Jimplecute Exclusive | State Sen. Hughes Calls Legislative Session Productive

Mineola Republican Helped Craft New Laws
On Hog Hunting, Teacher Pay, Timber Taxes

Page 1 Hughes pic
State Sen. Bryan Hughes makes a point on the floor of theTexas Senate last month. Photo by Juan Figueroa/The Texas Tribune

By BOB PALMER
Jimplecute News Editor

AUSTIN – State Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, saw a key bill he sponsored to curtail election fraud flounder in the House this year, but more than 300 bills and resolutions with his fingerprints on them were sent to the governor.

“I would say it’s definitely one of the more productive sessions I’ve seen,” Hughes, Texas state senator for District 1, which includes Marion County, said in an exclusive interview with the Jimplecute Monday.

“We came in with three big bills – doing something about teacher pay, school finance and property taxes,” Hughes, a 16-year Austin veteran, said. “A lot got done on those three, so that’s a win.”

Hughes also authored a bill for lower valuations on timber acreage.

“Timber is a big deal where we’re from,” Hughes said. “The bill makes sure folks are treated fairly on their taxable value. We should think about agriculture in general, but especially timber. Would that land be in production if it weren’t for the fair treatment for appraisal purposes?”

In another measure of local interest, Hughes penned a bill to permit shooting feral hogs without a hunting license that will become law Sept. 1.

Hughes, who told the Jimplecute he plans to seek reelection in 2020, found himself in the center of controversy over what some disparaged as the Chick-fil-A bill, since one goal of the legislation was to overturn a San Antonio city councilman’s objections to Chick-fil-A locating in the San Antonio airport.

Hughes said the alderman’s protest was based on claims the Chick-fil-A supports hate groups since the company donated to the Salvation Army.

“If you follow the debate on that bill, people tried to make it all kinds of things it wasn’t,” Hughes said. “The bill itself is so straightforward and so simple, and just says that your government can’t discriminate against you, can’t punish you because you give money to a religious organization or because you affiliate with one.”

Hughes said opposition to the bill indicated “all the more reason it needs to be passed.”

Serving his first term in the upper body, Hughes observed, “there are always disappointments and missed opportunities.”

A bill expected to address alleged voter fraud was one of those disappointments for Hughes.

“SB [Senate Bill] 9 was a result of the senate’s select committee on election security,” Hughes said. That committee met, took testimony, investigated, did a lot of research over the course of a year and a half.”

Hughes considered SB 9 an important bill.

“Elections security, right? Making sure that every vote counts, and is counted accurately and that every legal vote counts? That’s something most people agree on.”

The senator’s high hopes were dashed, however. The measure died in the House and attempts to attach parts of it to other bills also failed.

“That was for us the biggest disappointment of the session,” Hughes said. “We didn’t see success on election integrity. Senate Bill 9 was aimed at people that cheat and so we’re very disappointed that partisan politics derailed that bill.”

Hughes is looking forward, however to Gov. Gregg Abbott signing his SB 27.

“The bill says that if the government pursues a frivolous regulatory action against you, and you beat them in court, and the court finds they were frivolous in what they did, then they have to pay your attorney’s fees,” Hughes said.

The thinking behind the bill is, if an individual or small business person are in a dispute with a state agency, you have the right to appeal and you have the right to fight them, but of course, you have to pay for your own attorney’s fees, and you’re also paying their attorney’s fees, as they’re using your tax dollars, an unlimited mound of tax dollars, to fight you.

Although Hughes did vote in committee against an earlier version of a bill to promote school security, he found the final text acceptable.

“Obviously, the frequency of school shootings we’re seeing is horrifying, and it is unacceptable,” Hughes said. “Senate Bill 11 is the response to that. It provides help for schools for physical security for protecting the physical structure of the school, also having more security personnel.”

School guardian programs like the one at Jefferson ISD also received a boost.

“We also took steps to make sure the school marshal program or the school guardian program, those programs that allow schools, if they want, to have school employees trained and armed are strengthened,” Hughes said.

In under-the-dome dynamics, Hughes appears to emerge from this session with more heft.

“This is my second session in the Texas Senate, and I’m still learning, but yes, I am very thankful to be in a place in the senate where we can get things done, important things for our district and for Texas,” Hughes said. “So yes, we’re very thankful to be where we are.”

 

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