The Dallas Examiner
The lack of affordable housing, rising interest rates on college loans and stray dogs in the community were all expressed concerns of residents in the 100th district, which covers most of the Dallas and parts of Mesquite communities, during a Dec. 6 town hall meeting hosted by Rep. Eric Johnson of the Texas House of Representatives.
With the 85th Texas Legislative session beginning in Austin Jan. 10, Johnson wanted to hear his constituents’ thoughts on issues that impact them the most. Held at the Dallas County School on Samuell Boulevard, the meeting was packed with around 200 people.
As Johnson presented his plans, he explained several bills that he has filed that he is passionate about.
“I think education and early childhood education is one of the most important issues the state of Texas faces in terms of its long-term health and vitality,” Johnson said. “Also, criminal justice reform is something that I have come to learn about over the course of serving in the legislature. I did not campaign over this issue six years ago. But now, I have come to understand how much massive incarceration has impacted communities of color. A lot of companies are now realizing how incarceration has impacted the economy as well. I am also passionate about economic security.”
Johnson said that in the last session, he filed a bill for early childhood education at a 100 percent level for a full day of pre-kindergarten.
“I think that is very important based on research that currently the state of Texas pays for a half-day of pre-K education,” he explained. “A half-day of pre-K is not nearly as effective as a full day of pre-K when it comes to the children’ academic performance. I lost this bill’s battle with the governor, the bill didn’t pass, but I am continuing to fight for this bill in this upcoming session. We want the new pre-K to become the kindergarten. Early childhood education is critical for us to be competitive in the future and for children to succeed.”
Some other bills Johnson has filed include House Bill 225, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
“All I am saying in this bill is that it is not right for anyone to be fired for who they are,” Johnson said.
He also filed House Bill 290 to prohibit employers from asking a candidate’s salary history and also prohibit pay discrimination for similar work based on gender.
“Usually, when an employer requests the salary history of a candidate, they usually use the data to low ball or offer a lower salary or pay range for the candidate based on their past employment and salary,” Johnson said. “This bill would help alleviate that. The state of Massachusetts has outlawed this practice and so should we.”
Some of the public safety bills Johnson has filed include House Bill 291, which would allow the city to opt out of the open carry law bill, and House Bill 235, which would establish a grant program for law enforcement agencies that follow police shooting requirements.
“House Bill 291 is the opt out bill for the city of Dallas because what I am saying is that Austin and the members of Congress in Austin represent areas that are very different than Dallas, tiny little towns with a couple hundred people should not be making public safety decisions that would be traditionally decided at the local level for the city of Dallas. Dallas is a city that is approaching maybe 1.2 million people. It has got complex criminal issues. We just have challenges that you don’t have in Carthage, Texas. So this decision that we want people walking around openly with firearms and not even have the police ask them if they have the license to carry the firearm and even though there is no constitutional right to openly carry firearms, that is the next step and we have to confront this. If we allow a bill like this to go unchecked, and now anybody, without any type of training or license, but just by being an American, can carry a firearm openly. I want this decision to come back to the local level.”
He filed House Bill 469 to allow same-day voter registration on Election Day.
“I know our president-elect believes that there were 2 million people who voted illegally,” Johnson said. “I’m here to tell you that this is not true. The problem is not voter fraud, but that not enough people are voting at the polls. It is too hard to vote now with some of the requirements we have. This bill would go in the other direction where it would allow people who missed that 30 day period to go register to vote to now have a chance on any election they show up to go and register.”
Johnson and his staff are planning to get his constituents involved with the upcoming Texas legislative session by chartering a bus from Dallas to Austin Jan. 10. Residents who sign up and ride to Austin will be able to voice their concerns at the capital and return to Dallas the same day. More information can be found by on Johnson’s Facebook page.