Accusations such as “doctoring” debate footage, being bought and paid for by lobbyists, being bought and paid for by in-laws, and waffling on issues have been flung like food in Animal House’s infamous cafeteria scene.
That tends to be the nature of campaigns. But campaigns have an endpoint wherein one of the candidates must transition toward representing those that put him or her in office.
So, The Texan has highlighted that which is the ultimate goal of running for office: policy implementation. We asked HD 60 candidates for their top three legislative priorities should they be elected to serve in the 87th Legislature. Below are their stated priorities — with a bonus one or two added for good measure.
- Pass constitutional carry legislation
- Ban taxpayer-funded lobbying
- Provide real property tax relief
Francis has remained consistent in his commitment to passing the Republican Party of Texas’ (RPT) platform planks.
Concerning further property tax relief, Francis told The Texan, “Property tax reform (such as SB 2 and HB 3 passed in the last session) is not enough, we need actual property tax relief.” Switching to other forms of taxation entirely has been suggested.
Some want to see an income tax implemented, a measure which was made harder in 2019 with the ballot-approval of Proposition 4. Others think a higher sales tax as an offset to property taxes is the right approach — something the “Big Three” tried to include in the property tax reform/school finance bills but abandoned after polling showed the swap to be unpopular among voters.
Another focus by some has been fixing the appraisal process which causes year-to-year increases, sometimes even without a rate increase.
Francis stressed that a simple dollar-for-dollar swap from property taxes to other taxes is not acceptable. “It needs to be an actual lowering of our property taxes,” he underscored.
For Francis, the optimal tax system is through a consumption tax.
“Overall, we don’t have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem,” Francis added. The State of Texas’ budget grew for this biennium by $15 billion.
The first thing Francis mentioned was “the need to re-elect the president.” While not a policy itself, Francis tied it to fixing what has been a serious problem for a while now: the porous southern border.
Something Francis narrowed in on from a state perspective was eliminating in-state tuition for illegal immigrants — something he sees as an unfair disadvantage levied upon students who are citizens or legal immigrants coming from out of Texas.
This is part of a broader priority of, as Francis describes it, “stopping the magnet” drawing illegal immigrants to not only the U.S., but also Texas specifically. “I believe eliminating their reason to come here illegally is absolutely critical.”
One more issue Francis has remained adamant about is eliminating Texas’ STAAR testing. He stated, “It doesn’t do anything to produce self-sufficient citizens who are not going to go on the welfare rolls and that are educated enough to have a good job in our society.” In addressing this, Francis stressed that every option is on the table.
- Pass constitutional carry legislation
- Ban abortion
- Eliminate the property tax system
Like Francis, Perricone also reiterated his commitment to the RPT priorities.
“We’re already behind the curve on constitutional carry, 15 other states have already done it,” Perricone said.
Constitutional carry has been a discussion for some time now under the pink dome. This past session, CC legislation died in committee after retiring House Speaker Dennis Bonnen accused activist Chris McNutt of intimidating his family and other representatives by brandishing a firearm while canvassing in support of the bill.
Afterward, DPS bodycam footage showed Bonnen’s side of the story was not accurate and Chris McNutt had not behaved in the way Bonnen had claimed to other media outlets.
Regarding abortion, Perricone would ideally like to see the abortion abolition bill pass, but would “support anything that moves Texas closer to that end.”
“I believe our property tax system is unconstitutional,” Perricone stated about his hope to move away from the property tax-heavy system Texas operates. “There are other, better ways to create tax revenue rather than pushing the burden down on citizens at the lowest levels,” he added.
Part of his property tax priority, Perricone stressed, is spurring economic development in a similar way to Kansas City. Perricone contrasted their hands-off, hospitality-focused approach with New York City shelling out $3 billion to bring 25,000 Amazon jobs their way. He wants to focus on making HD 60 communities attractive places to live, which will then “bring jobs and development along.”
One stipulation Perricone made was that in office “sometimes the urgent becomes the priority.” Along those lines, Perricone emphasized his desire to eliminate taxpayer-funded lobbying and given the high-profile nature of the issue heading into the 87th Legislature, he believes that may become the most urgent issue.
Another issue Perricone identified was ending the practice of “no-fault divorce” — wherein the spouse requesting the divorce does not have to prove the other spouse did something wrong in order to be granted the separation.
Editor’s Note: Neither Dr. Rogers, nor his campaign, replied to The Texan’s requests for an interview.
On some of the most talked-about issues in this race, Rogers has differed from the other candidates. Regarding constitutional carry, Rogers has said he supports the idea of it but is “concern[ed] about lack of training.”
In a video from a Granbury forum, Rogers said: “I believe we need to have training required, but other than that I support constitutional carry.”
Rogers has insisted he doesn’t want mandatory training, just for gun owners to adhere to the RPT platform point which states, “We call upon gun owners of Texas to regulate themselves through exercising safe handling procedures, voluntarily receiving training and helping others to train others, and safely carrying firearms as a deterrent to crime.”
Constitutional carry is, by definition, the “ability to carry a firearm without a restriction in place by the Government.” In constitutional carry states, no license or training is required by the state in order to legally carry a firearm.
Regarding another hot-button issue, Rogers has changed his mind on taxpayer-funded lobbying.
In January, Rogers declared his opposition to a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying — the practice of local governments hiring lobbyists, using tax dollars, to lobby in the Capitol on their behalf.
At the same forum, Rogers firmly stated, “I want you to know that I am against the ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying — you heard that right, okay?” His stated concern was that it “was an attempt to silence local elected official or community participation.”
On February 17, Rogers told the Texas Tribune he has “modified” his position “after talking to people like Rick Perry who explain[ed] their concerns.” Former Governor Perry endorsed Rogers earlier this month. Rogers has since received the endorsement of retiring Congressman Mike Conaway (R-TX-11).
Regarding property taxes, Rogers’ website states, “[T]he state must increase its share of funding to public education and stop putting so much of the burden on local taxpayers. Additionally, unfunded mandates handed down by the Legislature on our local governments need to be eliminated and prohibited by an amendment to the state constitution.”
One more significant plank has been Rogers’ emphasis on local control for most issues ranging from healthcare and education to economic development.
- Pass constitutional carry legislation
- Protect the unborn/Fix the 10-day rule
- Eliminate taxpayer-funded lobbying
The only restrictions SoRelle wants to see in place for carrying firearms is prohibiting felons and violent offenders from possessing weapons. For all other individuals, SoRelle wants to see constitutional carry legislation passed in Texas.
SoRelle says she has seen a lot of support for constitutional carry among prospective HD 60 voters and traces her position on the issue back to her time as a prosecutor on the southern border. There, she saw Mexican citizens constantly at risk because the restriction on owning firearms is so severe — especially at the hands of the cartels who always carried illegally-owned firearms.
Her second priority is fixing the 10-Day rule. That is a state law which, after 10 days, if the hospital determines that further treatment will not improve the condition of a patient, life-sustaining treatment can be brought to an end.
Opponents of the rule insist it is either not enough time for family members to make new accommodations or an immoral practice wherein hospitals effectively ration healthcare.
Proponents of the rule insist it is necessary to prevent the suffering of patients who have no chance of improving their condition.
SoRelle falls into the opposition camp and thinks 10 days is not enough time. “I want to see more protections, more time,” she stated but is not sure what the line to draw is.
SoRelle believes extending the time limit, however, will enable families to more adequately prepare for the removal of a patient from a hospital — such as by setting up other arrangements. “Some of the conflict will resolve itself by giving them more time,” she concluded.
She also is focused on protecting the unborn. “When I was a prosecutor, I would’ve really liked a mechanism to require treatment for substance abuse if a woman is pregnant and consistently tests positive for drugs,” she stated.
SoRelle wants to classify the unborn as an “other” in the “are you a danger to yourself or others?” assessment. Put more simply, establish personhood for unborn children.
Regarding taxpayer-funded lobbying, SoRelle is against taxpayer funds used for lobbying but wants to make sure citizens, elected officials, and communities can still adequately access their representatives.
“I’m all for banning taxpayer-funded lobbying, but I want to ensure responsiveness from the state government in emergency situations,” she underscored.
The primary election for House District 60 will be held on March 3 and early voting has already begun. If no candidate reaches above 50 percent, then a runoff election between the top two will occur in May.
For more information, check out the overview of this race and other key state and federal races at The Texan’s War Room page.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.