(VIDEO) Interview with Texas State House candidate Matt Rinaldi February 1st, 2012

Recently I sat down to interview Matt Rinaldi, Republican candidate for the Texas State House, District 115.

Matt is well known in Texas Republican circles as a hard-working conservative activist, an exceptionally energetic candidate and Party supporter, and a welcome young face in the Republican world. He is the son of an Italian immigrant, and an unabashed and passionate conservative.

Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, and State Representative Ken Paxton, as well as organizations such as Concerned Women of America and Empower Texans have endorsed him. Matt’s website is here. You can read more about Matt on his Facebook pag.

We met in Matt’s law office, where I learned before the camera got rolling that Matt’s law practice is in the area of complex commercial litigation. For non-lawyers, that translates into practicing in an area of law that is genuinely complex, and where outcomes often protect businesses from unscrupulous behavior. It means Matt deals with complicated business transactions, can organize complex information into logical steps and segments, can decipher contracts and other legal language and has the talent to present complex information in a way that people can understand it. And it requires him to persuade others to see things his way. Sounds like a great training ground for a Texas State Representative.

Here is what Matt had to say:

Full transcript of Interview with Texas State House candidate Matt Rinaldi, February 1st, 2012:

Debbie Georgatos: Hi Matt. Thanks for taking time to talk to me today.

Matt Rinaldi: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Debbie Georgatos: Sure. Well I am going to just jump in and ask. I understand you are running for the Texas State House in District 115. So what inspires you to run for public office?

Matt Rinaldi: You know I think it is the inclination to run toward the danger, so to speak. We had a very tough session last session. We had 101 Representatives. We had a historic super-majority. Republicans had a historic super-majority. But we didn’t do historic things. We should have gotten everything done in our platform that we wanted do, and we didn’t. We were timid at points. I think we need bold leadership in the House to get things done, regardless of our numbers. And that is why I am running for Texas House.

Debbie Georgatos: What in particular was on the agenda for the Republicans that they did not achieve?

Matt Rinaldi: We didn’t get the TSA bill passed. We got virtually no progress on the immigration bills. There was an E-Verify bill on the table, that didn’t get passed. There was a sanctuary cities bill that would have prohibited sanctuary cities, (those cities that) prohibit city officials from inquiring into the immigration status of detained persons. We didn’t get that passed. The sanctuary cities bill was a watered down version of the Arizona bill and we couldn’t even get that watered down version passed in a 101-vote supermajority Texas House.

Debbie Georgatos: In your political view of Texas, what are the biggest problems we face?

Matt Rinaldi: I think the biggest problem we face right now is the budget. Federal entitlements, health care entitlements, are busting the Texas budget. Right now there is going to be a $12 billion dollar shortfall due to federal healthcare mandates in the next budget. We are talking about an $80 billion dollar general revenue fund. And the share of Medicaid expenditures is going to increase by $12 billion. That is going to happen in every budget now, about the same increase. Until sometime between 2020 and 2030, if it keeps going at the current pace, federal Medicaid entitlement spending is going to consume 100% of the Texas budget, unless something is done. And that’s the biggest crisis we have.

Some people want to put a Band-Aid on it by raising taxes. I’ve heard Republicans talk about possibly raising taxes and fees in the next session, specifically the business margins tax. There have been a few trial balloons about an income tax. I am completely against that. It’s a Band-Aid.

What we need to do is get through this next session keeping the business climate the way it is in Texas, the best business climate in the United States. We can make the cuts, we can find $12 billion in cuts, but then we need to start coming up with an alternative to Medicaid, such as a Section 1115 waiver, and we can come up with an alternative way to get healthcare to low-income people more efficiently, and in a better way, so that it doesn’t bust our budget.

Debbie Georgatos: The Section 1115 waiver refers to a way to get a waiver from the federal requirements under Medicaid?

Matt Rinaldi: Under Medicaid you have a couple of options. One is to follow federal Medicaid, which is that the federal government pays a share, ours is about 60% and the state pays about 40%. You can opt out of Medicaid, but if you do you lose the federal funding share. So if you do the numbers, it is only worth opting out of Medicaid if you find a solution for less than 40% of the cost of Medicaid, or else it is not worth doing, because you are losing the 60% federal share.

Another option is the Section 1115 waiver, which is that you can get a waiver from the Secretary of Health and Human Services to try your own alternative to Medicaid for a period of time, such as five years. Some states have done this, like Rhode Island, and they’ve actually cut Medicaid spending. So what we would do is apply for a waiver. We would have to come up with an alternative plan that would be more likely to cut costs. And I think that plan would be moving away from government provided health care to some sort of a Medicaid voucher plan that would allow Medicaid recipients to internalize the cost of their health care which would lower demand, and actually increase reimbursement rates.

Debbie Georgatos: Sounds like you have thought a lot about this. Are there other Republicans interested in pursuing the Section 1115 waiver?

Matt Rinaldi: Yes, the waiver is being pursued. The problem is we need a plan that replaces the current Medicaid plan. And that is going to be difficult.

Debbie Georgatos: Sounds like it. I want to move on to some of the other issues that were pending in the last legislature, and are facing Texans. For example, how do you feel about the voter ID bill that did pass?

Matt Rinaldi: I am happy---I think it is great. I am happy that it was a strong voter ID bill in this session unlike the version that was proposed in the previous session where they did not require a photo ID. I am glad it is strong. I think it will go a long way towards helping prevent voter fraud.

Debbie Georgatos: What do you think about the pro-life issues that face Texas?

Matt Rinaldi: You know I haven’t talked about it much, but I personally think that the life issue is the most important issue. I believe life begins at conception and that abortion is murder. And if you truly believe that abortion is murder, I know a lot of people say that, and pro-life isn’t your most important issue, I don’t think you are being truthful with that. It has to be the most important issue. What we need to do, every session, is to chip away, as much as we can, at Roe vs. Wade. I think we did that this session…we’ll see if the courts uphold it.

Debbie Georgatos: So Roe vs. Wade being the law of the land, Texas and other states can work at different aspects of the abortion industry. I think this last session the bill passed that required a sonogram to be offered. Is that right?

Matt Rinaldi: It requires the doctor to offer the sonogram to a woman before she has an abortion. That’s currently in the courts now, being litigated. I think it will ultimately be passed. And if it does pass, we can look at other ways to minimize, lower the number of abortions that happen in the state of Texas. And if gets struck down, then I think we need to give it a shot again, and try again to chip away at the law in a different way to find a way that works around the opinion that we get. Every session we need to chip away at it.

Debbie Georgatos: I know this is not a Texas state law issue, but you are obviously aware that there is litigation ongoing challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare, and the personal individual mandate. Do you have a thought on that?

Matt Rinaldi: Yes. I think it is unconstitutional and I hope it does get struck down. I hope they don’t just strike down the individual mandate, because I think the entire bill crumbles without the individual mandate, mainly because you can’t require the insurance of pre-existing conditions in the absence of an individual mandate, or insurance companies will go bankrupt. I think the entire thing will crumble. I think the whole thing is unconstitutional and I hope the court sees it the same way.

Debbie Georgatos: There is also always ongoing discussion in Texas about our education policy, improving the quality of the education for students in Texas. Do you have thoughts on the policies that are out there? Are there things we need to be doing?

Matt Rinaldi: Yes, I think we need to require our local school districts to be more efficient. Unfortunately the tone of the debate right now is all about money. I fundamentally reject the idea that the amount of money we spend on education is directly related to performance. It is not. If you look nationally, it is not. If you do cost of living adjustments, per state, surprisingly enough there is actually a downward trend between education spending and educational performance. It is not that if you spend more the schools get worse, I think it’s because it is a false solution. And the schools that are doing worse try to spend more to fix things. And it doesn’t work.

Debbie Georgatos: What do you think about giving parents more control---parental choice—in their education choices for their children?

Matt Rinaldi: I agree. I believe in school choice. I think Grand Prairie took a great step toward school choice in their district recently. I think ultimately we need to move toward a system where money moves with the student. And the student gets to choose which school he or she goes to. And for this session though, we need to start to work towards that. And for this session, what we can do to ease some of the burden on the schools is to eliminate most of the 78 unfunded mandates that we place on them.

Debbie Georgatos: Wow, 78 unfunded mandates. Do you know what some of those are? I’m unfamiliar with that.

Matt Rinaldi: One is the TAKS testing. I think it is Coppell where they are testing one out of every five school days. And the other days are spent largely teaching to the test. This costs tens of thousands of dollars per district.

The other huge mandate is bi-lingual education requirement. I would replace that with an English immersion program. The bi-lingual education requirement costs us $200-$400 million dollars per budget in Texas. And when you look at the scope of that, the school system like Coppell has about a one million dollar budget shortfall. And it has about 1/350th of the students in Texas so when you talk about cutting $400 million dollars from the Texas budget, and you divide that savings evenly, there is your budget savings for the district right there. We are one of only four states in the country that has a bi-lingual education requirement, and the only border state.

When California is not doing something, with the same problems we have, it should be a red flag—there is a better way to do things.

Debbie Georgatos: California does English immersion?

Matt Rinaldi: I think they may do English as a Second Language, which is another alternative. But I would do English immersion. I think it is important that people learn English for their future success.

Debbie Georgatos: Tell me a bit about your campaign. I am sure you have been talking to voters in District 115. What do you sense are the issues they are most concerned about?

Matt Rinaldi: I think they are concerned about taxes. They are concerned about life, about the Second Amendment. But most of the Republican voters I talk to, in the primary, are concerned about sending a person to Austin who won’t be just another vote. Somebody who will be a strong voice and try to move policy, somebody who will go against the Party when they need to, when the Party isn’t following conservative principles. And I think that is what they are looking for, someone who isn’t just going to sink into Austin and become part of the Establishment.

Debbie Georgatos: You mentioned the Second Amendment. Are you a supporter of the Second Amendment?

Matt Rinaldi: Yes very strongly. I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. I’m a concealed handgun license holder in Texas, member of the NRA, and I received an “A” rating from the NRA in this primary election.

Debbie Georgatos: I want to turn to some other things like family background, but are there other issues in Texas that you care about a lot and would like to talk about?

Matt Rinaldi: Yes. If the bill isn’t moot because of the Presidential elections, I would like to see a TSA bill passed. I think it is important for a state to protect its 10th amendment rights when the federal government encroaches. I would also like to see, speaking about the Second Amendment, I would like to see a conceal and carry campus bill passed.

Debbie Georgatos: That was proposed last session, is that right?

Matt Rinaldi: Yes. It died. In large part it was our Party’s fault. So I’d like to see that.

Debbie Georgatos: Tell me a little bit about your family background.

Matt Rinaldi: Well I am first generation born in America. My father and my grandparents are originally from Italy, a small village called Pontelandolfo. They were farmers in Italy. My grandfather fought in World War II, on the Russian Front, in the battle of Stalingrad, which was one of the bloodiest battles in world history. He made it out, alive, thank God. He moved back to Italy and decided that living under the Mussolini regime, even though it was over by that time, was not for him, and he wanted to go, and be free in America. He saved up so that by the time my father was 6 years old, they had moved to the United States, and had built a life for themselves. They didn’t know the language. They came here legally. They educated my father, and my father eventually became a business executive, and made a life for himself.

Debbie Georgatos: Now, is this your first foray into politics, running for District 115, or do you have other political activity in your background?

Matt Rinaldi: Yes. Most recently I was a candidate for District Judge here in Dallas. Even though Republicans were swept in 2010 in Dallas County I got about 48% of the vote. It was a good campaign. In my current district I got approximately 2/3 of the vote. I got over 20,000 votes in the current District 115.

I’ve been a Republican activist for probably about 20 years now.

Debbie Georgatos: You mean dating back to college? Were you a Republican even in college?

Matt Rinaldi: Yes I was. I was in the college Republicans. I was a strong activist. There was one particular time in college when I was in student government, I noticed that the student government wasn’t saying the Pledge of Allegiance before meetings. I proposed that they do. The Executive Committee of the student government disagreed with me, and actually we made national news for it. I fought, fought hard for it, and after a two-week period, and national news broadcasts, radio, we finally overturned the decision. And they say the Pledge of Allegiance even to this day.

Debbie Georgatos: That sounds like a brave battle. You’ve been involved in other political campaigns or in the Republican Party?

Matt Rinaldi: Yes. As far back as twenty years ago when I was in college we helped out the Oliver North campaign, in his Senate campaign. Helped George W. Bush when he was running, and most recently worked as a volunteer attorney on the John McCain campaign in the last Presidential election. I’m very active in the primaries as well. In 2008 I tried to help Fred Thompson out…that didn’t work. I try to stay as involved as I can to try to help conservatives get elected, and in the general election, help the Republicans.

Debbie Georgatos: You spoke earlier about having talked to some of the voters and that one of the main things they wanted to find was someone who would stick with their strong conservative values and not bend when they get down to the legislature. Are you that guy?

Matt Rinaldi: Absolutely. I’ve never taken direction well, and I’ve always fought for my principles. Ever since I was a kid. My father had always taught me, since he came from essentially nothing, that you have to fight hard for anything you want, and that going along doesn’t get you anything. I will stay steadfast. I am a conservative at heart, and I am not going to Austin to make friends.

Debbie Georgatos: Thank you. I will tell you that from your experience in Dallas, in working in the Republican Party, and in campaigns, you are really well known, even among Democrats as someone who is really thoughtful. You work well with people. I think you probably know you have that reputation. I think it is important in this campaign.

You have to go to Austin to fight for your principles, but you can do it in a way that is inviting others to come along and see your side. I honestly think you have that reputation. Have you heard that before?

Matt Rinaldi: Not in that way, but thank you, I appreciate it. What I always tell people is that I try to convey my ideas and my points of view, and I will talk to anybody at any time, and I always have a rational reason for everything that I think. And I try to set that out for them. And I think people appreciate that and that convinces people. And as a result, I have the strong support of the conservatives in the Tea Party. I am a strong conservative myself, and I don’t apologize for that. I am to the right of most Republicans.

But, I have a lot of moderate support as well, because they respect the fact that I can articulate those reasons (for my views) and they can talk to me and I listen. That’s important for changing minds.

Debbie Georgatos: I had meant to ask you about the Tea Party. Why is it so popular? And how involved are you in it?

Matt Rinaldi: I was Chairman of the Media Committee for the first Dallas Tax Day Tea Party in 2009. Since then I have been very active in the Dallas Tea Party, and in the Irving Coppell Tea Parties. I have very strong Tea Party support. I think it is the greatest political movement that has occurred in my lifetime. And I think that’s the case mainly because the Tea Party has affected primaries, like no other political movement has in my lifetime. We need Republicans to win elections, and that’s very important in the general election. But if we are going to change policy, we need people active in the primaries, to elect conservatives, so that we can move the center, right. And we can change policy.

Debbie Georgatos: I understand the Tea Party to be not a political party in competition with an actual political party, (the two major parties), but the name for a movement that stands essentially for fiscal conservatism. Do you agree that that’s what it is?

Matt Rinaldi: I agree that it is generally focused on fiscal conservatism as far as the movement itself goes, but I think that most of the people involved in it are social conservatives as well, like myself. It focuses on fiscal issues, that’s its center -- in order to try to get the broadest base possible among its members. And I think that’s important. I think we have socially conservative groups that are strong like Concerned Women of America, and they are important on the social issues. And we have groups like the Tea Party that are important on the fiscal issues. I think we all need to come together and elect the most conservative Republicans we can in the primaries, to take us to the general election.

Debbie Georgatos: I know you’ve received many endorsements. You mentioned Concerned Women of America. Didn’t they just endorse you this week?

Matt Rinaldi: Yes. Concerned Women of America endorsed my campaign; one of the largest if not the largest women’s public policy organizations in the country, endorsed me last week. This week, I received an endorsement from Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, Empower Texans, which is a major boost to my campaign. And week by week more and conservative groups and individuals statewide are coalescing around my campaign, which is very heartening. It is nice to know that it is not only clear to me but that it is clear to others that I am the conservative choice in this campaign.

Debbie Georgatos: Matt, thanks again for taking time out of your business day to talk to me.

Matt Rinaldi: Thank you for coming.

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