By Mason W. Canales
Harker Heights Herald
State Representative Ralph Sheffield, R-Temple, shared several of his opinions on current legislation in the Texas House of Representatives with the Harker Heights Herald on Wednesday.
"The most important bill than any other bill is House Bill 1," Sheffield said. "That is the budget bill."
With Texas projecting a budget shortfall between $15 and $26 billion, the budget for the 2012 and 2013 fiscal year is a big priority for the Legislature, Sheffield said.
Roughly three quarters of the Texas budget consists of educational and human services expenses, Sheffield said. So those areas will be affected the most.
"We all know that a lot of school districts in the state are sitting on a lot of money. ...," he said. "With that being said, times are tough and they need to kick into the reserves a little bit.
"At the same time, the last thing that Jimmy Don Aycock or I want to do is see a teacher lose their job through budget cuts."
The House is trying to figure out ways to consolidate and do a "creative budget" to cut expenses and school districts should be prepared to the same, he said. It is also looking to what portions of the "rainy day fund" could possibly be spent to help curb cuts, but Sheffield would rather see the entire budget before deciding to use the emergency money.
"People have to cut back on their purse strings because we can't print money like that they can in Washington (D.C.)," Sheffield said. "I think they can find other ways to cut some of their expenses. Now, I am not on the school board, so I can't say where."
Sheffield also admitted that he thought the funding process for Texas schools is broken, and the House will be working on fixing it.
Sonograms and abortions
Sheffield is the co-author on two separate sonogram bills that would require doctors to provide a sonogram, describe the fetus, and produce an amplified heart beat of the fetus for the woman seeking an abortion.
House Bill 15 is authored by Sid Miller and House Bill 201 is authored by Geanie Morrison.
"I think Sid Miller's bill is better bill," Sheffield said.
House Bill 15 helps meets the woman's need to address the emotional issues accompanied with having an abortion, he said.
The Bill allows for a 24-hour waiting period after the woman receives the sonogram before the operation can be done.
This will allow the woman time to further discuss her options with her support group, such as family and friends, Sheffield said.
House Bill 201 states that the same procedure must be done, but only two hours before the abortion.
House Bill 15, however, also states that if doctors don't follow the proposed law, they can lose their license and that a woman who has an abortion will have a form that stays with her medical records for seven years or until she is 21 stating she had an abortion.
Guns on higher education campuses
Sheffield is also a co-author of House Bill 750, which would allow higher education campuses, such as universities, the right to determine if concealed handguns would be allowed on campuses.
The campuses would still have to follow the concealed handgun law, which would limit firearms to people who are 21 or older, Sheffield said.
"What is the difference of a responsible 21-year-old and a police officer?" he said, admitting he was a big proponent of the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment rights. "Why restrict a campus that can have the same situation happen there as anywhere?"
Several House bills would require Texans to present identification when voting during an election.
"We need to protect the integrity of our voting system," Sheffield said. "Really and truly it is about protecting the integrity of the voting system."
These bills are just trying to make it possible to tell poll workers the people voting are who they say they are, Sheffield said.
Sheffield authored House Bill 188, which he believes will help protect individuals' property rights, he said.
"The bottom line is that the property owner should get fair compensation," Sheffield said.
If the land is not being used for the public good in a timely manner, then the original property owner also should be compensated for the land, he said.
Contact Mason W. Canales at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7554. Follow him on Twitter.