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Hays Free Press
Kyle, Texas
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May 29, 2013     Hays Free Press
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Page 2A NEWS Hays Free Press May 29, 2013 + + ree The Hays Free Press (ISSN 1087-9323) published weekly by Barton Publications, Inc., 122 N. Main St., Buda, TX 78610. Periodicals postage paid at Buda, TX 78610 and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Barton Publications, Inc., RO. Box 339, Buda, TX 78610. ISSN#1087-9323 NEWS TIPS If you think it's news, we probably do tool Newsroom phone: 512-268-7862 E-mail: news@haysfreepress. com Mail: P.O. Box 339, Buda, Texas 78610 CORRECTIONS Any erroneous reflection upon the character, standing or reputation of any person, firm or corporation which may appear in the pages of the Hays Free Press will be corrected upon being brought to the attention of the publisher. DEADLINES The deadline for display advertising and any contributed news copy in the Hays Free Press is 5 p.m. Friday the week prior to publication. The deadline for Letters to the Editor and classified word advertising in the Hays Free Press is noon Monday the week of publication, though we encourage readers and advertisers to observe the Friday deadline. LETrERS GUIDELINES We welcome locally written letters to the editor on timely topics of community interest. We ask that you keep them to about 350 words in length and that you not indulge in personal attacks on private individuals. Letters may be edited for brevity and clarity. All letters should be signed by the author and include a daytime phone number where the author can be contacted for verification. Letter writers are limited to one letter per month. Letters can be emaiied to csb@haysfreepress.com HISTORY Founded April 10, 1903, by Thomas Fletcher Harwell as The Kyle News, with offices on the corner of Burleson and Miller Streets in the town's oldest remaining building. It merged into The Hays County Citizen in 1956. The paper consolidated with The Free Press in October, 1978. During its more than 100-year history the newspaper has maintained offices at more than a dozen locations in Kyle and Buda. BY KIM HILSENBECK kim@haysfreepress.com The day began at 8:30 a.m. and ended past midnight. But to State Representative Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) that doesn't matter. He knows the tong days will end too soon, and there's legislation to be read, people to meet and minds to sway. Following a legislator for a day isn't easy. But Isaac gave the Hays Free Press a chance to follow him during one of the final days of the 83rd Texas Legislature. The interview began when tones rang through the PA system - ding ding, ding ding - in rapid succession. Isaac's legislative director Trey Thigpin said, "They give the 15- and then 10-minute warning to go to the floor." Just then, Isaac walked in. After some chitchat, he walked toward his personal office, waving to follow, "Come on back." Wearing the requisite busi- ness suit, he moved quickly, gathering his things for a long day on the floor. The conver- sation zipped from one topic to the next as he put papers in his briefcase. He lingered on the issue of a bill on the house floor that day that would cause vehicle registration fees to increase significantly. An editorial from the Dallas Morning News sat on Isaac's desk. It supported passing House Bill 3664 by Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo) to increase passenger vehicle registration fees by $30. "Smaller classes of vehicles see the biggest increase in fees if it passes," Isaac said. "I want vehicle ownership and home ownership to be easier for people." And while he said he knows Texas roadways need more funding, he couldn't support the bill to raise fees until the legislature fixes the problem of diverting those dollars to other purposes. Until then, he said, "I'm a heck no." He signaled it was time to leave the office and head to the floor. Isaac led the way out of his office, deep in the bowels of the capitol annex, several stories below ground level. Walking at a brisk pace on the carpeted hallway, he explained his position on the vehicle registration fee increase. "Our fuel tax dollars - what you and I pay for every gal- Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) pauses for lunch during the last a.m. to midnight - and more like it were coming down the pike. Sergeants, formerly pages, in the Texas House of Representatives, wait on the sidelines of the House floor for whatever assignment comes their way. Some, like this young man named Cede, look forward to a career in politics and lobbying. ion of fuel that we buy- 75 . this year deal with vehicle percent goes to roads," he ~fees. said. "Years ago, we had more "This is the one bill we get money in the account than to add money in roads and I we knew what to do with so hope it goes down in flames," the legislature said, 'We'll he said, adding the bill does start diverting some of these not correct funds allocation dollars.' They gave some to problem. DPS and schools to maintain The walk to the floor of the vehicles and buses - noble legislature is a long one. But causes," he acknowledged, it gave Isaac a chance to walk "But not it's original intent, through the main section of And now there is definitely the capitol. not enough money." Rounding the main rotun- As Isaac entered the main da and looking down on the hallway, voices echoed as main floor, it was easy to see conversations swirled. He visitors - touring the build- waved at legislators and staff ing, standing in the center of members, never stopping, the dome's floor. Frustrated with the need Isaac entered the hallway for such a bill, Isaac con- leading to the House anti- tinued, "We're not stepping chamber, and the volume up to the challenges as we of voices increased 10-fold. should be. We're not doing About 25 lobbyists waited anything and that's what to pounce on the repre- we're here to do ... We should sentatives. By law, they are be having 100 percent of required to stay outside the our fuel tax dollars go to our House doors. They, like all roads, and we don't .... If members of the public, may we're short on money then sit in the gallery to watch. the sales tax generated on the But in the anti-chamber, vehicles should go to roads." they glad-hand and thrust Five bills in the legislature pieces of paper at legislators, marathon days of the 83rd Texas Legislature. trying to get support for their bill. Isaac knew many of the lobbyists. "Hey, how are you?" he asked one. The lobbyist handed a paper to Isaac, who said, "Thank you," then gave an audible "Oh" as recognition dawned on his face. It was an issue he didn't support. He laughed good naturedly at the man. "Save the paper," he said. "Nice try." He took a few minutes to interact with the small group huddled by the stairs; they had literally seconds to plead their case as he continued toward the floor. He spent about 30 seconds talking with another man about two bills and looking at papers. "I like this one so you can have this back," he said. They talked about the second one briefly, then parted. A woman in the crowd ap- pealed to Isaac. "Will you vote against this one?" she asked, handing him a sheet. He asks her, "Which one?" "1714, compliance history of Smith," she replied. "Get- ting rid of it. In other words, we think we still need to keep that." "All right, I'll take a look," Isaac said. The woman was with Pub- lic Citizen. Her handout said, "Vote no on Smith's HB 1714 To Keep Our Communities Safe." Public Citizen called instead for adding amend- ments to the Texas Com- mission on Environmental Quality's (TCEQ) compliance history program. Is this crowd of lobbyists typical? "This is a light day," Isaac said. Entering the House cham- bers, the impressiveness of the room never ceases PHOTOS BY KIM HILSENBECK His day went from about 8:30 to amaze, with its massive chandelier, brass railings and leather seats imprinted with the State of Texas official seal. A loud banging of the gavel signified that all representa- tives must check in. Representatives' desks are picked by seniority; Isaac's is about halfway up the floor. "We're basically surround- ed by freshmen members," he said. Isaac said he took that seat knowing there would be new representatives nearby. After checking in, Isaac came over to the side row of seats and sat down, having time to talk since the first 20 to 30 minutes is reserved for resolutions. He explained the process of speaking at either the front or the back mic -the front one for the representative explaining a bill, the back one for representatives asking questions. It's just one of many rules, procedures and protocols used in the Texas legislature. Isaac crossed his leg over his knee, revealing a pair of boots that elicited a smile. "I wore these today just for you," he joked. He explained that Luc- chese, a well-known Texas bootmaker, offered any leg- islator the chance to design his or her own boots. Isaac included his name and the Texas House of Representa- tive's seal. Suddenly, his attention turned to the dais. "Okay, now we're working on the calendar." The first bill on the calen- dar, SB 727, came up for a third and final reading. Isaac shouted over to Rep. Drew Springer, his deskmate, who entered Isaac's affirmative vote, indicating by holding up his right index finger. (Two fingers would be a no.) Voting for someone else is allowed as long as the representative is on the floor. The measure passed 133-0, indicating 15 representatives were absent. The third bill was spon- sored by Rep. Eddie Rodri- guez and would expand "free" breakfast for every student, not just those schools with more than 80 percent low- income families. Isaac was prepared to vote against it, he said, because it's an unfund- ed mandate for schools. Do most legislators come into these sessions knowing how they will vote? "Most of the people come here and their mind is made up," Isaac said. He listened to more discus- sion and questions from the floor as a line of representa- tives stood at the back mic. Has he ever been swayed during a floor vote? "I'm leaning that way right now," he said. In the end, he changed his intended vote from nay to yea based on today's discussion - specifically the 'opt-out' clause allowing schools not to implement the program. "It's barely going to pass," See A DAY IN THE LEGE, pg. 3A