Spotlight on HD 132 Runoff: Interview With Ann Hodge-Part 2
As you know, Republican State Representative Bill Callegari resigned his seat at the close of the last legislative session; you know the one with a record three special sessions? That left the opportunity for, well, anybody and everybody to throw their name into the ring to take his place. Four candidates emerged and after the primary held in March, we are down to two. The runoff election is around the corner and the two candidates facing off are Michael Schofield and Ann Hodge. Hey, HD 132, we have two fantastic candidates and we have a choice to make. As a resident of Texas House District 132 and an activist for my community, I want an informed electorate to be able to make the best choice possible; sue me. I was very appreciative that Ann Hodge, candidate for HD 132 took time out of her day to answer my questions. I have already shared with you the first half of our interview, and now, I'm proud to share with you the long awaited sequel. Here goes!
KH: What piece of legislation did you want to see passed last session that failed?
AH: I wanted to see more on HB 5. I am very concerned about end of semester testing. I have had the pleasure of working with HCC and Katy ISD and I do not understand the disconnect. We are testing at a certain level, but yet I continue to be told when they reach college or the community college level or the university, a lot of our students are in remedial classes. How can you be in a remedial class? I'm seeing employees that can't spell. I really am struggling with what we are testing and teaching to the test. I am a huge proponent of accountability, but I'm not sure we are measuring it the right way.
KH: What would you like to see brought back? Would you like to see HB 5 brought back?
AH: It's interesting, at the candidate forum the other night, at the school board candidate forum, they were all like, our wish is the legislature will leave alone what they've already done and not touch anything. I mean, really? There's not some things you would have tweaked a little? The other thing is, I haven't had the chance to run the analysis yet, but I did log onto HCAD and I was pretty shocked to see the dramatic increase in my husband's and my home. What I'm looking at is it seems to me like that we've got a pretty big windfall coming in Harris County and our respective school districts. Now, I have not seen what that looks like for Ft. Bend and Waller County, which is part of Katy ISD, but I would really like to entertain some dialogue as to how we are going to be using that increase in the tax rolls that we are going to see from the appraised value versus the market value. I recognize that there's a cap, but it still is a pretty significant amount if our little piece of the world is indicative. I'm told right now that homes are staying on MLS for eight days in this corridor and they're going for full ask, if not with a kicker from the realtors that I'm working with on a daily basis, so I've got to believe some of that appraisal is pretty close to being accurate. That's some significant money and we're not talking about it. I'm the one bringing it up going, um guys, what's going to happen?
The other piece that I"m troubled by is I serve on two hospital boards and I'm not convinced that we've made any progress with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As a result, I've asked both administrators of the two hospitals, have you seen a decrease in the load of indigent and uninsured that we are serving walking through the doors. No, quite the opposite, we've seen an increase. Yet, you and I pay Harris County Hospital taxes and I would really like to have a dialog about that line item on our property tax that we are paying. I understand how Zerwas' bill for a waiver on the Medicaid went down in the last session, but if there is a way that we can find to draw down some of the dollars from the federal government without increasing our tax burden, I'm all for trying to get that from Washington, D.C. Now what form that looks like; I was told there were opportunities for block grants and waivers without any increases but drawing back some of those dollars, which takes the burden off of those of us that own property, then I'd like to have that discussion. I'd like to have it, hopefully, without all the rhetoric, I mean, you know that it has to be draped in party lines. I mean, why aren't we fighting for everything we can get back from Washington, D.C.? I want our share.
KH: What legislation would you most like to see repealed?
AH: I think we need to look at every agency and what their function is and I'm convinced that there is duplication of effort. I'm also disturbed because I keep hearing from professional organizations who have licensing or regulatory fees that they pay, that those dollars are not going to support that agency that is to oversee that profession; they are being diverted. I think that we need to just say that is an indirect tax and be honest about some of this. I think that's where government loses the respect of citizens as well as business owners because what they see is that they are basically speaking out of both sides of their mouth. If I had to tell you something that I would repeal, sitting here today, I don't know if I could tell you one thing I would repeal as much as I would really like to tear apart the structures and take a hard look at what each of the agencies is responsible for, what their income sources are and are they delivering the services or is it really just a front for revenue for the state of Texas, in which case, let's be honest about it. I mean, if you look at where our fuel taxes are going and so forth. If you look at what happened with the Lottery, I would just say we have really been mislead on a number of things that I find unfortunate. It's that behavior, and you know as a business owner, you're not going to succeed.
In closing, Ann had this to say about serving the community as a state representative and being a member of the community: "I think that constituent services; lets face it, your there day in and day out. You're only up in Austin for six months every two years and it's what you do in the district that really counts and that's where the model of the chamber pays huge dividends, in my opinion; that customer service is essential. I would just suggest that customer service, as you well know, that's job one and it will be job one for me."