State Rep. Bucy Hosts Town Hall on Schools, Border Crisis
Freshman legislator praises bipartisan support for "Texas values"
Passing school finance reform was the biggest accomplishment for the Texas Legislature in the past few decades, said state Rep. John Bucy III, D-Austin, during his first post-session town hall, held in Leander last week. The freshman legislator, one of 12 Texas Democrats to flip a GOP-held seat in the 2018 elections, praised the "massive bipartisan support" seen during the 86th Legislature for laws addressing "Texas values," instead of the "visceral" and "nasty" culture-war battles of previous sessions.
Bucy told attendees that House Bill 3 was "the biggest increase in public funding for our schools in over 30 years," while also letting local school districts – such as Round Rock ISD and Leander ISD – keep more of their locally raised revenue. The bill's adjustments to the state recapture ("Robin Hood") system will allow the two suburban districts to hold on to more than $130 million over the next biennium. While acknowledging the bill did not solve all school funding problems, Bucy noted that both districts will be able to increase teacher pay and all Texas schools will end up with "almost a thousand dollars for every kid" for extra resources.
On the downside, Bucy said, a "failure of this legislative session" was not passing Medicaid expansion, including House Joint Resolution 40, which would have let voters decide whether to expand coverage to an estimated 1.1 million low-income Texans. During the session, Bucy filed an amendment to the budget to expand Medicaid, which was rejected on party lines. "We need to choose to bring our money back to our local community and make sure it helps the people in the county and in House District 136," he told his constituents. "We're talking about millions and millions of dollars locally that we're paying for and not getting the benefit [of]."
Bucy was joined by chairs and representatives from six of his Community Advisory Boards, each with around 15 constituents from HD 136 who focused on a single issue (health care, education, criminal justice, etc.) and provided analysis on specific bills during the session. Mike Mendoza, on the criminal justice board, said he prioritized addressing felon disenfranchisement, police oversight, and marijuana decriminalization during the session. He said he encouraged Bucy to support many bills addressing these reforms, but "unfortunately, none of the bills made it across the board."
Bucy also fielded audience questions on migrant detention centers, property taxes, and the state's perceived overregulation of local issues. In response to audience concerns about conditions in the centers, and children being transported on overcrowded school buses, Bucy said that while state representatives don't get to directly influence federal policy, he is raising awareness and meeting with other lawmakers to help provide resources to people seeking asylum. "This isn't an inherently Republican versus Democrat issue," he said. "I don't think history tells us that it is, but there is something going on right now. We have a crisis at the border, and I fully believe that people are not being treated humanely. And we have to do something about it."