The 2019 legislative session in Austin was dominated by three topics — school finance, property tax reduction and school safety.
While all three were extremely important, State Rep. Ed Thompson said many other important laws were passed. While they didn’t get the headlines, Thompson said a lot of work was done to make sure Texas is ready for the next natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey.
“Hurricane Harvey was a real wake-up call,” Thompson said. “We need to do a better job of planning and not just have a knee-jerk reaction. We did a lot of that this session.”
One such law was SB 7, which creates a flood infrastructure fund. That fund will be used to improve infrastructure across Texas.
“We’ve never before looked at flooding from what I call the 10,000-foot level,” Thompson said. “We’ve broken these watersheds up. That was exciting for me. I thought for our area that was a huge thing.”
Thompson said there was a lot of progress made on key issues during the 2019 session, saying it helped to have no controversial social issues to stir up tensions.
“There were a lot of things done this session: teacher retention, teacher health care and higher ed,” Thompson said. “Those kind of things are important.”
While Thompson said the session was busy, he was pleased with the outcome.
“I think we got there as a Legislature on a lot of the main issues,” he said.
Another bonus in 2019, Thompson said, was having Speaker Dennis Bonnen being from Brazoria County.
“I don’t think you can even imagine how beneficial that is to have the speaker of the House from Brazoria County,” Thompson said. “They know where Brazoria County is now.”
Of the three main issues, Thompson said the most important in his view was school safety legislation.
“I think Santa Fe woke a lot of people up about hardening our schools and providing those school resource officers,” Thompson said. “I think there was a lot of awareness that came out of Santa Fe. It woke up a lot of people.”
Thompson said the legislation passed by the Legislature will make school safer in Texas.
“I think it will make a big difference, even in the way schools are designed, how we enter and how we exit,” he said.
As for school finance, Thompson said Alvin ISD fared well with the changes. He said revamping the entire law is a big task. In time, there will be needed changes, he explained.
“When you do a bill that large and that comprehensive, there’s always going to be something we missed,” he said. “There will have to be adjustments.”
Thompson said the changes to school finance have been needed for decades.
As a school board member in the mid ’90s, he was asking for changes.
“I remember going to Austin and visiting with Dennis (Bonnen) and saying, ‘This is not going to be good,’” Thompson said. “Over time, they kept putting Band Aids on it. Some of the things we did just weren’t fair. I’m very excited for HB 3.”
Some other bills Thompson pointed out that were important included:
• House Bill 8 which adds funding to eliminate the backlog of untested rape kits;
• HB 3652, which creates a suppository for college textbooks, hopefully cutting the cost to students;
• Several bills designed to help law enforcement end human trafficking;
• Legislation that ends out-of-network billing for emergency visits;
• $6 billion to TxDOT for highway construction of non-tolled roads.
“There was a lot of good stuff this time,” he said.
Thompson said he will run for re-election because there is still work he wants to do, much of it related to environmental issues in his district.
“You hope when you’re finished, you made the place better,” Thompson said. “My parents always told me, ‘Leave it better than you found it.’ I hope that can be my legacy.”