Texas Representative Cody Harris, of Palestine, recently sat down to review the 87th Legislative Session with the Corsicana Daily Sun.
Harris, who serves the Eighth District in the Texas House, encompassing Anderson, Hill, Freestone and Navarro counties said he was mostly happy about what happened this session in Austin, which saw several pieces of legislation passed which pleased conservatives, as well as sparked some controversy. Harris has already had three bills signed, with 11 still awaiting action from Gov. Greg Abbott.
State statute allows the Governor until June 20 to act on those bills.
Harris said that many of them “focus on deregulation, which makes it easier for small business owners to operate.”
He highlighted his stewardship of HB-885, the first step in bringing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program to Navarro College’s Corsicana campus. The legislation, passed the House in April, amended the $6 billion tax valuation requirement to include the region that Navarro College serves.
The bill specifically deals with the BSN program at Navarro College in Corsicana passed through the conference committee as well as the Texas Senate in late May and is now awaiting the Governor’s signature.
“885 was my number one priority for this session,” Harris said. “It addresses the need for nurses throughout the district and in Texas.” Harris said he appreciated the efforts of fellow Rep. Jake Ellzey who represents Ellis County and the support of Navarro College District President Dr. Kevin Fegan and Guy Featherston, Dean of Midlothian Campus and Health Professions.
Everyone worked together to help get the bill across the finish line.”
Harris also discussed the roughly $248 billion two-year state budget that was passed.
“The budget was fiscally responsible, considering what we went through with natural disasters and COVID,” he said.
“It met all constitutionally required thresholds, increased the states contribution to the Teacher’s retirement system, and allocated $1 billion to border security, the most ever allocated for that purpose.”
Harris also talked about the winter storm which killed hundreds, knocking out power and water to millions across the state, last February.
Harris will have an opportunity to impact the state’s water system directly because he was appointed as presiding officer of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas Advisory Committee by Speaker Dade Phelan.
Harris, along with other members, will provide recommendations to the Texas Water Development Board about the use of money in the fund, and review its operation, function, and structure. Advisors will maximize the impact of the fund which provides affordable, ongoing state financial assistance for projects in the state’s water plan.
Though Harris isn’t on either the State Affairs and Energy Resources committees, which held joint hearings where members of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and power company executives were questioned, he said he kept a watchful eye and a trained ear on the proceedings.
“It was very much of a learning experience to see how our electric grid works, and the lack of and need for accountability in those agencies,” he said.
A bill requiring an audit of ERCOT was passed by the House and Senate.
Harris said he was also happy with the passage of constitutional carry legislation and many pro-life bills, including the heartbeat bill, and the ban on critical race theory being taught in Texas schools, as well as bills cracking down on defunding the police.
Harris also provided an update on High-Speed Rail which would connect Dallas to Houston cutting through parts of Navarro County. Texas Central is looking to get federal funding and loans through the Green New Deal he said.
“The Biden Administration has been friendly to the project.” Harris said, “They have gone as far as pressuring members of the Land and Resource Committee to bury anti-high-speed rail bills.” Harris vowed to continue to fight for the rights of land owners he said are “being abused by high-speed rail.”
“We debated the merits of high-speed rail on the floor of the House for the first time and are learning more about their tactics, and how to stop them where we can.”
Harris said he expects to be called into a special session to address specific voter integrity legislation.
Harris addressed Senate Bill 7 that was killed by Senate Democrats after they boycotted the session denying a quorum.
“That bill was intended to allow every eligible voter to cast a ballot,” Harris said.
Critics argued the bill limited mail in voting opportunities and the number of polling places in some areas would disproportionately affect Democratic voters effectively disenfranchising them.
The Governor has the authority to call and choose which items are addressed in a special session, which could include election integrity legislation, and action on the redistricting, necessitated by the 2020 Census. Final numbers are expected in August or September.
Harris said he would also like to see bills concerning a ban on child gender modification, as well as a ban on boys competing in girls’ sports, on any agenda, in addition to addressing online censorship of conservative speech.
Harris said that it was a privilege and honor to serve the Eighth District and that he looks forward to continuing to work for Texans in the people’s house.