WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The gavel has struck and the 88th Texas Legislature is officially underway, with lawmakers facing a major question many states would love to face, what to do with a huge budget surplus.
One of the top priorities will be school safety as this is the first session since the shooting in Uvalde.
“In the budget, we’re going to spend millions of dollars to enhance school security,” District 30 Sen. Drew Springer said. “Making sure we have the right locks, making sure we have bulletproof glass or film and a host of other things. A lot of them are simple because everybody thinks guns, but it could be a car driving through and running over kids so we need to make sure we have barriers in place.”
It doesn’t stop there as Sen. Springer said school safety goes beyond just setting up protection on campuses.
“We need a monumental one-time really raise the bar in mental health to where we can address it,” Sen. Springer said. “We are about 5,000 mental health professionals short in the state of Texas in Wichita Falls we have 200 open beds while 15% of everyone in jail is waiting for one of those beds. It’s because we are short 300 employees.”
As for the representative from the 69th District James Frank, there are a few things he’s looking at as well.
“I work in healthcare costs,” Rep. Frank said. “You know, we pay about twice as much in this country in healthcare and get the same results as most of the developed world which hurts people’s ability to get access to care.”
Frank also said finding more funds for public education will be key during this session.
“Parents, especially during COVID, I think really realized what was going on in their schools, and in some places, they were presently surprised,” Rep. Frank said. “In some places, they were definitely concerned by what was going on and what wasn’t going on in schools. So, I think there’s going to be a tremendous amount of work in that area.”
Many of the bills coming from this session will have some impact on the people in and around Wichita Falls, but Sen. Springer said every legislative session there are a few things he keeps an eye on that would significantly impact the area.
“For me what I’m working on the most is going to be economic development,” Sen. Springer said. “The enterprise fund that we’ve done in 313th really hasn’t helped Wichita County. So we need to look at it from that aspect. How do we attract more jobs and more businesses to Wichita Falls? I will tell you the one thing I won’t be filing bills but am always watching is things to protect Sheppard Air Force Base.”
Now for the next 140 days, lawmakers will be working, and no doubt often battling each other over the best ways to solve problems and move forward.
Something else to look for is the legislative budget board recently voted to allow legislators to spend about $12.5 billion more in the next budget cycle compared to the previous biennium. If the governor wants to spend more, lawmakers would have to address constitutional spending limits.