One of the greatest features of the Texas Legislature is it only convenes every other year, and for only 140 days at that. And lawmakers’ pay, set by the state Constitution, is so low no one can possibly live on it.
The obvious goal was to ensure the state would not fall into the hands of professional politicians, but rather be populated by people who would serve out of a sense of duty for their communities.
Obviously that hasn’t been the case, as many a politician has been able to parlay a seat on the Legislature into wealthy corporate appointments and consulting contracts. But at least the time limit keeps them from doing too much damage.
Even in the short time they meet, the state’s 81 lawmakers file thousands of bills every session; there’s no telling what they would do if they had all year.
We hope our representatives recognize the best governance is self-governance, and the best laws are those that protect rights and freedoms, not those that restrict or deny them.
Still, there are some major issues that will, or should, come up in the new legislative session, which begins with today’s swearing-in ceremonies, that will affect all Texans.
The most important issue every session is school funding, which takes the biggest part of the state budget. Given the wide disparity in wealth among the more than 1,000 public school districts in Texas, it’s virtually impossible to devise a single taxation scheme that treats all equally.
Open government issues surely will be addressed, including another try to establish protections for people who have sensitive information but don’t want their identity revealed.
In this year of economic hardship, the state’s Department of Transportation is up for sunset review. Whether or not the department continues, is changed or simply ceases to exist, it’s obvious the Texas Panhandle still needs major attention in this and other infrastructure.
Several immigration control bills already have been filed, but this remains a federal issue and conflicting state and federal legislation on the matter might only muddy the waters even more on this issue.
In the end, we hope our Texas lawmakers use their positions of public trust to protect the public, and that begins with wielding a light hand on legislation. No one can decide how best to run one’s life than oneself, and our laws should empower the public to seek its own fortunes.