On The Issues

My basic philosophy when considering a new Texas law is this: will this law give people more freedom, or less freedom? If you want more freedom, let’s find a way! If the answer is less freedom, then the highest burden of proof is necessary to justify my vote. The new law must not only be constitutional, it must be so critical to our Texas way of life that it outweighs any loss of liberty. And when in doubt, err on the side of freedom.

Table of Contents

Main Street Jobs & Economic Freedom

Let’s keep the Texas miracle going! Taxes should be low, and regulations should be light. Keeping more of your money is the way businesses and families prosper. Building a business isn’t easy, but the rewards are good for everyone. Careers and jobs come from growing businesses and new opportunities.

Cutting red tape is one of my favorite subjects! I know what it’s like to run a small business and to worry about all the rules and regulations. You should be in control of your business, not the government in Austin. I believe government should play a small role by ensuring a clear set of rules, and then getting out of the way.

Careers take off where freedom is great. So I believe government must allow people the freedom to take risks. Austin shouldn’t be the one to tell East Texans how to run their business. When people are free to choose, markets respond favorably, and businesses grow!

Education Excellence & Efficiency

I support the mission of our public schools. About 95% of all students in Texas attend a public school. I am committed to working with school leaders to ensure students succeed. When students succeed, Texas succeeds! My mother, my wife, my mother-in-law, and both of my sisters-in-law are all teachers or educators, so conversations about the classroom are common in my family. I have a deep appreciation for the challenges teachers face, and education will always be a top priority for me as a legislator.

John Adams once said, “There are two types of education… One should teach us how to make a living, and the other how to live.” Local schools and the State of Texas should be concerned primarily with the first kind of education. The second kind should be the job of parents, families, and congregations of faith. However, the breakdown of the family in so many homes means public school teachers are often faced with teaching children how to live. They need our support!

A good education is critical to success. Our economic competitiveness depends greatly upon a well-educated citizenry. We must adequately fund our schools and colleges to ensure the foundation of our economy, but we also must recognize that taxpayers deserve efficiency for the dollars they provide. Education spending should be tied to accountability and high-standards. At the same time, we need to give educators the flexibility to implement those standards and ensure student achievement. Last, but not least, parents have more choice today about where and how to educate their children than ever before. I support giving more choices to parents who know their child better than anyone else.

Restore Vocational & Career Training in Public Schools

A college degree is not the only way to succeed. But it seems like that has been the message forced upon our public schools by Austin bureaucrats. I disagree. We need to restore vocational and career training in public schools now! Students need skills training that will motivate them to be productive and earn a living. The skilled trades offer great opportunity and great rewards. Learning to turn a wrench, might turn a life around. Culinary skills might spark a career. Nursing might become a calling. College degrees remain an option later in life, and should be the first goal for many. But too many students are going to college and aimlessly pursuing a degree that doesn’t turn into a job. They spend 5 or 6 years in college and pile up student loan debt that takes decades to repay.

Restoring vocational training to a respected level in our public schools is one of my primary goals. In 2019, I passed a bill through the Texas House to allow high schools to teach plumbing, but unions killed the bill in the Senate. I won’t give up on it! Learning to work and to earn a living should be taught at much earlier ages. Let’s expose our students to more learning options. Give students a reason not to drop out and to stay motivated to learn, and to earn. Letting students try, fail, and succeed in a safe and structured environment will save them money in the future, and be a better use of our tax money now.

Health Care Choice, Quality, & Affordability

My mission is the health care choice you want, the affordability you need, and the quality you deserve. Government must not take over our healthcare system. Instead, let’s cut out expensive “middle-men” that stand between you and your doctors. Insurance and health care don’t have to be so costly. There are too many hands in the cookie jar taking out money before it ever gets to a doctor or pharmacy. Solutions to healthcare affordability and choice aren’t always easy, but we have to do better!

There are many ways to tackle this problem. Expanding “direct primary care” financial arrangements where insurance companies are not required is one way. With a direct primary care model, money flows directly from patients to doctors eliminating costly overhead and red tape. Simplifying billing is another way to lower costs. Can you easily understand your health care invoices? Do you know how much an x-ray will cost before you get it? Me neither! Understanding clearly how much routine healthcare costs will help us find ways to save money and find better care. This will give consumers an incentive to think about cost when they seek basic medical services. We like the fact we can choose a laser eye surgeon based upon advertised cost and experience, so why don’t we do that for routine care? We should also expand the use of medical savings accounts.

Women’s Health & Pre-Existing Conditions

The simple truth is that pregnant women are NEVER turned away from getting healthcare because of inability to pay in Tyler. She simply will not be turned away. In fact, that is true all over Texas because our law ensures that pregnant women will get healthcare regardless of financial lack. This is a pro-life policy. I support that 100%! Being pro-life means pregnant women must always have the medical care they need. Supporting healthy babies and healthy moms is always the right thing to do.

Likewise, a safety net for people who have pre-existing health conditions who will never be able to afford to pay for all of their own care is something we can and should do. A high-risk health insurance pool is a tool that provides a hand up, not a hand-out by reducing the cost of private health insurance to an affordable level. However, this tool must be managed by the State of Texas, not Washington bureaucrats. We can help people with pre-existing conditions and be wise with taxpayer money.

COVID 19 - Responding Together

We must watch out for vulnerable people, and get business owners back on their feet! COVID 19 is real and can have grave consequences for vulnerable people. Taking care of our families requires vigilance. Many people have been impacted by the pandemic. My family and I take COVID 19 seriously (I hope you do too), but we are continuing on with life. The isolation, closed businesses, jobs lost, disrupted education, and delayed healthcare have resulted in negative consequences such as deteriorating mental health, depression, domestic abuse, and increased suicides. We must reach out to our neighbors and help one another to get through.

My commitment is to support our healthcare workers, hospitals, and those on the front lines dealing with COVID 19. Government should assist local communities with resources, guidance, and support. I will continue to work very closely with our healthcare officials in Tyler and Smith County. When they ask for help from state government, I respond immediately. And when they ask for government to get out the way, I make sure that message is received in Austin.

Teachers and students need support as well. They are dealing with an extraordinary challenge. I stay in close contact with school leaders in East Texas to ensure they are receiving the support and resources they need. My mission is to help our students and teachers make the best of a difficult situation.

Denying individual freedoms, forcing businesses to close, and destroying Texans’ livelihoods will not end the pandemic, but these actions will have harmful consequences. Texas should be fully re-opened for business! Texans should be given the best guidance and support possible from government, and then be left alone to make decisions as individuals and business owners. The governor’s executive orders requiring penalties or jail time for violating his COVID 19 orders are wrong. Checks and balances must be restored. I will support legislation that reforms the Governor’s ability to act without seeking input from the elected lawmakers who were chosen by the people to write laws and protect individual rights.

Public Safety & Criminal Justice

Justice is a bedrock principle in America. We get it right more than any country in the world. And when we get it wrong, we must be accountable and make things right. Justice requires public safety. Public safety requires men and women willing to do a difficult job. I believe that the men and women in law enforcement in East Texas are some of the finest in the country. The leaders of our local law enforcement agencies in Smith County are committed to justice and treating every Texan with fairness and respect. They have my full support. I will oppose all efforts to disrespect our peace officers, or deny them the financial resources needed to do their jobs and to keep our communities safe.

Listening to our fellow Texans about injustice is something I care about. I get it. I know that instances of police brutality in our state have occurred. In every instance we must look at the causes, take action to ensure it never happens again, and hold those responsible accountable. Justice must be served.

Reforming criminal justice laws and policies is a conversation I am willing to have. I will listen to anyone with constructive ideas about reform. There are issues in our criminal justice system that do need to be addressed. We can do better.

Taxpayer Money & Spending Wisely

Efficiency and effectiveness are not just principles for the business world, they must apply to government too. Never forget that our money sent down to Austin doesn’t belong to bureaucrats, and that taxpayers want good value for their dollars. I oppose tax increases because Austin has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. We must eliminate non-essential agencies and overlapping programs. I have experience working with the Texas Sunset Commission, which requires agencies to justify their existence on a periodic basis. If agencies are no longer needed, the law says they “sunset” and are eliminated. Yet too often, politics keeps them around. Common sense says if you don’t need it, stop paying for it. This means getting Austin out of areas where individual Texans and the private sector can take care of things themselves.

Common sense also means telling the truth about budgeting in Austin. The budget process has become so convoluted and complex that even legislators have a hard time understanding it. Let’s change the process to make it easier for taxpayers and lawmakers to understand. I helped pass a law requiring zero-based budgeting for each agency as they go through the Sunset review process. This means building an agencies’ budget from the ground up instead of starting with the previous year’s spending. If last year’s budget was marked with wasteful spending, why build upon that again in the next budget? 

Sanctity of Life; Protecting the Unborn

If a baby’s heartbeat is detected, she must be protected. I will never stop fighting for the countless babies in the womb who are lost every year to abortion. I will do everything a State Representative can do to protect life. From the elderly person facing sickness to the unborn baby, we must defend the dignity of each person. I believe that life begins at conception and should be protected until natural death. Texas must always be a state where every God-given life has the highest value in law.

Religious Liberty & the 1st Amendment

I believe that every Texan of any faith—or no faith at all—has a fundamental right to follow their conscience and live according to their beliefs. Our nation’s Founding Fathers established this right as our first freedom nearly two and a half centuries ago, and we intend to keep it that way.

The right to speak and assemble is also central to our freedoms. From college campuses to city hall, your right to speak and assemble must never be infringed.

Self-defense & the 2nd Amendment

A single mom in a tough situation needs to feel safe, and to protect herself and her children. Her right to self-defense is a God-given right as old as humanity itself. Government should not deny a law-abiding woman or man the ability to use a firearm for protection.

The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized what Texans already know: the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms is an individual right protected by the Constitution which should not be infringed.  As a veteran I have carried a weapon in service to my country in Afghanistan, and I proudly support our right to bear arms in Texas.

I believe that if you can legally possess a gun, you should be able to legally carry that gun for your protection. Texans should have full constitutional rights to keep and bear arms, and I support legislation to make that a reality. Responsible Texans exercising their 2nd Amendment rights make Texas a safer and freer place to live. I will not back down in protecting your freedom!

Border Security, Physical Barriers, & Sanctuary Cities

Texas has struggled with Washington’s inability to act along our border to address illegal immigration, human trafficking, drug smuggling, and violent crime. I support efforts to erect physical barriers, utilize technology, and improve human intelligence resources along the border with Mexico. I also support providing the Texas Department of Public Safety with the money and resources to address the problems that spill over into our state.

Sanctuary city polices which allow criminal aliens to be released into our neighborhoods are dangerous. Local authorities must work with federal immigration officials to remove criminal aliens from our communities. That is why I helped write and pass into law a ban on sanctuary cities in Texas which is the toughest law of its kind in the country! I will not ignore the rule of law in order to satisfy political interests.

Supporting Marriage

Marriage was established by God for one man and one woman.  The institution of marriage has proven itself throughout history to be the best way to build a family. I will oppose any effort to erode traditional marriage.

Energy, Environment, & Climate Change

Cleaner, safer, and healthier places to live should be the mission of every Texan. But the simple truth is that energy poverty = poverty. Environmental leadership means we can be good stewards of the earth, and let people prosper too! I believe in a basic set of rules that ensure the natural resources God has given us are protected and valued. Technology innovations continue to improve our ability to produce cleaner energy and keep our wildlife and water safe.

The climate is changing and no doubt human activities are a factor, but how and why is not completely understood. Scientists tell us climate change is due to many causes over time including natural causes. We should find ways to ensure a healthy environment in years to come. However, I reject apocalyptic climate responses that are driven by extreme environmental groups that want to greatly expand government mandates. I believe that we should require a public cost-benefit analysis on any new energy or environmental regulation.

Affordable, reliable energy ends poverty. That is why I support the responsible use of the oil and gas resources in Texas. Improving quality of life is linked to the availability of reliable, and affordable energy. Furthermore, America is a leader in clean air. Since 1970, the EPA reports that the U.S. has reduced the six key harmful pollutants by 77% - the cleanest on record - while growing our GDP, our population, miles traveled, and energy use. The U.S. also ranks #1 in the world for clean water.

Water – Protecting East Texas’ Rights

Our water rights in East Texas have been threatened by bureaucratic authority. In 2011, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality exercised newly granted “emergency” authority to force the City of Tyler to let water flow downstream out of Lake Tyler and Lake Tyler East to cities on the Gulf Coast. TCEQ claimed the drought was causing an “emergency” downstream and therefore its actions were required. However, there was no hearing, no due process, and no opportunity for Tyler city officials to examine the evidence prior to the decision. Most water flowing downstream evaporates before it reaches the farthest points and the conservation efforts of those cities claiming the water were questionable. A drought is not like a wildfire, it doesn’t happen in a flash. East Texans are concerned for our fellow Texans downstream, but there was ample time to hold hearings and make sure that decisions were being made based upon evidence – not politics. I will hold TCEQ accountable for any actions that threaten our water rights.

10th Amendment & Local Control

The 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Unfortunately, we have sold our state’s 10th Amendment rights to Washington one federal dollar at a time. From education, to roads, to health care, we have slowly eroded our ability to govern ourselves locally. We have given too much power to Washington.

Education is one example. Our public schools and colleges should be free to operate under state and local supervision without federal interference. The U.S. Dept. of Education should be eliminated and federal education dollars returned to the states.

The government closest to the people governs best, as noted by Thomas Jefferson. It is time to push back against Washington, and stop chasing federal money. Federal dollars are not “free” and are adding to an immoral debt which burdens our children and grandchildren. Let’s start cutting some of those federal strings and see if Texans can’t do better.

Lawsuit Abuse

The purpose of the civil court system is to allow a person or business that has been harmed to obtain a remedy from the responsible party. This system has roots going back to the Old Testament. Access to courts is vitally important to the free enterprise system and private property rights. But lawsuits without merit and excessive claims for damages should be discouraged. Such abusive lawsuits effectively create a tax on businesses, doctors, and ultimately consumers. The law should allow cases to go to trial based solely on the merits of each party’s case. I will oppose efforts to give plaintiffs an unfair advantage in court. Furthermore, I will defend the reasonable steps the Texas Legislature has taken to reform tort litigation.