The Legislative Session ended on a high note for Team Bucy -- we were named Freshman of the Year, able to send seven bills to the governor's desk, stopped some bad election policy, and finally adopted a state budget. This edition of the monthly Bucy Bulletin will cover that as well as showcase community events, discuss legislative outcomes, and highlight our Artist of the Month.
I am so grateful for this opportunity to serve you, HD 136, and the people of Texas. Please do not ever hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or comments or if there is anything my office can do for you.
All the best,
John Bucy III
Texas House District 136
BUCY NAMED FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
On Monday, May 27th I was proud to be voted by my peers as the Freshman of the Year for the House Democratic Caucus. I am so grateful for the support and mentorship I have received from my colleagues and I am truly humbled by this recognition. From fighting for Medicaid expansion and voting rights to supporting our public schools and economic development in our local community, I am proud of the work we have done this session. I am thankful to my wife and family, my staff, and the people of HD 136. Together we can continue to build our community up and make Texas as good as its promise.
COMMUNITY EVENTS & HAPPENINGS
Young Texans Legislative Day: May 1st was Young Texans Day at the Capitol. As Chair of the Young Texans Legislative Caucus it is my privilege to bring awareness to the importance of civic engagement and participation by our young people as well as highlight the issues affecting young Texans across our state.
Leander Old Town Street Festival: We had a great time at the Old Town Street Festival in Leander! I am proud to have helped sponsor this community event. Held the third Saturday of May, this festival is full of food and drinks to sample, artisans showing their goods, live music, and family friendly fun.
CAB Lobby Day: Our Community Advisory Board for Healthcare held their Lobby Day this month. They had great conversations with numerous legislative offices around expanding Medicaid and increasing access to healthcare in Texas.
Celebrating Esthermay: It was my honor to commemorate the 100th Birthday of my constituent, Esthermay Johnston, on Sunday, May 14th. What an extraordinary legacy with many memories made and lives touched.
A Family Affair: I was proud to have my brother in law, Pastor Ryan Hart of Open Cathedral in Leander, serve as chaplain of the day. I was also joined by my younger brother, Daniel, and nephew, Jackson, who served as honorary pages and were a great help on the floor.
S.B. 9 Hearing: The Elections Committee went late into the night hearing S.B. 9, which would have negatively impacted voters across Texas. I want to thank all of the witnesses but I am especially grateful to the students and young people who stayed past midnight to speak against this bill and about their experiences registering voters, navigating the electoral process, and engaging their peers in becoming civically active.
Honoring My Grandfather: The Texas House passed H.R. 1539, a resolution honoring the life of my grandfather, Dr. Robert K. Pendergrass. His memory and legacy guide me everyday. I want to thank my colleagues for their support.
HD 136 ARTIST OF THE MONTH
Each month at our Capitol Office we are so proud to display and feature work from local artists. Our May Artist of the Month was Melissa Fontenette-Mitchell, who loaned us her beautiful works of photography Journey Train and Old Rustic Truck.
The Big Three: the budget, property taxes, & school finance
Each session the legislature is required to pass just one bill, the budget. Other big ticket items this year included a property tax overhaul and school finance reform. Here is how those pieces of legislation ended up.
The Budget: The legislature passed a $250.7 billion budget for the next two years, addressing public education, property taxes, infrastructure, healthcare, and disaster recovery.
Highlights from this biennium's budget include:
- $4.5 billion for our public schools and a $500 million increase for higher education.
- $5.1 billion to buy down local property taxes and provide relief to taxpayers.
- $589 million to TRS for a "13th check" for retired teachers, $524 million to ensure TRS is fiscally sound, and $230.8 million so retired teachers' healthcare premiums don't increase.
- $200 million for school safety improvements, including building renovations, added security personnel and technology, and emergency response training.
- $7.7 billion for behavioral health and substance abuse services.
- $86 million for rate increases for community care and Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDD) providers and pediatric home services as well as a $48 million for rate increases and cost growth for Early Childhood Intervention.
- $56.6 million to eliminate the rape kit backlog, $8.6 million for rape crisis centers and sexual assault nurse examiners, and over $38 million to address human trafficking.
- $6.1 billion for highway construction and $86 million for transportation maintenance.
- $2 billion from the Economic Stabilization Fund (commonly called the Rainy Day Fund) for grants for disaster relief and disaster-related expenditures as well as $47 million for state flood risk mapping and planning at the Water Development Board.
Property Taxes: All across Texas, local communities have been feeling the effects of rising property taxes and costs of living. This session the legislature passed Senate Bill 2, which impedes our cities, counties, and other local jurisdictions' abilities to meet essential community needs and accommodate growth by capping their ability to collect revenue. We elect our local leaders to make decisions that are best for the community and need to work with them as partners in order to ensure core services such as police, fire, and emergency response as well as transportation and water infrastructure are met in a fiscally responsible way. While our rising property taxes are a big concern, we must address them by increasing the state's share of public education funding to over 50 percent as well as through meaningful appraisal reform.
Funding Our Public Schools: My number one promise was to increase funding for our public schools, and in doing so, lower our property taxes. That is what House Bill 3 does! H.B. 3 provides more funding for our students as well as needed property tax relief, removes Leander ISD from re-capture, and drastically reduces Round Rock ISD recapture payments, keeping our local tax dollars in local classrooms. It funds full-day Pre-K and directs more funds to schools with higher concentrations of under-served students. In tandem with other bills passed this session, our educators will receive a raise and a more secure retirement. These are all good things. That being said, I hope that next session support personnel such as bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and janitors, who also help shape our children's future, receive a pay raise. Meanwhile, there are still valid concerns over the impact of tax revenue caps and systemic funding for schools moving forward. This bill is a good start, but we must do more to address these challenges to ensure that our educators and children receive the support they need.
Seven bills sent to the Governor's Desk
This session we passed seven bills out of both chambers. Two of these bills, H.B. 1241 Polling Place Locations and H.B. 2551 Mayo's Law, have already been signed into law. A third, H.B. 3356 Local HOT Tax Use, is already in effect. Coming into session I was told to be happy as a freshman to pass a bill or two, so I am grateful to my team for their hard work and to my colleagues for their support. Learn more about the bills we sent to the Governor's Desk below.
H.B. 3355 & 3356 Investing in our Local Economy: H.B. 3355 allows Cedar Park to keep more of the local Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue collected in the city instead of turning it over to the state. Thanks to Rep. Rafael Anchia for allowing us to amend this provision into his bill. H.B. 3356 expands the permitted use of Hotel Occupancy Tax funds collected in Cedar Park to include capital improvement projects at the city-owned HEB Center and enhancing the planned United States Tennis Association-Texas Headquarters. These bills support local economic development and relieve the tax burden on Cedar Park residents. I am proud to have been able to work with local elected officials and stakeholders to address these critical needs.
Four Bills to Make Voting Easier: We filed a large amount of election-related legislation this session. In fact, nearly half of the bills we worked on had to do with increasing transparency and accessibility as well as making it easier for Texans to vote. H.B. 933 requires contact information for county elections offices, polling locations, and a variety of required election notices to be posted on the Secretary of State or the Counties' Elections websites as appropriate, putting this information in a medium where the vast majority of voters will seek it out. H.B. 1241 requires street addresses to be included as part of polling place notices, making it easier for Texas voters to find when and where to vote. H.B. 2554 moves existing laws dealing with political signs to one, newly-created section of the Elections Code, making it easier to engage in protected political speech. H.B. 3350 uses Voter Unique ID numbers to put lists of who has voted on the Secretary of State's website for primary and general elections, as well as those ordered by the governor to fill a vacancy, which cuts down on the need for local governments to respond to numerous, repetitive open records requests.
H.B. 2551 Mayo's Law: Allows persons with Power of Attorney to co-sign a minor’s drivers license application. This bill removes a barrier to mobility and transportation for certain teens in extenuating circumstances. I want to thank Jovita Pardo and her brother, Mayo, for bringing this to our attention and giving this issue a face as well as Sen. Kirk Watson and his staff for their efforts in guiding this legislation through the Senate.
Near the end of session a lot of our office's time was spent trying to pass a few final pieces of good election policy and kill a few bad bills, such as S.B. 9, and other measures that would make it harder for citizens to vote and participate in the electoral process. After sustained pressure from stakeholders and voters across Texas and a hearing that went past midnight, S.B. 9 did not make it to the House floor in time for a vote. That bill would have punished voters for making mistakes on their voter registration forms, created new red tape for those who may need assistance while voting, including the elderly, voters with disabilities, and non-English speaking voters, and contained provisions that would have closed polling places in minority neighborhoods.
Similarly, we were able to kill H.B. 2911, which started out as a good omnibus bill dealing with voter registration, election records, and updates to voting processes due to changes in federal law or technology before having elements of S.B. 9, S.B. 205, and other problematic provisions amended to it in the Senate. I also had the privilege of talking down a bill by speaking on it past a midnight deadline that would have made it illegal for felons who are "off-paper" and thus eligible to vote and fully participate in the electoral process to serve as poll watchers.
Unfortunately, some measures, such as H.B. 1888, which makes it harder for seniors, rural voters, and students to vote by ending the use of temporary early voting locations, did pass. In addition, we were not able to get a hearing for bills that would have made it easier for voters with disabilities to participate. We will keep fighting for these voters and for every Texas citizen because a healthy and vibrant democracy with an informed, engaged, and active electorate is paramount to our mutual success as a people.