The Texas Legislature passed a budget in the 2017 session that ended yesterday (May 29). That’s the only thing the Texas Constitution requires the Legislature to do.
Three local representatives — Eric Johnson, Yvonne Davis and Rafael Anchia — were among 14 who voted against the budget.
Johnson said he probably should have voted against every budget since he took office six years ago. “I refuse to vote for any more state budgets that don’t reflect my values,” he said.
Johnson argued that the state is sitting on the largest reserve among states in the country yet refuses to fund education adequately. He’s particularly concerned with the lack of spending on pre-K education that would help put minority and other inner city children on an equal footing with other children entering school.
Johnson’s HB 674, which bans out-of-school suspensions for pre-K-second grade students, passed the legislature and awaits the governor’s signature. He calls that part of his “End the School to Prison Pipeline” initiative. However, the law will be less effective if pre-K isn’t funded and there aren’t pre-K classes to not suspend students from.
Johnson was also named vice-chair of the Texas redistricting committee. The state was ordered by a federal court to redraw its boundaries for congressional and state house seats, because the current districts dilute minority voting power.
Despite constant efforts throughout the session, Johnson was thwarted and the committee never met. A federal judge has asked if Texas wants to “voluntarily undertake redistricting” in a special session, Johnson said, but after not meeting during regular session, the state informed the court it did not plan to address the concern in special session. That leaves redistricting to a federal judge. The new lines need to be in place for the 2018 election. Filing for that election begins in less than eight months.
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson said recently that when redistricting happens, she hopes to get back parts of Oak Lawn that she lost to Rep. Pete Sessions in the last round of redistricting.