Army Futures Command
The state of Texas has been given the opportunity of a lifetime with the development of the Army Futures Command (AFC). In total, AFC anticipates spending $32.4 billion in 2019 alone, providing another 500 new jobs in the area. In October of 2018, AFC launched operations in Austin at the University of Texas Systems Headquarters. Rep. Cyrier worked closely with AFC and leadership in both chambers this session to secure a state investment of $50 million. This funding will secure an innovative proving ground at the RELLIS Campus at Texas A&M. With AFC’s partnership with the University of Texas and Texas A&M University along with AFC’s ongoing budget, the state stands to gain tremendously from their presence.
Protecting our Parks
Rep. Cyrier led the charge in the House authoring and passing SJR 24 and SB 26, which will allow voters to constitutionally dedicate the sporting goods sales tax to fund our state parks and historic sites. This is an existing tax that is already collected by the state.
The Sporting Goods Sales Tax was intended to fund the parks and historical commission, but the legislature has frequently diverted these funds to elsewhere in the budget, leaving our parks and historical sites badly underfunded. In fact, from 1993 to 2017, the state collected nearly $2.5 billion from the Sporting Goods Sales Tax but less than 40 percent has been appropriated to our state parks.
As a result, Texas state parks have fallen into a state of disrepair after decades of deferred maintenance. Many have been forced to close at times due to lack of maintenance, such as broken and unusable restroom facilities. For a state with such natural beauty and a heritage of sporting and outdoor recreation, this is an embarrassment. It is time to end the practice of raiding funds intended for our parks and historical sites, and repair our state’s most treasured places—from the Palo Duro Canyon to Mustang Island, the Davis Mountains to the forests of lakes of East Texas, and everywhere in between.
In this November’s election, voters will be able to vote on the proposed constitutional amendment. This provides an opportunity to provide a stable and reliable funding source to preserve our state parks, not only for their conservation and recreational benefits, but also as staples of our fishing, hunting, outdoor sporting, and tourism industries.
Millions of people visit Texas every year to recreate and enjoy our state’s scenic and historical wonders. Tourism in Texas accounts for billions of dollars in economic impact and more than one million Texas jobs. By preserving our state’s natural treasures, we pass on an inheritance to future generations of Texans and contribute to our state’s economic prosperity.
Remember to vote “YES” on Proposition 5 this November to preserve our state parks in Texas.
In recent years, wildfires have devastated many communities in the U.S., including causing major damage in Central Texas. Bastrop County in particular has suffered two major fires, including the 2011 Bastrop Complex fire and the Hidden Pines fire of 2015. Collectively, these two fires burned 39,000 acres and destroyed 1700 homes. As a pilot, John Cyrier flew aerial observation during the 2011 fire. During the 2015 fire, he was the area's newly elected representative and worked alongside emergency service personnel.
In the aftermath of the Hidden Pines fire, a group of citizens developed a report with recommendations to improve our preparedness for a future fire event. One of the most significant recommendations was to locate an air tanker base in the Central Texas area, so that fire retardant drops could occur quicker and at more frequent intervals. Tankers in previous Central Texas fires came from out of state.
Rep. Cyrier brought together representatives of the Texas A&M Forest Service, Austin Fire Department, and Austin airport officials to reach an agreement to locate a portable tanker base at the Austin airport. Funding was provided by the legislature through the Texas Wildfire Protection Plan, and local firefighters are now trained on the operation of the equipment. The base is now operational thanks to the hard work of grassroots citizens and the partnership of different levels of government with the common goal of serving the public. As a result, we are more prepared to fight wildfires in Central Texas than ever before.
Hunters for the Hungry
Thanks to legislation sponsored and passed by Rep. Cyrier, Texas hunters have the opportunity to make a donation to the Hunters for the Hungry program when purchasing their hunting licenses. This program allows hunters to donate legally-tagged and field dressed deer to hunger relief programs to help feed Texans in need. Hunters can donate their deer through any participating meat processor, which will process the meat for a nominal fee. Meat is then distributed to Texans in need through participating hunger relief agencies.
During the legislation’s inaugural year in 2016, Hunters for the Hungry collected more than $88,000 in donations from hunters to offset deer processing fees for nearly 50,000 pounds of venison.
Having served on the Board of Directors for the Central Texas Food Bank, and an avid hunter, Rep. Cyrier knows the value of this program in providing a much-needed source of lean protein to our neighbors who lack food security, The 2017-2018 hunting season brought approximately 379, 000 meals to hungry Texans through the Hunters for the Hungry program. Since its inception the program has distributed around 9.5 million meals.
Hunters for the Hungry helps Texas hunters manage the deer population while also meeting a critical community need. Statistics show that one-in-six Texas families struggle with food insecurity. By donating to Hunters for the Hungry when you purchase a hunting license, and donating meat through a participating processor, you will directly impact the lives of Texas children, seniors, and families in need. To learn more, donate, or find a participating meat processor, visit www.feedingtexas.org.
In the wake of wildfires, floods and hurricanes that have impacted House District 17 and the state, Rep. Cyrier has been an avid supporter of state support for locally driven decisions for disaster preparedness and recovery. With so many communities still recovering from Hurricane
Harvey and other disasters, this topic became a top priority for the 86th Legislative Session. Rep. Cyrier was a co-author of both of the major bills passed this session.
● House Bill 5 directs the Texas Department of Emergency Management to create a catastrophic debris management plan to improve debris removal for political subdivisions. This bill also creates the Wet Debris Study Group and the Work Group on Local Restrictions That Impede Disaster Recovery Efforts to study the best practices and common hindrances to the removal of debris following a disaster. This legislation positions local communities to respond quicker to disasters and prepares the state for future debris crises.
● House Bill 6 creates a Disaster Recovery Task Force within the Texas Department of Emergency Management to assist individuals with specialized assistance and communities with recovery and resiliency planning to speed up the recovery process.
Recovery has been identified as the weakest phase of the emergency management cycle in Texas, and House Bill 6 looks to strengthen recovery functions and to better utilize the resources available to this state.
Supporting Texas Public Schools
For the first time in decades, the legislative leaders in both the state house and senate, along with the Governor, committed to addressing the funding crisis facing Texas public schools. Rep. Cyrier was a founding board member of his local school district's education foundation and understands the critical importance of providing adequate school funding, investing in technology and innovation in the classroom, improving teacher pay. That is why he consistently supports making public education a budget priority.
During his time in the legislature, John has supported efforts to fully fund enrollment growth in Texas public schools and provide an additional $1.5 billion to restore funding cuts to public schools and improve classroom education. Along with these funds, John supported new accountability standards for Texas public schools that rely less on standardized testing and empower parents and local school districts with better metrics for success. John also voted to fill a budget shortfall in the health plan for retired teachers, who have devoted their professional lives to Texas students. He will continue to work for improvements to the accountability system and long-term security for teacher retirement and health care programs.
● House Bill 3 , The Texas Plan, provides transformational school finance reform to our public education system by investing billions of dollars into our schools and teachers.
Specifically, the Texas Plan provides $4.5 billion to student-centered education reforms, over $5 billion in statewide property tax relief, and over $2 billion in dynamic pay raises for teachers, librarians, counselors, and nurses. The Plan provides full-day Pre-K for low income students, adopts high-quality K-3 reading standards to ensure Texas schoolchildren read at grade level by 3rd grade and creates the first dyslexia identification program in Texas history.
Additionally, the Texas Plan accelerates student achievement via College, Career & Military Readiness outcomes bonuses, dual-language programs, and extended-year summer programs for students. This legislation also creates a "Do Not Hire" registry to better protect the safety and security of our children at school and simplifies transportation funding and quadruples funding for facilities. Lastly, this plan will direct more funds to schools with higher concentrations of under-served students, including dropouts, students in special education, and residential treatment facilities.
“Being a co-author on this legislation was one of my proudest moments as a state representative. This law is a major win for all Texans and will positively affect generations to come.”
- Representative Cyrier
● Senate Bill 12 increases the state contribution to the Teacher Retirement System Pension Fund from 6.8% to 8.8% of the statewide teacher salary cost over the next five year period. This action was taken to shore up the fund’s long-term actuarial soundness.
Additionally, this legislation authorized a "13th Check" in the 2020-2021 biennium, which is a supplemental payment of up to $2,000 for current retirees to help them better cope with living expenses. This legislation was critical to honor the promises made to our retired teachers without increasing the financial burden on active teachers or school districts.
Local Groundwater Protection
To responsibly steward and protect the quality of Texas groundwater, we rely on the efforts of volunteer board members for our many groundwater conservation districts. Until recently, these board members could be sued personally for the decisions of these boards, which made them targets of unfair legal intimidation and compromised the ability of these boards to make responsible and unbiased decisions. During the 84th legislative session, Rep. Cyrier authored and passed House Bill 3163, which protects these board members from being personally sued for their work managing our local groundwater resources.
Within the first year of the law's passage, two Texas groundwater conservation districts had already cited this new law while defending their board members against lawsuits. In one of these suits, board members were successful in dismissing the lawsuit. Protecting these board members from personal lawsuits allows local groundwater conservation districts to independently and fairly make decisions without the fear or threat of lawsuits. Our work to ensure sustainable and high quality groundwater is far from finished, but House Bill 3136 represents an important step in the right direction to protect the local control of our communities in managing their natural resources.
The Second Amendment
Texas has a rich sporting heritage of hunting, which is an important part of our Texas culture as well as a means to manage certain wildlife populations. This cannot be separated from the Second Amendment right of citizens to safely own and responsibly use personal firearms.
Rep. Cyrier has worked to pass sensible legislation to protect the right of Texans to hunt and fish, defend the Second Amendment, and keep Texans safe. Rep. Cyrier co-authored HJR 61, which proposed a new amendment to the Texas Constitution to safeguard hunting and fishing rights. The amendment passed overwhelmingly in a statewide vote, protecting our cultural heritage of sports and outdoors. Hunting and fishing also represent a vital industry for our state. According to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, hunting and fishing pump more than $4 billion into the Texas economy and support more than 65,000 jobs.
The right to self-defense is also protected by the Second Amendment, which is why Rep. Cyrier voted to reduce the fees associated with obtaining a license to carry (LTC) from $140 to just $40. He also voted to eliminate the minimum caliber requirement (formerly .32) for the handgun proficiency test in the state LTC course. Rep. Cyrier also supported HB 910, which eliminated penalties for unconcealed firearms by LTC holders. Prior to this legislation, Texas was one of only six states with such penalties.
Property tax reform was one of the top priorities to Texans and the Legislature this past session. Rep. Cyrier worked tirelessly in the house, co-authoring and co-sponsoring multiple pieces of legislation to stop the skyrocketing cost of property taxes and to reduce the tax burden for homeowners and business owners across the state.
● House Bill 3 provided significant funding for education but also provided property tax relief by compressing local tax rates. By providing additional state funding for education, House Bill 3 increases the state’s share of the funding burden from 38% currently to 45% and reduces the property tax rate for local school districts.
● The Texas Property Tax Reform and Transparency Act of 2019 (Senate Bill 2), which gives taxpayers the tools to make informed decisions about their property taxes and empowers voters to stop increasing property tax rates through an election. This bill adds real-time tax notices for taxpayers to engage in the rate-setting process, informs taxpayers of who has proposed a rate increase, by how much, and how to protest, and provides taxpayers with an online form to submit their position on proposed rates. This bill also increases the number of financial disclosures from taxing units, expands opportunities to protest or appeal appraisal values, and requires notices from appraisal districts to be issued electronically.
Senate Bill 2 also eliminates burdensome requirements that force voters to gather signatures to petition for an election, automatically triggers a November election when taxes are raised above the voter approval rate, and ensures taxing units that exceed the voter approval rate are equipped to meet the November election date deadline.
● House Joint Resolution 38 will now give Texas voters the power to ban a state income tax in Texas. With the ratification of this constitutional amendment, Texas would be protecting taxpayers, encouraging economic expansion, and making sure taxpayers keep more of their hard-earned dollars. Remember to vote “YES” on Proposition 4 this November to ban a state income tax in Texas.