Capitol Hall Report – May 26, 2016

On Friday, May 13th, the Republican Party of Texas overwhelmingly voted to include in its platform several key conservative positions. I am supportive of and personally committed to bringing these platform items to fruition during the next legislative session. These new planks in the Texas Republican Party Platform touch on all aspects of Texan’s lives, from social issues and state security to the role government should play in the legislative process.

While the 2016 State Republican Platform identified many important legislative issues, I believe the following platform planks to be of primary importance. I fully intend to prioritize these issues during the coming 85th legislative session.

· Texas Electric Grid – Scientific experts have long warned that our nation’s electric grid is vulnerable to physical, cyber, and electromagnetic (EMP) threats. However, unlike physical and cyber threats, the threat from an EMP to the nation’s electric grid has been all but ignored by government and the electric industry. Thankfully, Texas has the unique ability to secure its portion of the electric grid from the EMP threat. The Republican Party of Texas recognized this opportunity and voted to urge the Texas Legislature to pass legislation that will harden the Texas electric grid against cyber-attacks on the grid’s computerized command and control system, physical attacks on substations and major high voltage transformers, geomagnetic storms created by solar flares from the sun, and man-made Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP).

· Free Market for Utilities and Insurance: The existence of free market solutions directly benefits Texas consumers. Whenever possible, free market solutions are always preferable when providing for utility needs and setting insurance rates for of our state. Insurance rates for all insurance types, including title insurance, should be set only through free-market forces. In fact, title insurance has become one of the last bastions of industry protection in Texas, and it must stop. The platform also calls on state leaders to reduce the state taxpayer liabilities imposed by the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.

· Transportation and Fuel Taxes: In the past, our state formed the bad habit of collecting transportation related taxes and spending the money elsewhere. Consequently, the platform calls for all collected transportation and fuel taxes to be used only for road construction, improvement, and maintenance. In addition, the new plank calls for an end to diversions of all other vehicle taxes or fees, including vehicle sales tax, and for use of the collected funds only for highway construction and not mass transit, rail, restrictive lanes, and bicycle paths.

· Toll Roads: The sentiment of the people of Texas, the members of the state senate and house, and the leadership of Texas is that we should eliminate tolls from our roadways. The party platform was amended to call for the removal current tolls from roadways when the debt on the roadways is retired. In fact, if the debt is restructured or refinanced, the pay-off date should not change unless first approved by the voters. Once that debt is retired, the maintenance of those roads should revert to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). The platform revisions also call for opposition to the conversion of any existing roads or lanes to toll roads. Finally, public private partnerships are also opposed, especially in relation to toll projects.

· Toll Road Funding: The spending of taxpayer money should always be taken seriously, and it is the responsibility of the leaders of this state to insure those funds are spent wisely. The party opposes the use of taxpayer money to subsidize, guarantee, prop-up, or bail out any toll projects, whether public or private. Indeed, the state and federal lawmakers are called upon to adequately fund our highways without implementing hidden taxes or tolls or raiding emergency funds.

· Diversion of Property Taxes: Property taxes are taken very seriously in Texas. The people of Texas oppose the diversion of property taxes to build, subsidize, or guarantee the loans of toll projects. The primary method of this diversion is through transportation reinvestment zones. A transportation reinvestment zone is an area designated by the local governing body for a transportation project. Once the zone is created, a base year is established, and the incremental increase in property tax revenue collected inside the zone is used to finance a project in the zone. When used for a toll road, not only are the people taxed to pay for the road, those who use the road are also taxed, often causing people to be taxed twice to for the same road. The state needs to properly fund the Texas state highway system to prevent the diversion of local property taxes to state roads.

· Fair Election Procedures: Free and fair elections are essential to the liberty of a republic. Therefore we must modify and strengthen election laws to ensure ballot integrity and fair elections. This fairness can only be accomplished through the development of strict enforcement procedures for printing result tapes at the polling location after the polls close for all counties, elevated scrutiny and security of mail in ballots, the prohibition of internet voting and any electronic voting mechanism that lacks a verifiable paper trail, the prohibition of mobile voting, the prosecution for election fraud with jail sentences, a repeal of the unconstitutional Help America Vote Act, the use of optional paper ballots to protect the integrity of our elections, opposition to county-wide polling locations due to heightened potential for fraud, and distinctly marked and where possible separate locations for Republican and Democrat primary voting.

· Interstate Border Security Compact: Governor Greg Abbott is called on to develop a border security compact advisory group. This advisory group will guide the process of building a coalition of states to enter into an interstate compact allowing the participating states to enforce existing federal immigration laws. The Texas Legislature is called on, and I intend on leading this call, to support all efforts by the Texas Governor to enter into a border security interstate compact and gain operational control of our state’s southern border.

· Censuring a Republican Officeholder for Cause- Some politicians in Texas espouse conservative values on the campaign trail but change their tune when they arrive in Austin. Conservative values are real and important to the people of Texas and are not simply campaign rhetoric to be discarded at the first convenient moment. This state and this country were founded by men and women who stood unwaveringly on their principles. We should expect the same from our elected leaders. This platform revision calls for a rule allowing delegates of the state convention, or the State Republican Executive Committee, to censure a Republican officeholder for cause, including consistent actions taken in opposition to principles of the Republican Party of Texas, defined in the preamble of the party platform. The rule will allow the people of Texas to take action against the legislator who campaigns in the district as a conservative but votes as a liberal or moderate in Austin. We need to end the charlatan tactics of politicians saying one thing but doing another and bring true statesmanship back to the leaders of our state.

I fully support these positions in the Texas Republican Platform. The people’s voice matters in Texas, and I am actively organizing efforts to ensure meaningful legislation is passed during the upcoming legislative session. I strongly urge my fellow legislators to stand united in 2017 in support of the will of the people. The people have spoken and will expect us to listen and act accordingly. The lives and freedoms of Texans depend on us!

For Texas,

Bob Hall