As one of the nine new incoming state senators, Brandon Creighton had to learn a whole new system.
He served in the House of Representatives since the 2007 legislative session until this year and said the Senate gave more individual opportunity.
“One thing I learned is that one senator could be a wrecking ball,” Creighton said referring to power in the Legislature’s upper chamber.
One of the biggest changes for the Senate was the change in bringing bills up for debate. The Senate changed the requirement from needing a two-thirds vote (21 senators) to three-fifths (19), which allowed the Republican majority to bypass the Democratic senators.
Creighton said the freshman senators were also given many privileges, including leadership roles, that was unusual in the past.
Ultimately, he said the budget that was passed was “conservative and visionary” for remaining below inflation and economic growth.
“We protected the Rainy Day Fund in case of another (Hurricane) Rita or Katrina and protects the credit rating,” Creighton said. “S&P and Moody’s both told us if we don’t keep $7-9 billion on hand as a percentage of our budget, that we are being irresponsible. They can downgrade our A+ credit rating like they did the feds, and we all thought that would never happen.”
Creighton also lists bills dealing with state sovereignty, education reform, transportation funding, border security, Second Amendment rights (open carry and campus carry) were all good steps in the right direction.
Creighton also spearheaded several bills he considers to be a highlight of the session: Senate Bill 455, SB 1760 and the bill that will become Proposition 6 on the November ballot. Another allows the ports in the Beaumont area to receive ships that will go through the Panama Canal expansion.
SB 455 creates a three-judge panel that will deal with school finance and redistricting, among other issues, rather than the single-judge system in place now.
“I was really proud of that because we find ourselves in and out of court on school funding and even though it’s a statewide issue where all districts are affected and all schools are affected,” he said. “It’s mainly been affected, driven and controlled at the trial level by a Travis County judge. I think that the additional perspective is going to be really powerful.”
Proposition 6 will add language to the Texas Constitution guaranteeing the rights of Texans to hunt and fish.
“It’s deeply rooted in our heritage and the experience families have shared together by being outdoors…” Creighton said. “I think that, from what we’ve seen in other states by the litigation that’s unfolded in other states – dove hunting being turned back, deer hunting, certain types of sport fishing, cougar hunting, elk hunting, it just depends state to state and what the lawsuit was about. It was important to me to be proactive and ahead of that because we’re only in session every two years.”
SB 1760 is the so-called taxpayer bill of rights, which includes language that, for example, requires a supermajority vote for local government agencies to raise taxes.
“That ended up being one of the five bills that was part of a negotiated settlement between the House and the Senate to avoid a special session,” he said. “I was really proud of what was in the bill, but I was also pleased to see the lieutenant governor, the governor and the speaker (of the house) and the leaders between the House and the Senate had it as a key part of the overall package deal to say, ‘We’ll accept nothing less than getting these few bills done to consider this a victory for the Legislative session and if not, we’re coming back’.”
Creighton was disappointed by some bills not ending up on the governor’s desk, namely legislation that would have capped the budget to the growth and inflation rates.
“Even though we were under that this time around and we showed that kind of fiscal restraint,” he said, “I would like to have seen that pass the House because I think the local governments are accumulating a lot of debt, the feds are accumulating a tremendous amount of debt. … With local and federal governments red lining in those areas, it’s causing some fear.”
For the next session, Creighton expects public education reform, infrastructure and debt reduction to be priority issues – particularly school choice programs, reducing state and local debt, and providing increases to transportation projects around the state.
Originally Published: The Courier of Montgomery County, 07/01/2015