By Ruth Ferguson, NDG Editor
Respecting the wishes of local citizens must remain at the forefront of consideration by Texas legislators in 2017 according to Texas State Rep. Rafael Anchia (D) representing House District 103, covering Northwest Dallas County. Speaking by phone on Opening Day for the 2017 Session discussed respecting local control versus Austin overriding their desires, updating the open carry laws, the so-called bathroom bill proposed and how the state will spend the reduced tax dollars available.
Rep. Anchia shared, “The main focus is making sure that we respect the principle of local control.” He feels the laws passed in Austin have sought to override what the residents of communities across Texas desired as it relates to issues such as fracking.
“It is important that we try to protect their health and quality of life,” according to Anchia.
He plans to introduce again an amendment to the Open Carry bill which will allow local communities to opt out if that is the preference of the residents. Anchia emphasized the fact no U.S. court has issued any ruling which suggests the right to openly carry a weapon is related to the Second Amendment.
“To say otherwise is misleading,” Anchia stated. Urban cities such as Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston would opt-in if given a chance according to him.
Additionally, Anchia feels the public universities should have the option of opting out. He points to the fact that every private college and universities across Texas chose to opt out, except for one. Amberton University in Garland is the only college that did not maintain the previous ban on guns on school campuses.
Anchia is also no fan of the so-called bathroom bill, describing it as, “Among one of the most callous pieces of legislation I have ever seen.” Given the high rate of suicide in the LGBT community he believes protecting their rights are in order, not abridging or scaling them back.
The LGBT are being used a political football he feels, “We should focus on protecting and not demonizing them.”
The stakes are big for all Texans as the law proposed by State Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) would require individuals to use the bathroom which corresponds with their biological sex. The Texas Association of Business, which Anchia described as one of the most conservative organizations in the state reports that passage of this law will lead to a loss of more than $8.5 million in business.
Throughout the last 18 months, protests across the country such as Black Lives Matter have risen in response to what some see as a lack of punishment for police officers who killed unarmed Black males. Even when captured on videotape grand juries have not recommended any of the officers face criminal charges. A call for grand jury reform to make the process more transparent has gone out, but Texans should not expect any movement in that direction.
Instead, Anchia points the importance of improving police training in hopes of avoiding confrontations escalating to a shooting incident.
Anchia stated it is important, “for any Texan to feel like they are having a conversation and their rights are being respected.” He stressed that the majority of police officers are doing a good job, but acknowledged, they know there are “members that they need to bring up to a higher level.”
“We dictate the contents of peace officer training,” Anchia shared, and this is how Texas lawmakers can help improve the situation.
The legislators are facing a tighter economic situation in 2017, but the demand on resources is not decreasing.
“Our population continues to increase, but we are anticipating three percent less revenue,” according to Anchia. However, he emphasized there is one area which state lawmakers must refrain from slashing budgets.
“We must hold public education harmless,” Anchia stated.