New Faces in the Texas Legislature

A Brief Introduction to the Freshman Class of the 86th Legislature


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Each legislative session brings a slate of fresh faces to the Legislature. The names may be new, but the challenge for county officials is the same: Educating newly elected state senators and representatives about county government, it’s relationship with the state, the services both partner to provide and the issues counties face. 

In 2018, half of the 31 members of the Texas Senate were up for re-election. The 86th Legislature will include six new senators this session. They serve four-year terms. Incoming senators Pat Fallon and Carol Alvarado both have previously served as state representatives.

Over in the Texas House of Representatives, there are 29 freshman legislators, two of whom — representatives Steve Toth and Trey Martinez Fischer — have previous experience as representatives serving in the Texas Legislature. 

There are also three upcoming special elections that have not been decided as of publication time. House District 145 in Harris County opened up when Rep. Carol Alvarado moved to the Texas Senate, filling the seat vacated by Congress-bound Sen. Sylvia Garcia. El Paso’s long-serving Rep. Joe Pickett is retiring for health reasons, leaving open House District 79. And Rep. Justin Rodriguez of San Antonio’s District 125 is leaving the Legislature to become a Bexar County commissioner.

Below is a quick look at all the newly elected legislators, as well as their social media contact information and excerpts from their legislative platforms.

New to the Texas Senate

Angela Paxton – R
District 8 (Collin, Dallas)
Educator
Facebook: facebook.com/AngelaPaxtonTX
Twitter: @AngelaPaxtonTX

“Texans pay some of the highest property taxes of any state and must have relief! Like you, I’m impacted by skyrocketing property taxes, and this continued increase is simply unsustainable. We never really “own” our homes; we simply pay higher and higher taxes for the privilege of living in our homes. Home ownership shouldn’t be threatened by government greed.”
Source: www.angelapaxton.com


Beverly Powell – D
District 10 (Tarrant)
Real estate agent
Facebook: facebook.com/beverlypowelltx
Twitter: @beverlypowelltx

“The best decisions are made by the voters closest to their public officials. Local leaders and those who hold them accountable should drive local decisions — not out of touch bureaucrats in Austin. The current legislative effort to diminish local control makes clear that many in the legislature simply do not trust Texans to make decisions for their own communities. Beverly will work to return authority to citizens and locally elected officials who understand the concerns of their community. Problems are created and not solved by Austin politicians micromanaging Texas communities.”
Source: www.beverlypowell.com


Nathan Johnson – D
District 16 (Dallas)
Attorney, composer of the Dragon Ball Z theme song
Facebook: facebook.com/NathanforTexas
Twitter: @NathanForTexas

“Each Texas city has its own character — values, challenges, resources and solutions distinct from any other. Local governments understand this. They are in touch with the local people; they enact policies that reflect the values and needs of the local people; and they respect the expertise of local law enforcement who, likewise, understand the local people. In this way, cities are laboratories of democracy, living experiments in public policy.”
Source: www.nathanfortexas.com


Pete Flores – R
District 19 (Atascosa, Bexar, Brewster, Crockett, Dimmit, Edwards, Frio, Kinney, Maverick, Medina, Pecos, Real, Reeves, Terrell, Uvalde, Val Verde, Zavala)
Former Colonel Game Warden for Texas Parks and Wildlife
Facebook: facebook.com/PeteFloresTX
Twitter: @PeteFlores_TX

“I will work diligently to keep our state’s transportation infrastructure sound. The state’s rainy day fund should be maintained and our budget balanced. Our state’s economic growth and development is critical to us all, and there should be no self-imposed barriers to that end …  Taxation that hinders robust establishment and growth of business such as the franchise and inventory tax should be eliminated. Oversight of the County Tax Appraisal Districts by the State Comptroller should be increased to provide an improved check and balance to those entities that levy property taxes upon us all.”  Source: www.peteflores2018.com


Pat Fallon – R
District 30 (Archer, Clay, Collin, Cooke, Denton, Erath, Grayson, Jack, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, Wichita, Wise, Young)
President and CEO of Virtus Apparel, former state representative and Frisco city councilman
Facebook: facebook.com/fallonfortexas
Twitter: @FallonForTexas

“When you are able to keep more money in your pocket, you are able to enjoy more freedom. You earned that money — the government didn’t. Accordingly, when the government comes knocking and makes a demand for a percentage of our treasure, it’s our duty as citizens to demand that the government doesn’t spend it frivolously. Only an active citizenry can provide the oversight required to ensure that our cities, school districts and state government operate efficiently. We need legislators who are fiscally vigilant.” 
Source: www.fallonfortexas.com


Carol Alvarado – D
District 6 (Harris)
Former Houston City Council member and former Houston Mayor Pro Tem
Facebook: facebook.com/CarolforTexas
Twitter: @CarolforTexas

“Carol’s primary legislative focus has been on economic development, public health, and public education issues. She has championed legislation aimed at strengthening our state’s workforce, improving workforce development services, and streamlining Texas’ economic incentive programs. Carol is an advocate for women’s health and reproductive rights. She has passed legislation to assist victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment. She has also authored numerous bills aimed at improving the healthcare of our children, including her passage of legislation banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. Rep. Alvarado passed landmark historic grand jury reform legislation, as well as passing major criminal justice reform, Jenny’s Law.” 
Source: www.carolalvarado-acevescocom.nationbuilder.com

New to the Texas House

Keith Bell – R
District 4 (Henderson, Kaufman)
Small business owner, rancher, former Forney ISD school board member
Facebook: facebook.com/KeithBellForTexasHouse

“Keith supports local control and the idea that voters should have the power to “veto” huge property tax increases by election. He believes that property tax reform must be tied to school finance reform, creating a balanced approach that will properly fund schools so our kids have the resources they need — without raising property taxes sky-high on our homeowners.” Source: www.bellfortexas.com

Cody Harris – R
District 8 (Anderson, Freestone, Hill, Navarro)
Small business owner
Facebook: facebook.com/CodyforTexas
Twitter: @codyjoeharris

“Texas has the third highest property taxes in America, behind New Jersey and Illinois. Cody knows Texas can do better. Cody founded his business, Liberty Land and Ranch, to help rural landowners realize the American dream, but has witnessed that dream jeopardized by skyrocketing property taxes. That’s why he wants to give voters the power to veto their tax bills by election and will work to cut property taxes.”
Source: www.codyfortexas.com

Ben Leman – R
District 13 (Austin, Burleson, Colorado, Fayette, Grimes, Lavaca, Washington)
Small business owner, former Grimes County judge
Facebook: facebook.com/BenLemanTX
Twitter: @BenLemanTX

“Property taxes have gotten out of control. People are being taxed out of their homes and land, and a solution is needed. Ben has the business background and backbone to fight for our rights in Austin, and he will work aggressively to lower our property taxes. In fact, did you know property taxes were lowered two out of the three years Ben was County Judge?” Source: www.benleman.com

Steve Toth – R
(Previously served two years in the House)
District 15 (Montgomery)
Owner, Acclaim Pools and My PoolXpert
Facebook: facebook.com/SteveTothTX
Twitter: @Toth_4_Texas

“Representative Toth earned the title “Taxpayer Champion” and garnered an ‘A’ score from Texans For Fiscal Responsibility. He was also named ‘Courageous Conservative’ by the Texas Conservative Coalition. Among other distinctions, Toth was honored as ‘Top Rated Conservative in the Texas House’ by the Texas Eagle Forum and received a 100% rating from the Texas chapter of Concerned Women for America. In addition, he obtained the second highest score in the Texas legislature from Young Conservative of Texas and also held one of the highest scores in the Texas Legislature with Texas Right to Life.”
Source: www.stevetothfortexas.com

Mayes Middleton – R
District 23 (Chambers, Galveston)
President of Middleton Oil Company
Facebook: facebook.com/mayesforstaterep
Twitter: @mayes_middleton

“Property taxes are spiraling out of control, threatening family homes and businesses. Property owners deserve to pay reasonable rates and shouldn’t be gouged with increases year after year. We need iron-clad limits on property tax growth and meaningful relief, while simultaneously working towards eventual abolition.” 
Source: www.mayesmiddleton.com

Alex Dominguez – D
District 37 (Cameron)
Attorney and former Cameron County Commissioner
Facebook: facebook.com/alexfortexas

“I believe that District 37 needs a representative who will not only represent the public during the legislative session, but will also work in coordination with the County Commissioners Court and city commissions to bring much needed jobs, infrastructure, and exposure of what this area has to offer for the full two years of the term. As a former educator, I want to be a voice for students at UTRGV to push for their education needs.”
Source: www.alexfortexas.com

Erin Zwiener – D
District 45 (Blanco, Hays)
Educator, children’s book author and three-time Jeopardy winner
Facebook: facebook.com/ErinForYall
Twitter: @ErinForYall

“In Texas, counties have no power to plan for growth and guide development in their unincorporated territory. I will push to give counties more power to plan for the immense growth happening in Texas, particularly in District 45. Not only do counties need more power to guide development in their territories, but the legislature needs to stop forcing one-size-fits-all requirements on cities and counties…” 
Source: www.erinforyall.com

Sheryl Cole – D
District 46 (Travis)
Facebook: facebook.com/SherylforTexas
Twitter: @SherylCole1

“Making life affordable for residents of House District 46 will require tackling many issues at the Legislature. Affordability means defending our neighborhoods from gentrification while ensuring a steady supply of affordable housing in the area … and it means reducing local property taxes by requiring the state to properly fund education, healthcare, transportation, and other infrastructure. I worked on these issues on the Austin City Council and I will continue to do so at the Legislature.”
Source: www.sherylcole.com

Vikki Goodwin – D
District 47 (Travis)
Real estate broker, small business owner 
Facebook: facebook.com/VoteVikki 
Twitter: @VoteVikki

“In order to maintain Texas’ vibrant economy and low unemployment rate, we must invest equally in a business-friendly environment, our public education system, accessible health care, and a clean environment. I believe it’s time to put together a group of state leaders who will look at ways to broaden the tax base and develop new revenue streams that balance the needs of the state.” 
Source: www.vikki4txhouse.com

James Talarico – D
District 52 (Williamson)
Facebook: facebook.com/talaricoforstaterep
Twitter: @jamestalarico

“The main driver of rising property taxes is our broken school finance system. Our state government and local school district used to split the cost of public schools down evenly, 50-50. But, over the last decade, the state government has dropped their share from half to barely 30%. Because the Legislature doesn’t pay its fair share of school funding, local districts are left to pick up the tab, raising our property taxes year after year. I’ll make sure the state government pays its fair share of school funding, meaning lower property taxes for all of us.” 
Source: www.jamestalarico.com

Brad Buckley – R
District 54 (Lampasas, Bell)
Veterinarian and rancher
Facebook: facebook.com/bradbuckleyfortexas
Twitter: @BuckleyForTexas

“We are blessed to live in a country that rewards productivity. We cannot, and will not, accept any taxes, fees or other government that burden our daily lives. More spending and higher government debt is NEVER the answer to long-term economic prosperity.”
Source: www.buckleycampaign.com

Reggie Smith – R
District 62 (Delta, Fannin, Grayson)
Attorney
Facebook: facebook.com/ReggieSmithForTexasHouse
Twitter: @Reggie4TXHouse

“Reggie is committed to reducing the reliance upon local school property taxes to fund education by restructuring the state’s share of the funding burden. He will also work to eliminate unfunded mandates on our schools that come down from Washington and Austin, ensuring that local education decisions remain local, and that education dollars remain focused on our local schools, not sent elsewhere to unaccountable entities and initiatives.”
Source: www.reggiesmithfortexashouse.com

Michelle Beckley – D
District 65 (Denton)
Small business owner
Facebook: facebook.com/MichelleBeckleyTexas
Twitter: @ForHD65

“As your state rep, I will fight for the people of this district and the people of Texas. In my business, I see people from all walks of life every day, and I help them find solutions for their problems. I understand that there is rarely a ‘one-size fits all’ answer for everyone, but I bring to the table a skill set of finding solutions where everyone benefits. It’s time to think about the long term, and to use lessons learned from successes of the past to help all Texans.”
Source: www.michellebeckley.com

Candy Noble – R
District 89 (Collin)
Former educator, former Texas Juvenile Justice Board member
Facebook: facebook.com/CandyNobleHD89
Twitter: @CandyNobleHD89

“With our expanding population, and to support our growing vibrant economy, we need to build new roads and maintain the ones we already utilize. All taxes collected from gas, inspections and car purchases must be completely devoted to transportation purposes and not diverted to other budget items. We should eliminate non-core government budgeted items in order to have the funds needed for our roads, schools, and justice system.”
Source: www.votecandynoble.com

Ana-Maria Ramos – D
District 102 (Dallas)
Educator, family law attorney
Facebook: facebook.com/ramos4texashd102
Twitter: @Ramos4Texas

“Texas’ salaries are not keeping up with property tax increases. As property valuations increase, property taxes increase. Instead of providing property owners tax relief due to high property valuations or using additional resources to invest in our future, the Texas GOP has reduced the state’s economic burden and shifted it to you.”
Source: www.ramos4texas.com

Jessica Gonzales – D
District 104 (Dallas)
Attorney
Facebook: facebook.com/jessicafortexas
Twitter: @jessicafortexas

“The Legislature will need to enact additional criminal justice reform legislation to prevent future wrongful convictions, as well as increasing the transparency and legitimacy of the criminal justice system. In regards to wrongful convictions, we will need to enact reforms that involve the police, prosecution, defense, courts, forensic science and corrections. Each of these has, at one time or another, committed errors that have led to wrongful convictions. Institution of legislation that provides for the implementation of evidence-based policies and programs and requires evaluation to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of the policy and program is needed.”
Source: www.voterguide.dallasnews.com

Thresa “Terry” Meza – D
District 105 (Dallas)
Attorney, former educator
Facebook: facebook.com/TerryforTexas
Twitter: @TerryforTexas

“County jails like Dallas and Harris house a significant number of mentally ill inmates, becoming some of the largest mental health institutions in the state. The largest provider of mental health services to youth in our state is juvenile detention. We need more initiatives through the courts to divert defendants to mental health services, drug rehabilitation, prostitution diversion programs, and so on.”
Source: www.voterguide.dallasnews.com

Jared Patterson – R
District 106 (Denton)
Director of Energy Services for Rapid Power Management, former city councilman
Facebook: facebook.com/jpattersontx
Twitter: @JaredLPatterson

“I want greater transparency in state laws which push unfunded mandates on our local communities. This huge cost regardless of practicality is a major issue for our local communities. I want property rights to mean something for Texas families. Let’s reform the current government-run appraisal system, input a spending standard related to population growth plus inflation and ensure that Texans can keep their homes safe from the tax collector.”
Source: www.jaredpatterson.net

Carl Sherman – D
District 109 (Dallas)
Senior pastor for the Church of Christ in Hutchins, former mayor of DeSoto
Facebook: facebook.com/ShermanForTexas
Twitter: @ShermanForTexas

“For far too long, the Texas Legislature has kicked the can down the road and refused to adequately fund our public schools. Our local school property taxes are among the highest in the nation and we need bold leadership in Austin to reduce the tax burden on local municipalities and restructure our school funding formula so that every student in Texas receives a high-quality equitable education.”
Source: www.shermanfortexas.com

Rhetta Andrews Bowers – D
District 113 (Dallas)
Educator, former broadcast journalist
Facebook: facebook.com/RhettaForHD113
Twitter: @RhettaForHD113

“The best way to both fund public schools and lower property taxes is to stop legislators from diverting nearly three billion dollars of property tax money away from public schools and instead keep education tax dollars in education. I do believe the state should spend more on education. We must find a way to increase state funding to support teachers and students while not adding additional tax burdens on local taxpayers.”
Source: www.voterguide.dallasnews.com

John Turner – D
District 114 (Dallas)
Attorney
Facebook: facebook.com/johnturnerfortexas
Twitter: @TurnerForTX

“For example, right now, the Dallas Police Department has hundreds fewer police officers than it should. Dallas needs to hire more officers to address a rising violent crime rate. Yet some in the Legislature are proposing bad bills that would artificially cap local city budgets. This would tie Dallas’s hands in attempting to improve police presence in our neighborhoods. We elect local officials to make these kinds of decisions. The Legislature should let them do their jobs.”
Source: www.johnturnerfortexas.org

Julie Johnson – D
District 115 (Dallas)
Attorney
Facebook: facebook.com/juliejohnsonforTX
Twitter: @juliejohnsontx

“Bail bond reform is a top priority. All around Texas, counties and cities are spending significant taxpayer monies jailing people over non-violent crimes, traffic infractions and keeping them from their jobs and families because they cannot pay what is sometimes a $150 bail fee. It is completely unjust to jail people for being poor and it is fiscally irresponsible. The aims of any future reforms by our legislature should be focused on accountability for police, citizens, defendants, prisoners and the families of prisoners alike.”
Source: www.juliejohnsonfortexas.com

Trey Martinez Fischer – D
(Previously served 16 years in the House)
District 116 (Bexar)
Attorney
Facebook: facebook.com/TMFTx
Twitter: @TMFTx

“Known for his strong negotiating skills, in 2013 Trey was selected by the Speaker of the House to work out a budget compromise with the Senate, where he was able to secure nearly $4 billion more for public education. …when the Legislature passed a budget that left Texas students underfunded, Trey voted against it — citing the cuts passed by the Texas Senate and the damaging effects that they would have for our schools.”
Source: www.treymartinezfischer.com

Leo Pacheco – D
District 118 (Bexar)
Educator, human resource specialist at Palo Alto College
Facebook: facebook.com/leopachecoforstaterep

“With the rising cost of living (prescriptions, healthcare, food, utilities, home repairs, etc.) many of our seniors need our assistance, and we need to be there for them. Let’s start by capping property taxes for homeowners over 65, and not just the tax rate. Let’s cap the total they have to pay given escalating property tax values. This would ensure that our elders can enjoy the quality of life they’ve worked a lifetime to create. After all, they built this life for us.”
Source: www.votepacheco.com

Steve Allison – R
District 121 (Bexar)
Attorney
Facebook: facebook.com/stevefortx
Twitter: @stevefortx

“Steve believes that the Governor’s approach to cap increased property tax revenues is a good start to achieving immediate relief and he favors giving voters the power to ‘veto’ skyrocketing property taxes with automatic local elections for large tax increases. Steve will always be a strong advocate for providing property tax relief to taxpayers.”
Source: www.stevefortexas.com

Sam Harless – R
District 126 (Harris)
Independent automobile dealership owner
Facebook: facebook.com/samharless126
Twitter: @SamHarless126

“I will work to maintain local control of our children’s education. I will support our Public Schools, fight for more equitable funding and reduce unfunded mandates. I will work for fair pay for teachers and to increase contributions to retired teachers.”
Source: www.samharless126.com

Gina Calanni – D
District 132 (Harris)
Author
Facebook: facebook.com/ginacalanniforTXDistrict132
Twitter: @gina_calanni

“As someone who was displaced by Harvey, I am committed to coming up with solutions to deal with catastrophic weather events in the future. This means creating a viable means to avoid flooding and to ensure that we have better regulation for developing properties in flood prone areas.”
Source: www.ginacalanni.com

Jon E. Rosenthal – D
District 135 (Harris)
Engineer
Facebook: facebook.com/JonRosenthalTX

“From the police on the street to judges in the courtroom, to our overcrowded for-profit prisons, we can do better. … The bail system must immediately be reformed, and we must also strengthen our communities and promote positive relationships with law enforcement through de-escalation training and community policing efforts.”
Source: www.rosenthal4usall.com

John H. Bucy III – D
District 136 (Williamson)
Small business owner
Facebook: facebook.com/BucyForTexas
Twitter: @BucyForTexas

“To maximize our tax dollars and be efficient and fiscally responsible, we must work together with our cities, counties, school boards, and other local jurisdictions to ensure core needs and services are being met for our constituents. Local control is a key part of this. The Legislature should not hamstring, circumvent, or retroactively undo decisions made by our local communities, especially when residents are in support.”
Source: www.bucyfortexas.com