Anchia and Villalba Preview 2015 Legislative Session

12/11/2014

Haynes and Boone, LLP clients, lawyers and friends this week previewed key issues facing the 84th Texas Legislature through the eyes of two firm lawyers - one Republican, the other Democrat - who represent Dallas districts in the Texas House of Representatives. 

After being welcomed in Dallas by Managing Partner Terry Conner, District 103 Rep. Rafael Anchia (D- Dallas) and District 114 Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) gave their assessments of the upcoming legislation, with Scott Braddock, Quorum Report senior political correspondent serving as panel moderator. 

The discussion opened with both representatives recognizing the change of leadership in the upcoming legislative session, which will have a more conservative character as a result of the recent elections. The two representatives presented their views on a variety of subjects from potential strategic use of more than $8 billion currently in the Rainy Day Fund to public education, health care and immigration. 

Villalba recognized that the state’s immigration issues will require thoughtful and smart solutions. “We have got to begin the process of creating solutions to these very complex problems,” he said. Anchia agreed it is essential that the system be reformed at both the state and federal levels. 

Anchia pointed out that Mexico is the No. 1 trading partner with the U.S. and there are forecasts that the pending Mexico energy reforms could generate $1.2 trillion or more in potential revenues. For that reason alone, he said, it is essential that immigration issues be addressed. 

“I’m hopeful we can set the right tone,” Anchia said. “We just need to create the right legal framework for legal migration.” 

Both agreed that the 84th session will have a focus on healthcare since Texas has the highest number of uninsured people in the country. Anchia argued that the Affordable Healthcare Act serves as a benefit to both community members and businesses and it is foolish for the state to continue to reject federal Medicaid expansion funds. Villalba agreed the number of uninsured in Texas is a severe problem, but said he favors a block grant mechanism that would allow the state to take Medicaid funds and work with the healthcare industry to develop solutions that work for the state’s peculiar needs. 

Anchia said that voter approval of Proposition 1 was the first step in the right direction for providing transportation infrastructure support with about $1.7 billion, but that’s only enough to maintain the current transportation system. In reality, about $12 billion is needed to meet future road and bridge needs for the growing state, Anchia said. Villalba said that more needs to be done, but stressed that voters clearly signaled that they do not want to see the state raise taxes to cover those costs. 

The constitutional amendment takes a portion of the severance tax paid by the energy industry that was going into the state's Rainy Day Fund and allocates it to the State Highway Fund. 

On the public education front, the two representatives predicted a special session would be needed to completely revamp the current school funding mechanism even after the legislature restored some of the cuts it had previously made.

The Dallas legislative preview was one of four conducted this week at Haynes and Boone offices across the state, with Braddock teaming up with Quorum Report editor Harvey Kronberg to moderate. Sessions were also staged in Houston, San Antonio and Austin. 

The 84th Texas Legislative session is scheduled to begin Jan. 13 in Austin.

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