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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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State legislators entertain questions from constituents

State legislators and the general public came face to face during a political conversation Thursday as part of The Texas Tribune’s TribLive series.
Republican state Sen. Charles Schwernter and Republican state Reps. John Raney and Kyle Kacal served in the 83rd Texas Legislature and are all planning to run for the 84th in November. Evan Smith, CEO and editor-in-chief of The Texas Tribune, mediated the conversation. He said legislators and the general public benefit from these events, which are put on eight times throughout the year, because they are able to hear and interact with each other.
“The people in the audience, who they represent, will get a good sense of where they stand,” Smith said. “And it’s an opportunity for the elected officials, in a broad sense, to be held accountable. It also provides greater transparency to the inner workings of government, which we always can use, and it provides constituents and voters access to the people who represent them that they otherwise would not have.”
System Chancellor John Sharp introduced Smith, referencing how the Tribune’s coverage of state politics reaches national sources and has earned the online media organization multiple journalism awards.
During the public Q&A period, attendees raised questions on topics like unfair business practices and the death penalty.
Before this, Smith asked the three legislators questions that touched on major and relevant political issues, which allowed the legislators to briefly share their stances with the audience.
Schwertner said although there are issues the government needs to address, there are opportunities to find a balance that works for the state.
“Certainly growth has challenges,” Schwertner said. “Infrastructure, water, transportation, utility infrastructure, schools for instance. We can meet those challenges with the continuing robust economy.”
The conversation also touched on funding for higher education institutions and Schwertner said the issues students face while trying to fund a college education are a significant problem.
“When I think of higher education, I think about making sure that every child that wants to attend an institute of higher education has an opportunity,” Schwertner said. “Right now the portion of state funding to our institutions of higher education is about 22 percent. That’s a small portion compared to what it used to be for all of our institutions of higher education. We deregulated tuition in 2003, and since deregulation, tuition has increased 72 percent in the state of Texas. That tuition increase has a circular effect, causing individual students and their families to take out ever increasing amounts of student debt. I would look at re-regulating tuition as one option. There are definitely pros and cons. Revenue would come from the state, appropriated by the legislature as it has before deregulation.”
All three officials advocated for less interference from the federal government.
Sticking to the republican platform while discussing the healthcare issue, Kacal said he wanted to see the federal government give Texas more financial opportunity to find its own solution.
“I think there’s a Texas solution out there,” Kacal said. “We cannot be hobbled by federal government. I think we perform on every economic level across the state, whether it’s our economy, our jobs and our growth. Let us alone.”

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