88th TEXAS LEGISLATURE: Rep. Ellen Troxclair talks priorities
Newly elected state Rep. Ellen Troxclair posed for a photo with Burnet County Sheriff Calvin Boyd at a Burnet County Republican Club fundraiser during her successful 2022 campaign for the District 19 seat in the Texas House. Troxclair will be sworn in at noon Tuesday, Jan. 10. Courtesy photo
DailyTrib.com sat down with Burnet County’s two new state-elected officials, Rep. Ellen Troxclair and Sen. Pete Flores, to talk about the upcoming Texas legislative session, which runs from Jan. 10 through May 29. The following story is based on the interview with Troxclair. For Flores’ interview, click here.
Republican Ellen Troxclair, the newly elected state representative for District 19, which includes Burnet and Blanco counties, filed three bills ahead of being sworn in to the 88th Texas Legislature, which convenes at noon Tuesday, Jan. 10, at the Capitol in Austin. Each bill deals with one of Troxclair’s priorities, she told Dailytrib.com during a recent sit-down interview.
“I have already filed a bill to use 90 percent of the $27 billion state surplus to buy down the maintenance and operation portion of our property taxes,” she said, referring to House Bill 629, which relates to school financing. “So, basically, shifting the funding of our schools from the local taxing entities to the state.”
She also filed HB 552, which would close what she calls “an obscenity loophole” that was originally intended to protect instructors in anatomy classes. The “defense to prosecution for education” makes it legal to show pictures of certain parts of the anatomy for teaching purposes. That exception has been exploited, Troxclair said.
“(My bill) would make sure kids are protected from sexualization,” she said. “What we are seeing recently are things that would get an adult arrested for showing a coworker in a workplace. That’s not anatomy class.”
HB 553 would prohibit universal basic income programs similar to a pilot program recently approved by the Austin City Council, on which Troxclair served from 2015-19. When elected, she was the youngest woman to ever serve on the council.
“The best way to help people is to help them get jobs, not give them other people’s money,” she said.
As for her bill to use 90 percent of the state’s hefty budget surplus to fund public schools, she knows it’s a big ask. Gov. Greg Abbott advocates using half of the surplus for school funding, while Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants to split half the surplus between school funding and infrastructure improvements.
“I support Abbott’s proposal,” Troxclair said. “Mine is a little more aggressive, but you have to start somewhere. I’m willing to play a leading or supporting roll in getting this passed. Whatever we need to do to get people relief.”
She also wants to end the state’s current school finance law, known as “Robin Hood.” The plan takes money from richer school districts and gives it to poorer districts to equalize funding.
“By shifting the funding of our schools from local taxing entities to the state, we can equitably fund our schools and cut property taxes in half,” she said. “This will kill a lot of birds with one stone. My hope is we will find the political will within both the House and the Senate.”
Troxclair, who lives in Lakeway with her husband and three children, plans to stay in close contact with officials in all five of the counties she represents. Her three bills fulfill campaign promises she says she will keep.
“That’s how you earn and maintain trust and are an effective legislator,” she said.
Although Troxclair’s district includes only a sliver of Travis County, that portion represents 25 percent of her five-county area of representation. It holds one percent of the entire population of Travis County. The other 75 percent of the district is split among Burnet, Blanco, Kendall, and Gillespie counties.
“This is a diverse district, and part of my job is to build relationships with local elected officials to best represent the needs of their county,” she said. “Which is my way of saying I’ll follow the lead of county judges and commissioners on how best to proceed on Highland Lakes issues.”
Her 10 years’ experience as a legislative staff member has prepared her to be the boss of her own staff, she continued.
“My experience has prepared me for the battles I will face,” Troxclair said. “The big picture of my priorities are lowering property taxes, protecting our kids, securing our border, and, on the more local level, there’s water, natural resources, and education funding and reform.”
As of Monday afternoon, about 24 hours before her swearing-in, Troxclair did not have an assigned phone number but does have an office at E1.208 in the Capitol extension.
“I am honored with the responsibility the voters have invested in me, and I’ll work every day to keep earning that trust,” she said.
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