Drew Darby Talks Successes and Failures of 85th Legislative Session
SAN ANGELO, TX – State Representative Drew Darby (R), who represents District 72, sat down with LIVE! recently for a wide ranging conversation about the 85th Legislative Session at the state Capitol, the next special session, and politics in general. Darby's district spans nine counties in west Texas, including Coke, Concho, Glasscock, Howard, Irion, Reagan, Runnels, Sterling, and Tom Green.
Darby currently serves as chairman of the Energy Resources Committee, Chairman of the Select Committee on State and Federal Power and Responsibility Committee and as a member of the Ways and Means Committee and Redistricting Committee.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott had named the child welfare crisis as one of his top priorities heading into the regular legislative session. Two days after the end of the regular session, Abbott signed four bills into law to revamp state law for children's welfare. HB4 allocates $350 per month for families caring for abused or neglected children who are related to them. HB5 makes the Child Protective Services a stand-alone agency outside the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. HB7 changes the way the courts work with CPS. And SB11 allows the state to create a community-based care model contracting with non-profit agencies to oversee children in foster care and adoptive homes or a relative’s home.
Darby said the legislature’s work goes a long way toward addressing the needs of children in Texas. “We provided for 1500 additional employees for CPS, workers get a $12,000.00 raise, and we added hundreds of millions of dollars to CPS and foster care.” Darby continued. “It was a tragic problem that had to be fixed. That was on the top of my list of things we needed to accomplish. The second was the budget.”
Governor Abbott signed the $217 billion State budget after vetoing $120 million from the two-year spending plan. He then called a special session with a list of 20 priority items.
Darby said the governor’s list includes legislation to keep the Texas Railroad Commission operating.
On the budget, Darby said it was not easy, but they reached a compromise. “We got to a good point, but to get there we had to supplement tax dollars.” Texas has $12 billion in its economic stabilization fund (ESF) commonly referred to as the rainy day fund. Darby says they had to pull from that reserve. “That $12 billion is supposed to be used to smooth out the peaks and valleys of the oil economy. We took $1 billion out of it and deferred $1.8 billion until September for transportation.”
Prior to the “First Called Special Session of the 85th Legislature” as Darby calls it, he will be in court testifying on the federal lawsuit on statewide redistricting. Darby serves on the House Redistricting Committee and will testify on behalf of the State July 10 through 15. The Special Session starts almost immediately afterwards on July 18.
Other priorities that did not pass in the regular session include possibly buying down some school debt, a property tax cap, property tax relief, and government transparency. Darby said the legislature will attempt to restore some funding School Districts lost when Additional State Aid for Tax Relief, or ASATR, phases out in September. This will provide funding relief for many smaller school districts across the state, many of them in west Texas.
Darby said the House did its job by passing that legislation, but not the Senate. “The Senate failed to pass those. The Lieutenant Governor and the Senate should have passed that legislation. The public needs to hold all of us accountable.” Darby said while it’s the same people negotiating the same issues, he’s prepared for the Special Session. “I’m ready to go back and work hard.”