Incumbent Matthew Schaefer (R)-Tyler is seeking re-election to represent District 6 in the state House of Representatives and faces democratic challenger Cody Grace, a Tyler native, in the Nov. 8 election.
The Tyler Loop invited both candidates to complete a questionnaire based on issues written about this past year.
Grace declined to participate in this story. “After some careful consideration I have decided decline [sic] responding to this questionnaire,” Grace wrote in an email response to The Tyler Loop. “Thank you for the consideration.”
Following are the questions and responses from Schaefer.
- The Second Look Bill allowing the re-evaluation of juvenile offenders sentenced to lengthy prison terms received bipartisan support during the previous legislative session but was vetoed by Gov. Bill Abbott. Note: Schaefer voted for bill.
Do you support this effort that would allow a review of such cases after 20 years? Why or why not?
Schaefer: In 2021 I voted in favor of HB 686. If signed by Governor Abbott, H.B. 686 would have created an opportunity for a second look at the rehabilitation of these inmates by reducing the length of time before certain youth offenders are eligible for parole. For the one percent of inmates who are incarcerated for crimes they committed before the age of 18, the bill specified that the first date they are eligible for parole is after serving one-half the time they would otherwise have to serve under current law. Importantly, the bill did not guarantee the release of these inmates; it would simply allow an earlier opportunity for the inmates to demonstrate their rehabilitation and fitness for parole, and direct the parole board to take into consideration that the crime was committed when the inmate was a juvenile. H.B. 686 would have given youthful offenders who have turned their lives around in prison another chance to become contributing members to society outside the prison walls. I am open to supporting similar legislation in 2023.
2. What is one issue you consider top priority in the upcoming session? Briefly explain your stance on this issue.
Schaefer: Inflation is hurting Texans. Much of the inflation problem is caused by the federal government printing money, and increasing debt far beyond what is prudent. But energy costs are also an inflation driver. Diesel, gas, and electricity prices affect the cost of food and everything we buy. Energy is life. Texans should be free to use natural resources to the fullest extent, while new technologies are developed. Government policies that force tradeoffs between energy security and rapid inflation are hurting the most vulnerable among us. We must ensure that policies in Austin will foster sound energy policies that will allow the utilization of critical energy resources. We can also use surplus funds in Austin to significantly reduce the property tax burden, which will help blunt the effects of inflation. This can be accomplished by swapping significant amounts of local property taxes paid to public schools with sales taxes revenues collected by the state. The maximum amount of the budget surplus in Austin should be returned to Texas tax-payers.
3. Should Texas school districts have more or less control over what books are placed in their libraries? Explain your stance.
Schaefer: Local Independent School Districts in Texas have great flexibility in which books they make available to students. This includes the ability to remove books that contain graphic, sexually explicit material that is inappropriate for students to view. Materials that contain sexual content must be educational, age-appropriate, and subject to parental consent. Some ISDs have refused, or have been reluctant, to remove inappropriate sexual content from their libraries. Therefore, I support legislation that would ensure that ISDs remove inappropriate sexual materials that are not educational and age-appropriate.
4. Texas once was considered among the strongest states concerning access to public information. Some believe that status has declined in recent years. What is your opinion of our state’s Public Information Act? What, if anything, would you propose to improve transparency in government?
Schaefer: I believe that the Public Information Act should be strengthened in favor of more transparency by government bodies. I am particularly concerned with ensuring the proper application of Texas Law by local governments, and in preserving the proper balance of state and municipal authority under the Texas Constitution. I recently signed onto an amicus brief in Terril W. Putnam v. City of Georgetown, Texas, which is a case pending in the Supreme Court of Texas. We are hopeful that the Court will rule in favor of more transparency for citizens, if not legislation may be needed.
The summary of argument in our amicus brief was:
“In this matter, we believe that the City of Georgetown’s practice of rejecting legitimate information requests under the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA), then subsequently disclosing the information requested after the city is sued, is an improper and potentially illegal use of the TPIA. The TPIA was passed by the Legislature to allow citizens to transparently assess the operations of local and state governments. Yet, the City of Georgetown is using the TPIA as a shield against citizens. Indeed, the City of Georgetown has not only turned the TPIA from its proper purpose, but has perverted the TPIA to follow an entirely contrary purpose. This is a threat to the liberty of the people of Texas and is therefore an issue of statewide importance, and we urge the Court to rule in favor of granting certiorari in this case.”
5. The Integrated Pipeline Project offers Dallas and Tarrant County access to Lake Palestine as a water source. What effect, if any, could this have on Tyler and Smith County? What is your position on this plan?
Schaefer: The City of Dallas has had water rights in Lake Palestine from the very beginning, which is long before my time. The water rights for Lake Palestine are really not a legislative matter, except that the statutory framework under which those rights were originally allocated is the purview of the Legislature. The Texas Constitution does prohibit implementing a new law that impairs an existing contract. Therefore, any changes to existing state water law must honor previous contracts. Whenever the Integrated Pipeline Project becomes operational, it is likely that water levels will gradually reduce to the extent that pumping rights are exercised. This could mean that portions of Lake Palestine that are currently underwater in small shallow channels could be dry entirely, along with docks and boathouses. I will stay in close contact with city and county officials to ensure that the best interests of the residents of Lake Palestine, and the citizens of Smith County are protected to the fullest extent of the law.
6. Is there another issue you would like to address? If so, please address as briefly as possible.
Schaefer: Restoring career and technical skills training in public schools is a top priority. College is not the only way for students to succeed. I authored and passed legislation in 2021 to allow plumbing to be taught in public schools. We cut red tape so that a student can graduate from high school with a tradesman plumbers license. Plumbing programs are now starting in many schools in Texas this year. Tyler ISD was one of the first to launch a plumbing program under my legislation. If re-elected, I will author similar legislation to open up electrical, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) programs in our public schools.
Vanessa E. Curry is a journalist with nearly 35 years of experience as a writer, editor and instructor. She earned a B.S. degree in Mass Communication from Illinois State University and a MSIS degree from The University of Texas at Tyler with emphasis on journalism, political science and criminal justice. She has worked newspaper in Marlin, Henderson, Tyler and Jacksonville, Texas as well as in Columbia Tennessee. Vanessa also was a journalism instructor at the UT-Tyler and Tennessee Tech University. Her writing has been recognized by the State Bar of Texas, Texas Associated Press Managing Editors, Dallas Press Club, and Tennessee Press Association. She currently is working on publishing two books: “Lies and Consequences: The Trials of Kerry Max Cook,” and “A Gold Medal Man, A biography of Kenneth L. “Tug” Wilson.
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