Important Summer Hearings, National Fox News Appearance, Runoffs Settled

July 1, 2024

With summer well underway, I want to check in and update you on some recent news.  I hope your summer is going well.
Fox News Appearance:  Restoring the Ten Commandments Back in Schools

Early on a recent Saturday morning, I was interviewed by the hosts of “Fox and Friends” concerning Texas’ plans to restore the Ten Commandments back in schools.  You can watch that interview HERE.

Last year, I passed the Ten Commandments bill in the Texas Senate. While it wasn’t brought up for a vote in the Texas House, we will file it again when we reconvene in January 2025.
The Ten Commandments is part of our history. It’s who we are. Few documents have had a bigger impact on western civilization than the Ten Commandments. If you don’t know the Ten Commandments you don’t know the basis for much of American history and law. 

Up until 1980, the Ten Commandments were commonly seen in public buildings and schools. In 1980, SCOTUS stopped that in Stone v. Graham relying only on a 1971 case, Lemon v. Kurtzman. SCOTUS overturned Lemon in 2022 in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. That opens the door for the Ten Commandments to return to schools.
Important Interim Hearings on Border Security, Criminal Justice, and our Electric Grid

Even though we have a part-time citizen legislature, the work of policymakers continues throughout the year.  One of those ways is through “interim hearings”, where we assess the impact of legislation we passed in the most recent session and consider new legislation needed in the coming one. Below is a summary of some of those hearings that I have participated in over the past month. If you wish to watch any of these archived hearings, you may click on this link.  

Criminal Justice Committee Hearings- June 5th and June 6th

As the newly appointed Vice-Chair of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, I recently participated in two interim hearings addressing bail reform and child predators’ use of artificial intelligence (AI) to harm and exploit children. During these hearings, the Committee received testimony examining charitable organizations that pay bail for defendants and considered how these organizations can be further restricted from posting bail for violent individuals.

The Committee also heard testimony from law enforcement officials explaining how child predators are using deepfake technology and AI to create sexually explicit visual material involving children. Prosecutors, including Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Lori Varnell, provided strict recommendations for how the state can further criminalize this behavior.  Aledo resident Anna Berry McAdams shared how her daughter and other Aledo High School students were victim to such exploitation with the use of AI. By sharing her daughter’s story, Ms. McAdams is helping shed light on new dangers threatening our children. The Senate Committee on Criminal Justice is actively working to address this pressing issue and, with the passage of HB 2700 last session, clarified that this behavior is criminal. My committee members and I remain committed to strengthening state law penalizing this behavior and providing law enforcement with the tools needed to convict these offenders.

Border Security Committee Hearing – June 11th

The Senate Committee on Border Security met to review state and local agencies’ participation in border security.  We reviewed Operation Lone Star, from its costs to personnel deployments. Texas is still deploying a tremendous amount of resources to try to solve a federal problem. The pronouncement from the Biden administration on June 4th, which would allow the first 2,500 illegal immigrations to enter the country per day, underscores that the most important thing we can do to ensure border security is to defeat Joe Biden this November and elect Donald Trump.

It was encouraging to learn that Texas has seen a 74% decrease in illegal border crossings since Operation Lone Star was implemented in March of 2021.  I also heard from agency leaders speaking on the communication between Texas law enforcement agencies, local law enforcement, and Federal Border Patrol agents to ensure the illegal crossings response is coordinated with a swift deterrence.  It was impressive to learn that there is a 97% volunteer rate for Texas Military Department personnel that decide to leave their post and go to the Southern Border to participate in Operation Lone Star.

While there are positives to take from the hearing, I also heard from local sheriffs who reported that highspeed pursuits have increased, leading to dangerous situations for law enforcement and other drivers on these highways. Additionally, we learned federal support for these local law enforcement jurisdictions is nonexistent; instead, federal agencies are opting to allocate grant funds to non-governmental organizations who operate with no oversight on how these funds are spent. Our next hearing is September 19th, when we will further discuss supporting our border security personnel and monitor priority legislation passed in the 88th Legislative Session.

Business & Commerce Committee Hearing – June 12th

The Senate Business and Commerce Committee, where I serve as Vice Chair, discussed incentives for new thermal generation, identifying future electric transmission and distribution system needs of the state, as well as the impact of bitcoin on the Texas electric grid.

During the last two legislative sessions we’ve taken tremendous steps in increasing the reliability and resilience of our grids through weatherization, and providing incentives for companies to build new gas-fired power plants.  However, the federal government’s policies are still placing our grid at risk. 

Our state population is growing very fast, and much of the growth is heavily dependent on a high power load, such as new factories and industries coming to Texas that demand a lot of electricity. Bitcoin mining in the state also uses an extraordinary amount of electricity. Additionally, the recent boost of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cloud-based technologies are adding to the demand.  We heard concerning testimony from ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas that within six years, our power grid needs will grow from about 85,000 to 150,000 megawatts (MW), well beyond the 110,000 MW previously projected.  As a policymaker entrusted with ensuring Texas has the power we need, I believe I will be spending an increasing amount of time in meeting this challenge.
The Runoffs Are Settled

The runoffs are behind us, and I congratulate our two Republican nominees for CD-12 and SD-30, Craig Goldman and Brent Hagenbuch. As you know, I strongly endorsed Craig Goldman for Congress, and Brent Hagenbuch for Texas Senate.

First, let me congratulate Craig Goldman, who won his primary runoff with over 62% of the vote, and over 58% from here in Parker County. As I’ve stated before, Craig is a longtime friend of mine and Terry’s. I’ve worked with him in the Texas Legislature for well over a decade. I know he will be an effective conservative Congressman for Parker County. We need to lock arms and guarantee that he wins his November race with a strong margin, which with your support I know he will do.

Brent Hagenbuch won his primary runoff with over 56% of the vote, earning over 61% here in Parker County. Brent is a Naval Academy graduate who served over a decade on active duty.  He’s a Texas entrepreneur who created a successful business from the ground up and now runs a national trucking business with hundreds of employees.  Like Craig, he does face a Democrat opponent in November. After winning that race, I look forward to partnering with him to ensure strong conservative representation for Parker County and SD 30.