ISSUES

Strengthen Public Schools

As a former teacher, I’m deeply committed to ensuring educational equity for our kids and educators. Particularly now, as we confront the economic and public health crisis of COVID19, we will need to protect the commitment we made to our schools and educators for additional funding and support through HB 3, the first major overhaul in our state’s school finance system since before I was in Kindergarten. While HB 3 was a big step towards quality school finance reform, the work is not done. How our state will keep students and educators safe and healthy in the upcoming school year and meet every child’s educational needs are challenges we will need to face in the upcoming session and I’m committed to doing all I can to continue improving our education system for ALL students

Lower Property Taxes

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 dropped its share of education funding from half to 38%. 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. The property tax buy-downs in our recent school finance legislation, HB 3, was a good start, but many Texans are still struggling under the weight of large property tax bills. I’ll make sure the state government pays its fair share of school funding, meaning lower property taxes for all of us.

Serve Retirees

The state of Texas has a responsibility to provide retirement security to the many public sector employees like teachers, state employees, and first responders for their years of committed public service to the people of our great state. Rising cost-of-living expenses have made it more difficult than ever to become a public employee. For teachers, police officers, first-responders, and other public servants, we need to strengthen defined benefit plans and ensure affordable health insurance. As a former middle school teacher and a current member of the Public Education Committee, I am working to protect and improve the benefits owed to teachers and administrators, even after they have left the classroom. I was proud to have supported SB 12 this past session, legislation that increased the state’s contribution to the Texas Retirement System (TRS) and gave retirees a “13th check.” While this was a much-needed step in the right direction, there is much more work to be done to ensure we keep our state's promise to our educators and public service employees for their years of service to the children and people of Texas.

Grow the Economy and Jobs

The COVID19 pandemic exposed how our economy, and the Texas Miracle, was working for a few but not all Texans. Many of the frontline essential workers our economy depended on to keep critical supply lines running and a basic infrastructure in place while the rest of the population quarantined are not making enough to make ends meet. 

 

Our state institutions that provide critical organization and oversight of services like unemployment benefits were already suffering from high employee turnover and being stretched thin from the lack of state funding before COVID19. As unemployment skyrocketed, the pandemic exposed how years of cutting critical state services left our anemic institutions scrambling to respond. For too long, the Legislature has slashed funding for healthcare, education, and other necessary programs in favor of massive tax incentives for corporations. 

 

I’ll support holding our government accountable and working towards a budget that does not pay for the pandemic off the backs of our children or working-class Texans, but one that increases the state minimum wage and ensures equal pay for equal work for all Texans. We can rebuild the Texas economy by providing well paying, safe jobs for Texans who need them. We cannot fix our state’s economy overnight, but by providing the most vulnerable Texans with employment and by supporting Texas businesses, we can get back on track.

 

Maintain Local Control

During past sessions, state leaders tried to overrule local communities on a variety of issues from tree ordinances to property tax caps, and from regulating bathrooms to sanctuary cities. I believe we should be listening to local city council members, activists, and police chiefs about what their own communities need, rather than legislators from hundreds of miles away. During the 86th legislative session, I went to bat for my local leaders and opposed HB 2, a bill that has limited the services that cities can provide their residents by setting strict property tax caps. I will continue to partner with the city leadership in my district to represent their interests at the state Capitol.

Expand Healthcare

Healthcare should be affordable for every Texan. The best way to reduce our state’s high uninsured rate is by expanding Medicaid, but the Texas Legislature refuses to accept billions of our own federal tax dollars available to expand health coverage. That’s putting politics over people. Last session, I supported an amendment that would have expanded Medicaid in our state. Though this amendment did not pass, I will continue to work for expanded access to affordable healthcare for Texans. Additionally, we need to vastly expand preventative care, meaning ensuring yearly check-ups and basic health needs are affordable even for poorer communities.

Prioritize Traffic Solutions and Infrastructure

Texas needs to invest in the infrastructure necessary to reduce traffic without relying on tolls. Our outdated roads and highways threaten to slow growth and make commuting to work take longer and longer. It’s time the Legislature take seriously the idea of a high-speed rail system and robust public transportation systems in urban and suburban areas, and work to rebuild Texas’ vast network of highways, toll-free.

Transform Criminal and Racial Justice

The national protests we have seen in response to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement are nothing short of a long-needed reckoning for our country. Will we commit to be - and do - better, to live up to ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and ensure our institutions recognize the humanity inherent in us all? 

 

This moment in history requires all of us to reflect and take action on ways we can be better allies and actively engage in anti-racism. I recommit to double my efforts to serve our community both in the pursuit of true justice and healing. 

 

Mass incarceration and police brutality has disproportionately affected Black, Brown, and poor communities, even when the rate of crime is not higher than their white counterparts. Meanwhile, as a society we have used our law enforcement officers to respond to poverty, mental illness, and homelessness -- all issues we have heard directly from law enforcement they are not equipped to handle. Our country is demanding change. 

 

We must reform our criminal justice system to center rehabilitation and restoration. Some good first steps would be legalizing marijuana, reforming bail bonds, and divesting from privately-owned prisons. Further, as a former teacher, I know how important it is to support policies that disrupt the school to prison pipeline. That’s why as a member of the  Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee, I authored and supported legislation to decrease the use of incarceration and civil penalties, as well as increase rehabilitation and restorative justice programs. I was proud to have supported critical criminal justice reform this past session like the Sandra Bland Act, HB 2754, that would have limited the misdemeanor offenses for which someone can be arrested — including traffic infractions that are only punishable by fines. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass, but when the Texas Legislature is back in session I will continue to support criminal justice reform that prioritizes rehabilitation and restoration.

Encourage Gun Safety

I respect the second amendment rights of our constituents and believe that Texas should lead the way in promoting safe firearm regulations. The uptick of violence — from deadly domestic abuse to suicide and school shootings — our state and nation have experienced is simply due to the fact it is too easy for the wrong people to gain access to guns. Texans agree we need to make our communities safer through common-sense gun safety measures and greater mental health resources. This means ensuring universal background checks and restricting gun purchases for people convicted of felonies or violent misdemeanors. In addition, mental health care must be accessible and affordable for every Texan, especially our students. We should pursue these responsible solutions, not arm our teachers or militarize our schools.

Defend Abortion Rights

Healthcare is an issue that impacts all of us. Reproductive justice, healthcare access, and gender equity are all top priorities of mine because they’re foundational issues. Texans must have their basic needs met before anything else, and that includes access to healthcare. A person’s decision to have an abortion should be left up to them in consultation with their doctor.  The government should not police these decisions.

Addressing our state’s maternal mortality rate requires long-term investments in available, affordable, and judgment-free preventative care for all people. My colleagues in the Texas Legislature insist on dictating their radical ideology, I trust Texans to make their own health care decisions. While I will never compromise on the constitutional rights of Texans, I will continue to work to find common ground with Republican lawmakers to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies through scientifically-valid sex education and accessible contraception.

Support Social Justice

I will support the dignity and civil rights of everyone in Williamson County, including people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, undocumented Texans, and Muslim Americans. I work every day to be an ally to underrepresented groups in the Texas Legislature and commit to always growing and learning how to better represent the many communities that I serve. I will firmly oppose any attempts by the Legislature to discriminate against Texans, whether it’s regulating bathrooms or restricting civil protections in the workplace.

Humanize Immigration

I believe immigrants are invaluable members of our communities. Regardless of party affiliation, we can all agree that the treatment of children at the Texas-Mexico border has been inhumane and indefensible. I support reuniting families, empowering our DREAMers, ending indefinite detention, and repealing Senate Bill 4 (the “Show Me Your Papers” bill) that passed during the 85th session.

Protect Voting Rights

Our right to vote is sacred. I support online voter registration, expanded early voting periods, and a repeal of voter ID laws that needlessly make voting harder. Voting is foundational to our democracy and I will support any effort to protect and expand the franchise for Texans. During the 87th legislative session, the Texas Legislature will be responsible for redrawing district boundaries. I commit to supporting equitable and fair district lines that allow for equal electoral representation for all Texans. Gerrymandered districts that prioritize one political party or racial identity over others have no place in our state.

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Pol. Adv. paid for by James Talarico Campaign