus speakership. As the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus policy chair, I'll be working against issues that will unfairly treat Latinos in the state. Already there's been a bill filed to overturn in-state tuition for undocumented students in the state. We'll be playing a lot of defense.

AC: You've been at the Capitol for nearly two decades. What do you think is going to make this session different than others?

ER: Our 12-member gain means we're not going to get completely run over every time. Straus was very much a hands-off speaker, and I think we need a speaker that is responsive and hold[s] legislators accountable. I know everyone thinks he's a moderate guy because he opposed the [anti-trans] bathroom bill, but some very terrible bills, including the horrible SB 4, were passed under his tenure.

AC: Last session we saw unprecedented attacks against Austin and other municipalities. Do you think that will continue, and what is your strategy to defend Austin?

ER: It's worth noting that not every Republican was in favor of these pre-emption bills and all Democrats were against them. So while maybe the paid sick leave bill will be an easy target, there will be others where Republicans may not coalesce. A good number of legislators who were mayors and city council members won't be eager to get behind some of those bills.

AC: How do you feel about having Dennis Bonnen as the speaker?

ER: He's very knowledgeable of the process and has a lot of respect for the House. I think he'll want to maintain decorum and protect us from the will of Dan Patrick the best he can. Some think he has an abrasive personality, but as a speaker, you're a totally different animal. He's a straight shooter, and it seems like he's doing all the right things so far.

Rep. Donna Howard (HD 48)

Austin Chronicle (Austin Sanders): What does comprehensive school finance reform mean?

Donna Howard: A sustainable revenue stream that supports ... all students across our state, no matter where they live, taking into account demographic challenges and resources needed to serve special education students, [and] investing in early literacy and providing the support for students to graduate college- and career-ready. Without unnecessarily burdening any one segment of our community with a big tax burden.

AC: Why hasn't the state achieved any of those goals?

DH: We are challenged to put in an adequate amount of money to achieve the education goals of our state, [and the Legislature] is averse to finding new sources of revenue. In fact, they like to look at ways to further cut revenue and limit growth. What we have now is not adequate to totally fund our current budget. Typically, the Texas economy does well and is diverse, but we do have downturns, and we made the choice to significantly cut education funding instead of withdrawing from the rainy day fund. We've never really bounced back.

AC: Will adding money solve the problems?

DH: Not all of them, but we know money makes a difference. Let's target some new money toward childhood literacy, toward high school success, toward teacher quality – the kind of things that the research shows makes a difference. We should get more money into the basic allotment, because that lifts all boats, and fund full-day, quality pre-K for eligible students who don't have access. [We should] adequately fund the teacher retirement system and TRS-Care; that would go a long way [in] boosting the sense of commitment.

AC: Other than school finance, what are some of your priority issues?

DH: We still have issues providing a safety net [women's health] system that is seeing the same number of women [as] prior to the 2011 budget cuts. We have a lot of families not using services they are eligible to access; we can have healthier moms and babies and address the maternal mortality issue we have – this is one of the ways we can address that. It's also extremely beneficial to the taxpayer, because it's much more costly to pay for a pregnancy and birth than it is to pay for contraceptives and family planning. Unless a woman is pregnant, elderly, or disabled, she won't qualify for Medicaid, because we didn't expand. So a woman may not be getting prenatal care she needs to have a healthy baby. Once she has the baby, two months after delivery she's cut off from Medicaid; in an ideal world, we should have uninterrupted coverage for women in childbearing years. I understand that's probably fiscally impossible, but in the long run it would reap tremendous benefits. As well, we're doing an immense amount of work on the sexual assault forensic evidence backlog; I'm hopeful we'll be able to better keep up with the evidence and get it analyzed and into the national system, where we've seen a significant number of cases solved. It's important in terms of cold cases and preventing additional assaults [and in] encouraging prosecutors to take cases to trial that indeed bring justice to the victim. I'm still pushing for an independent redistricting commission as well. We can depoliticize – as much as possible – what is a very political process. I don't think you ever get the politics out of it, but you can certainly make it a more fair system that is more skewed toward what is best for voters than what is best for the party in charge.

Rep. Celia Israel (HD 50)

Austin Chronicle (Austin Sanders): What are your top priorities for the session?

CI: I'm a transportation chick, who fully recognizes the importance of lowering our property taxes and supporting our public school children. So it's a different kind of session for me in that sense. Four years ago, the [Texas] Supreme Court declared our [school finance] system "byzantine." If I were the queen of Texas, I would have already called a special session. I don't think the voters of Texas are going to accept another blue-ribbon panel. The timing is right for us in the House to make a statement about the number one issue and hope that the governor will recognize the same and make a stand against the Senate, who is led by a man who had his own close call with the voters. Last session was dominated by make-believe crimes and beating up on immigrants. This session, if we do it right, is going to be determined by how well we're supporting our future economic viability. That means calming down property taxes and putting in new revenue to support our children.

AC: What could school finance reform look like?

CI: We have 67 Democrats now. We had 52 when I first got here. My colleagues who represent the rural parts of Texas are just as passionate about defending public schools as I am – they just happen to have an "R" at the end of their name. I may be wrong, but I think the stronger the House is collectively, that will give the governor the support he needs to find his voice for things that could be controversial – like new revenue for schools. To his credit, he's the one that brought up full-day pre-K. So I am hopeful that Gov. Abbott is being thoughtful about his legacy. I'm thinking about mine. In political terms, the House will be more beholden to a November voter than a primary voter. Most people are November voters, and they want us to get stuff done.

AC: What transportation policy goals do you have for this session?

CI: We need more voices to say we are an urban state, and we're becoming densified in our urban cores, [and] the transportation portion of the family budget is getting bigger. Every time I bring up the word transit, everyone else rolls their eyes, but cities like Hous­ton and Dallas are way ahead of the game, and in other states, cities partner with the state to pull down more federal dollars. [And] in Texas, an alternatively fueled vehicle that uses little or no gasoline isn't paying into the big transportation purse. So we're working on ways to push the issue of new revenue for transportation, because the future is electric and driverless. Let's get ahead of that curve.

AC: And why is online voter registration an important issue for you?

CI: It's efficient and it's more secure. It's just basic good government. A big reason it hasn't moved forward is because the clerk in Harris County [Stan Stanart] was adamantly opposed to it. But he lost his bid for re-election. I'm looking forward to this session where the county clerks are speaking in unison. We now have over 30 states with online voter registration. Arizona was the first to do it, and Oklahoma did a few years ago. These are not blue states making this happen, so it's time for Texas to step up. We do it now; it just happens to be when you appear in person at DPS ["motor-voter" registration]. It should not be a scary thing for us.

AC: What are some of your other goals this session?

CI: I want to avoid fighting on social issues. Being a member of the LGBTQ community, I don't have an appetite for those fights. Last session was miserable, so I went to speak to [Dennis] Bonnen about it. He shares my displeasure with our priorities from last session. He and I came here at the same time – he as a baby state representative and I as a staffer for Gov. Richards. We remember what it used to be like around here. We are a family in the House, and Bonnen knows that. That makes me feel better about him. Pander­ing to 3% of the electorate is not in anyone's best interest. The most significant help I got as a legislator was having historic turnout on Nov. 6; it's going to make a world of difference this session.

Rep. Gina Hinojosa (HD 49)

Austin Chronicle (Mary Tuma): What are your top priorities this legislative session?

Gina Hinojosa: My priority for this session, just like last session, is the public school finance system that we know is broken statewide. We know Austin is feeling the brunt of this broken system in a big way, with most of the money we collect going to the state. But really any district that sees an increase in its property value [is] getting less money from the state for education. So in that sense, everybody is in recapture. So we need to start having the state pay its fair share into the school finance system. There are different ways to approach the problem – unfortunately some are looking at it as an opportunity for property tax relief – but we need to have the same urgency behind adequate funding for our public schools. Really, we haven't recovered from the 2011 cuts to education. Our schools are still feeling that. I'm also focused on the day care crisis in our state. Children are being hurt and even dying in some facilities, and part of that has to do with how little we do as a state to support the cost and to help families with cost. We need to prioritize child care for working families. Also, this last election cycle we saw challenges with student voting on college campuses, so I've filed a bill that would require all college campuses with 10,000 or more students to have polling locations on campus.

AC: You expressed criticism regarding the process of getting behind Dennis Bonnen for speaker. What are your concerns?

GH: My thoughts about the [speaker's] race are the same as my thoughts going into this session in general: We need to own the power that has been given to us by the hard work people did to get us those 12 new [Democratic] seats. We're only eight members down from parity. We've got the better ideas, and Texans are on our side, especially when it comes to public schools, [so] we should be fighting for even more than in previous sessions because we might be able to win some. I think we had the opportunity to elect a speaker with our members and that didn't happen and I was disappointed. That being said, I had a good meeting with Dennis Bonnen, and we will move forward doing the best we can for Texans and everything we can to advance the progressive agenda.

AC: You were a freshman legislator last session. What were the biggest lessons you learned? The biggest surprises?

GH: The most surprising thing to me is that I can work across the aisle with the GOP and get things done. I live in a bubble; most people I know and work with are Democrats. [Ed. note: Hinojosa's father Gilberto is the chair of the Texas Democratic Party.] So it was a new experience for me to work in an environment that was majority Republican, but we got along well and found common ground – that was surprising to me. I think we if we are all forced to work with one another in a room for six months and pulled people from all parts of the state with different persuasions and beliefs, we'd have a better society, [and] we'd be better at respecting each other's humanity.

Rep. James Talarico (HD 52)

Austin Chronicle (Austin Sanders): You're a young state rep. What political experience will help you in the session?

James Talarico: While I was at the Univer­si­ty of Texas in 2011, I helped organize students opposed to proposed cuts to education spending. We held rallies [and] marches and testified at committee hearings – just general tools available in your legislative advocacy toolbox. I was involved in student government and other activist groups, so I decided to step up and serve in that way. Obviously, we didn't stop the cuts to education, but I feel that sometimes you're more defined by failures than successes. That session saw deep, destructive cuts to education, but I walked away encouraged by our efforts to organize students and aware of the enormous amount of work still left to do to protect public education in the state. We have to recognize that there isn't a blue or red way to fix public education – there's only a right way. I want to work with anybody and everybody to do that. When you're motivated by kids, suddenly partisanship seems unimportant.

AC: But ideology definitely gets in the way. How do you plan to overcome that?

JT: With enough discourse and dialogue – and empathy – we can chart a path toward some common ground. That's what I learned as a nonprofit leader. I worked with Gov. Abbott, and our board members were often Repub­lic­an businessmen who had different political ideologies than I did, but we all wanted to change education in Texas for the better. I believe equitable education will be the civil rights issue of our generation.

AS: How do you plan to achieve your policy goals as a freshman lawmaker?

JT: My number one goal is to not be confused for an intern [laughs]. It's going to be a balance. I feel reverence and respect for the people who came before me, so I'm anxious to learn how this process works. I also feel like I have a unique experience as an educator and nonprofit leader to share with my more experienced colleagues.

AC: What would meaningful school finance reform look like to you?

JT: There [have] to be more funds infused into the system, and we have to update that system. The Cost of Education Index hasn't been updated since 1984, when I was negative 6 years old [laughs]. That's a problem, especially for places like Round Rock and Austin which are very different than they were in the Eighties. ... I'm not interested in moving the ball a few yards down the field. It's time to pass something more comprehensive. And I hope the new blood at the Capitol will help push for that. We can't go back to our constituents and say, "Hey, we made some solid progress, but you're still not going to see any change in your pocketbook or at your school."

AC: So how do you pay for that?

JT: Just as one example, there's the High Cost Natural Gas Exemption, put in place in the Eighties when it was more expensive to drill for natural gas. Technology has advanced and it's no longer as difficult, but that exemption is still in place in our tax code, costing us about $1 billion a biennium. We're also sending about $800 million per biennium to the border with Mexico for "increased border security" [that is] just political grandstanding. Certain lawmakers want to appease extreme parts of their base. And they do it by pumping money we don't have down to the border. I believe our immigration system is broken, too; we need comprehensive immigration reform, both for security and for the safety and well-being of our immigrant communities. So I am wholeheartedly in favor of that. But [instead] we're wasting money on dumb things.

Rep. Sheryl Cole (HD 46)

Austin Chronicle (Nina Hernandez): What have your conversations been like since the election? How are you preparing for the session?

Sheryl Cole: People's priority is public education, the recapture formula, and property taxes, so I think that's what I'll be focusing on. Of course, I'm also talking to people about reductions in prison sentencing for small amounts of marijuana. I did the "Ban the Box" [ordinance] when I was [on City Council], and I really want to explore that at the Capitol.

AC: So you're seeing opportunities for working with Republicans on criminal justice reform? Do you agree there's a real chance for bolstering our medical marijuana program?

SC: You never know. I'm used to counting to seven; I don't know how to count to 76, but I'm going to learn that. But I think [voters] having elected 12 new Democrats – and so many Republicans winning by small margins – has really changed the tone of the Capitol. We've been on defense, and we've got to learn how to play offense. I don't think we would be talking about public education if we had not done that. People get – mistakenly, I think – saddened by the fact that we didn't take over. Of course you would want that, but you don't have to do that to make a difference.

AC: [Has] the fact that more counties are feeling the pinch of recapture affected the conversation on school finance?

SC: I was in my first meeting with [Dennis Bonnen], and he said the focus of the session will be on public education, public education, public education. And I said, "Even Austin?" [Laughs.] And he said, "Yes, Sheryl, even Austin." And I walked out of the room, and I called [Mayor] Steve [Adler] and [Mayor Pro Tem] Kathie [Tovo], and I said, "He said it."

AC: You take the new speaker at his word?

SC: I have no reason not to. He seems very pragmatic. Just a cool calculator. Elections matter. "Y'all won. A lot of y'all came and supported me, and this was the condition, and that's what I'm going to do." It's not personal.

AC: So how do you tackle the inequity in the "Robin Hood" (recapture) system?

SC: We have schools, especially in my district, that have the profile of schools in poor areas of Texas. It doesn't make sense to not get credit for that. We've got to look at the whole state budget [because] we have to do something, not because of next year, but two, four years [down the line]. It's an unsustainable model.

Rep. Vikki Goodwin (HD 47)

Austin Chronicle (Austin Sanders): What do you think you'll bring to the Capitol that Paul Workman [whom Goodwin defeated] lacked?

Vikki Goodwin: The biggest thing is my drive to work on school finance reform. The Austin district is really in a serious situation – considering closing schools and increasing class sizes – and Workman said he didn't have any solutions to public education funding. I understand we don't have enough money in the system. We need to raise the basic allotment so that all districts are doing better and increase the weights we give to our formulas, particularly for students with special needs like dyslexia and autism.

AC: What does successful school finance reform look like to you?

VG: When the state is paying 50%; since the state constitution says the state should provide public education, they ought to at least provide half the funding. The Austin district has been paying more into recapture at the same time it is losing enrollment, and somehow that trajectory has to change, because it's not sustainable for AISD. Eanes and Lake Travis ISDs are also paying more. We've got $12 billion in the rainy day fund, and while I don't see representatives getting behind taking money out of it, I could see potentially diverting the next biennium's amount that would go in over to public education as a short-term fix [or] using some of the fund [for] an endowment that would, over time, start getting interest and proceeds that could be used for public education.

AC: How can the Lege achieve the governor's goal of capping property tax increases and also achieve school finance reform?

VG: I'm not in favor of a property tax rate cap, because it's different for every district. I met with the mayor of Bee Cave and there they have a pretty low rate, because they're a smaller city. It doesn't make sense to have an across-the-board, 2.5% tax rate increase cap.

AC: What are some of your other top priorities for the session?

VG: There are other things within the education realm. I'm not in favor of the A-F rating system. An accountability system shouldn't be just based on standardized testing; it just needs to take into account a lot more factors. Also, mental health counselors at schools. After the Santa Fe shooting, the governor held roundtables and that was one thing that people really could agree on. We're having trouble paying for teachers and everything else schools need, but finding a way to help fund those counselors will be a high priority for me.

Rep. John Bucy III (HD 136)

Austin Chronicle (Michael King): What's your sense of where things stand for you, as an incoming freshman?

John Bucy: I'm still very encouraged that we're going to make progress on education finance reform. Not just because we picked up Democratic seats, but because there seems to be bipartisan support for that cause in the House right now. The incoming speaker [Dennis Bonnen] is making that his one and only priority. He seems really committed to making progress on public schools.

AC: Another issue prominent in your campaign was health care.

JB: I think we've got to do everything we can to keep attention on Medicaid expansion. Standing in the way of Medicaid expansion is standing in the way of Texas. It's truly a benefit to our state; it would bring billions of dollars into our economy, and it would help millions of Texans get the health care they need.

AC: The governor is not simply talking about lowering taxes, but making it impossible for local jurisdictions to increase taxes.

JB: That's why we have local elections; the people pick local officials to make those decisions, and it shouldn't be our job at the Legislature. In districts that are growing rapidly, like mine, you'd really cripple the economy, and you're gonna cripple schools.

AC: What issues do you think most directly affect your district?

JB: Transportation is a major issue without an easy solution. The [MetroRail] Red Line runs through my district, and it's really successful. Some­times you hear jokes about the train in our community, but the Red Line is at max capacity during rush hour. I think it's proof that people will use this kind of mass transportation, and we need to be investing more in it.

Rep. Erin Zwiener (HD 45)

Austin Chronicle (Nina Hernandez): Your win made a lot of Democrats happy on election night.

Erin Zwiener: It's nice to be one of the surprises. I joke that I'm the only person who wasn't surprised, but the truth is there were a lot of people in Hays County doing the work on the ground that saw what was coming. We had a primary and a run-off. I first started knocking on doors in May 2017.

AC: I bet you've talked a lot about school finance in that time.

EZ: Especially [because] I have these brand-new neighborhoods in Kyle and Buda. A lot of folks don't know anything about Hays County politics, or were just new voters in general, or very infrequent voters. We talked to a lot of folks who were unlikely to turn out. And a lot of folks didn't realize that the reason their property taxes were going up so dramatically is because of the Lege's failure to fund public schools.

AC: What have you heard from constituents about how they'd like to see you work with Republicans?

EZ: I'm a progressive Democrat. That was in no way a secret. I did not move to the middle during the general [election], even though a lot of folks told me I should. But I think authenticity is important, and I think we're in a moment where people want politicians to tell them how they really feel. And I don't have the stomach to say [only] half of what I mean. But we were clear that being progressive and being tribalist weren't the same thing. I am ready to sit down with anyone when it is consistent with my values. And with public school finance, I think we have a real opportunity. The needs across Texas – whether Republican or Democrat or independent or nonvoter – are best met by making sure the state pays its fair share. There's no one whose interest that isn't in. And both parties know it.

AC: Does the makeup of your district put you in a better position to make strides in that area?

EZ: I believe so. We stretch from the very edge of Austin to a small city [San Marcos] to working-class suburbs to wealthy suburbs and then to very rural. There aren't a lot of districts that have that makeup, and there are even fewer represented by Democrats. It will make it easier to build alliances with some more moderate Republicans from rural areas. The big question with school finance is going to be how to find more funding so we aren't just pitting our districts against each other, and I know many of the more moderate Republicans want to find new sources of funding. But it's a hard vote for them to take.

As the Locals Watch and Wait ...

Every two years, Austin and Travis County harbor a virus that seeks to destroy us from within, but usually we're able to stave off the worst attacks of the Legislature upon its host organism. Given that we never have a good time, will the 86th be just annoyingly uncomfortable, or more debilitating, or truly catastrophic to local interests?

The folks in charge locally echo their statehouse comrades in arms. "Really it's all about school finance," says Austin Mayor Steve Adler. "Even if they don't bow to the political pressure [from Gov. Greg Abbott] and we get out of the session without revenue caps, it doesn't solve their problem. If we don't move on school finance, then capping city and county revenue doesn't really provide property tax 'relief.'" That's because in Central Texas, school taxes (in all districts, not just Austin ISD) make up 70-75% of the increases property owners are seeing on their bills.

Nevertheless, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt is "expecting that revenue caps will be irresistible political candy for the Lege, because there is so much juice in the false claim of property tax 'relief.' I'm afraid that public education will be pitted against other local government, and [local officials] need to advocate to fully restore funding for public education, instead of allowing local government to be scapegoated for the Legislature's past failures."

Over at AISD, Board of Trustees President Geronimo Rodriguez also doesn't want to be stuck in a zero-sum game. "I'm hoping they'll both reduce local property taxes and increase public school funding," he says. "Both the taxpayers and the children deserve it. Everyone knows the system is broken. We can see marginal changes that will, hopefully, help districts like AISD that are making the largest [recapture] payments, [but] my hope is that we have a serious session about serious issues, and there's no more serious issue than every child being able to graduate life-ready. We can reform the system and ensure equity across the state of Texas."

Last session, these same challenges got punted with little time left on the clock, after much game time was spent on sanctuary cities and bathroom bills and other right-wing bogeymen that, often as not, were made in Austin's likeness. Hence Rodriguez's reference to a "serious session," and Adler's plea to "make sure all the social-issue things that got in the way last session, and sucked out all the oxygen, don't come back." The silver lining of Abbott's tax caterwauling, Eckhardt says, is that "the Legislature will need to have a meaningful conversation about school funding, and about emergency response to flood and fire and the difference between local and state financing of those investments. That would be a very healthy thing."

Rodriguez does not feel he can simply wish and hope here: "We have $60 million to cut in three years and have to be good stewards now," he says. "We can show good governance on our board, good stewardship of our resources, and the consequences of a broken system that wasn't intended to take $673 million away from a majority economically disadvantaged district. But I don't want to continue to have adult conversations about adult issues without actually talking about outcomes for our children."

Both Adler and Eckhardt anticipate lobbying the Lege as part of Central Texas coalitions and alongside the rest of big-city Texas. "We're all going to do the best that we can within the limits of our influence," Eckhardt says, adding that the bluer hue of Williamson and Hays counties lends itself to bipartisan conversations.

And, "I hope legislators and state leadership recognize that Austin landed the [U.S. Army] Futures Command because of the culture that we have, and that Apple is doing its $1 billion expansion because the people they want to hire want to live here," says Adler. "We'll always be arguing and fighting to keep what's special about Austin, so we can continue to be a part of the state's diversified portfolio of cities." – Mike Clark-Madison

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86th Texas Legislature, Kirk Watson, Eddie Rodriguez, Donna Howard, Celia Israel, Gina Hinojosa, James Talarico, Sheryl Cole, Vikki Goodwin, John Bucy III, Erin Zwiener, Steve Adler, Sarah Eckhardt, Geronimo Rodriguez

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