Legislators discuss current issues at Texas Tribune event

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Evan Smith, editor-in-chief and CEO of the Texas Tribune, interviews State Sen. Donna Campbell and State Rep. Jason Isaac during a Hot Seat discussion Dec. 3 in the Reed Parr Room at J.C. Kellam Administration building.

State legislators representing the San Marcos area discussed topics including water, healthcare, education and the Republican Party during a Hot Seat session hosted by the Texas Tribune on campus Tuesday.

The discussion featured State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) and State Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs), who answered hot button questions posed by Evan Smith, editor-in-chief and CEO of the Texas Tribune.

Campbell won her seat in 2012 and served as vice chair of the nominations committee during the last legislative session. Isaac was elected in 2010 and served as vice chair of the rules and regulations committee last session. Both are up for reelection in 2014. Isaac is currently unopposed, while Campbell has two challengers in the primary and one democratic challenger in the general election.

The pair first discussed the passage of Proposition 6 in the November general election. The state constitutional amendment will take $2 billion out of the Rainy Day Fund to support strategies to fix water shortages in the state.
Campbell said Prop 6 will jump start many water programs, especially in rural areas, and conservation efforts.

“While it is not enough, we’ve started not only a conversation but at least started a plan for water,” Campbell said.

Isaac said funding from the state’s budget should have been used to support Prop 6 instead of taking money from the Rainy Day reserve.

Another major budgetary concern in the state the pair spoke about is funding education.

Isaac said there can never be enough funding in education. Isaac said he filed comprehensive education reform legislation last session that was optional for school districts because he feels there are too many regulations on public schools.
“My goal was to put the independent back into independent school districts,” Isaac said. “We’ve got to let the school districts manage themselves.”

Standardized testing is costing schools “way too much money,” Isaac said. He said he wants the Texas Education Agency and the State Board of Education to have a more limited role. Campbell agreed that school districts should have more local control and less state requirements.

Another divisive topic Campbell and Isaac discussed was healthcare. Campbell said Medicaid is a “pig that never gets satisfied.”

“How many of us really think the federal government that prints the money is really going to be able to afford covering the United States with the growth and expansion of Medicaid?” Campbell said.

Campbell said if the number of people receiving Medicaid is not limited,  doctors and the system as a whole will be overwhelmed. Isaac said government control should be removed from health insurance.

Both legislators spoke about the Republican Party, which Smith described as being in a “civil war.” Campbell said there is a difference in the way the party’s message is presented across the nation, but the morals are consistent.

“There is a schism in the party,” Campbell said. “There definitely is a spectrum and what defines conservative in New Jersey is different than conservative politics here in Texas.”

Campbell said she thinks the majority of people share morals across the state and country. Isaac echoed her thoughts, saying there is a division within the party but he is not worried about the statewide Democratic ticket headed by gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis and Lt. gubernatorial candidate Leticia Van de Putte.