Rep. Bill Callegari Explains Co-Authoring the Sonogram Bill and Discusses a Proposed Coercion Bill
by Adryana Aldeen on May 19, 2011 at 11:35 AM
The following interview with Texas Representative Bill Callegari is one of a series of interviews conducted by VOCES Action and TexasGOPVote with members of the Hispanic Republican Conference in the 82nd session of the Texas Legislature. Representative Callegari represents House District 132, which includes west Harris County.
In my conversation with Mr. Callegari we spoke about his district, why he is part of the Hispanic Republican Conference, the closeness he has with Hispanic people and his own Latino background, his opinion about the immigration problem and the fact that he is a co author of the Sonogram Bill, HB15, that recently passed. He also mentioned another bill. It's a Coercion Bill that provides protection for a woman who is being forced by a parent, boyfriend, spouse, etc. to have an abortion.
The Hispanic Republican Conference has been growing. Originally it was formed by the House’s five Hispanic Republicans but has since been joined by other State Representatives whose districts have at least 30% Hispanic constituents. The Hispanic Republican Conference will be addressing some issues that have been controversial in parts of the state with large Hispanic populations.
Hispanics make up 36% of the Texas population and this percentage is growing. Hispanics share Republican conservative values of fiscal responsibility, faith, hard work, family values, and are pro-life. VOCES Action has been educating and empowering Americans with Hispanic backgrounds, and who hold conservative values, to make more responsible and informed voting decisions.
Adryana Boyne: Good afternoon, we are here with State Representative Bill Callegari. He's in the middle of a busy session, and he has a few minutes to speak with VOCES Action and TexasGOPVote. Thank you Mr. Callegari for doing this interview with us.
Bill Callegari: My pleasure.
Adryana Boyne: Well first of all, I would like to know a little bit about the people in your district and the issues that they are concerned with?
Bill Callegari: My district is in west Harris County, it basically includes the city of Katy, the city itself is a very small portion of my district, but my district basically goes from the Waller and Fort Bend County lines, Waller to the west and Fort Bend to the south, and goes east to Highway 6. My district is changing rapidly from a district that was primarily Anglo to a district that is close to 50% Hispanic. The whole school district is changing and in the next 2-3 years, it's going to be a minority school district, that's not bad, that's just the way it's happening. I don' think that's changed the values in my district. As I've told people, when you drive through my district, you don't see a change, people just just interspersed everywhere, you know, it's working pretty well. I see the district as fairly homogeneous, I think there are a lot of concerns about family issues, taxes, and same thing that everyone's worried about.
Adryana Boyne: Mr. Callegari, the House has a new Conference called the Hispanic Republican Conference, and you are one of the members, can you tell me, why did you choose to be part of the Conference?
Bill Callegari: It's probably several-fold. One, I do feel a closeness to the Hispanic community. I grew up in an area of Louisiana where there were two languages spoken, my mother grew up speaking French before she could speak English, while it's not exactly the same, I think there are some parallels, and as I was growing up, there was a reluctance for having to speak French because they didn't want us to have accents, and I'm sure it's the same thing that some Hispanics run in to. I can remember, those of that did speak French, even though my mother taught French, she didn't try to make us speak French, and I remember the uneasiness you felt in trying to speak French to other people, and you can kind of relate that to people that are trying to learn English. At the same time, I just feel a closeness to the Hispanic people. I grew up in a community that were 95-98% Catholics, so we have a lot in common in that regard, and some of my children's best friends were people with Hispanic names with Hispanic heritage, so I do feel a closeness, and I felt it was the right thing to do, we need to work together, and I will say, I do think that a lot of Hispanic people are Republicans at heart, particularly with their family values.
Adryana Boyne: The Democrats are trying to deceive the Hispanic community telling them that only the Democrats care for the Hispanics when that is not the case because the values of the Republican Party are the values of the Hispanics. Now the Hispanics will soon make up 50% of the Texas population as you see not only in your district, but it's all over Texas, but really the future success of the Republican Party depends on their vote. What do you suggest that we can do to attract Hispanics to the Republican Party?
Bill Callegari: You know, that's a little bit more difficult because I know that a lot of the issues that have come up before with immigration reform have looked to be a negative from the standpoint of the Spanish-speaking people. I don't see it that way. My youngest son, his two best friends were Hispanic and they would spend a lot of time together, that story itself is a different story, but two cousins, who one was a single child who spoke perfect English and all of his parents did, the other was the youngest of eight children who also spoke perfect English, but their parents didn't speak very good English, so they learned English very well, they made it work for him. I just think that we need to embrace the fact that the family values are right. I think that we need to get past, however we can, the immigration issues, I know a lot of Hispanics feel like something needs to be done, but at the same time, I think they feel compromised, if you will, because a lot of the times, family history is something we need to be concerned about, and I think everybody, we need to understand that, we need to help them find a way to make it work. I always felt that the immigration problem can best be solved with a lot of help from the Hispanic people. I don't think we've reached out enough to do that.
Adryana Boyne: You used the word that we really need to get past the immigration issue. I always tell people that Hispanics are not monolithic, we are about many issues, not only one issue, however, because I'm a Hispanic and because I'm an American citizen by naturalization, people usually ask me that question, but since you mention that we really need to get past that, really the Hispanic Republicans who are in the Hispanic Republican Conference have signed a resolution, House Concurrent Resolution 88, I'm sure that you have heard about it, but it talks mainly about how the federal government needs to do their job, but we really need to find a sensible realistic solution. Do you feel that we could have some sort of guest program for some of the people who are here?
Bill Callegari: I have felt that when we get an opportunity from a national standpoint to pass legislation that would have had some sort of guest worker program, that was probably a good solution. It's not hard to understand some of the reasons why we have a more rigid policy. My thought process is the first thing you do is you solve the problem at the border, and once you solve that, then you can look at other issues, and I think we had an opportunity to do that and we didn't.
Adryana Boyne: Well hopefully there is a solution that the people can explore. I always tell the people certainly, the border is national security, all of the borders must be secure as well, and also there are people who have come via airplanes and they overextend their visas, so we certainly have to find a solution.
Bill Callegari: That's true for the northern border and the southern border and the east and west for that matter.
Adryana Boyne: Well I also understand, Mr. Callegari that you are on the committee for Government Efficency & Reform. Tell me how we can make the government more efficient and what reforms are necessary to accomplish these. Would that contain government spending and taxes?
Bill Callegari: I do think that the thing that we can do and my mantra is to try and make smaller government. In many cases, both cases, we've got too much government, we need to do what we can to reduce the government's effect on people on a day-to-day basis. We need to carry on our lives without having a lot of excess government, and I think when you do that, you do affect the spending, you do affect the level of taxes on people, and you affect what people can do with their own money. The less government interference with our lives and have us be able to do what we want with our lives. I think we can govern ourselves locally. I'd much prefer local control than I federal control and state control, and if we can control and govern ourselves, I think we'd do better. One of the things, some of the studies we've made within the Government Reforms Committee was to look at licensing. Texas licenses more occupations that most other states do, not the most of all the states, but more than most states do. Over 35% of the people in Texas that are employed are employed under some license are confined with it, if you will, I think that reduces competition, it increases the ability of people, a lot of times Hispanics, of getting into industry, and many times just protects the industry. I think many times those things need to be opened up. The fact of the matter is, it's very, very difficult to stop regulating something that's already been regulated. There's always some group of people that can cite some reason why it's necessary. My theory is that you shouldn't regulate anything unless it really seriously affects health and welfare, if you will. A lot of things that we regulate are based on the fact that it's a protection for that industry. I think that's one of the areas we start, that's one of the things I've tried to do. A lot of rules or laws that exist really have no reason to be there. One of the things we've tried to do in the committee is to eliminate unnecessary government, if you will, minimize the flow of paper, minimize the reports we have to do that nobody looks at. You can save money and that accrues to the benefit of all of us.
Adryana Boyne: One of the values that we have in common is the value of the right to life, and I understand that you are the joint author of HB15, thank you for that, which is the Sonogram Bill, which is now, finally, on the governor's desk for signing. Tell us the process of what it took to get it there.
Bill Callegari: That's a really interesting one. I've always been interested in right to life, and I have to say, even when I first decided to run, one of my basic questions was how do I, I talked with my priest, my pastor, about that, what do you do when you're confronted with a bill that gets you part of the way, but not all of the way. Do you insist and make sure that we get everything we need or do you take what you can get and move forward, and one of the things that came from those discussions was that if we can get a bill that accomplishes some aspect of protected life, you can get what you can and then move to the next direction, instead of the attitude that if we can't get a complete ban on abortions, then we stop, so that was a decision I made early on. As we got into this session, we saw that we had a real opportunity to pass a bill that was meaningful. The Sonogram Bill looked like something that would work out well for us. My seatmate, Sid Miller, and myself started working on it. We had a little discussion on who would be the lead and it was really important to him. My concern was I just want to get it passed, I don't care who took the lead, so if it means that much to you, you take it and we'll make sure it gets passed, and we started the process, and we got a lot of help I'd have to say from the Speaker's office and moved forward and with a lot of hard work and a lot of people, managed to get it done, and I certainly compliment all of those that helped us, and there were a lot of people who did help. It was a bill that we felt was necessary and I think will maintain control over the large number of abortions. It's important to us.
Adryana Boyne: It is.
Bill Callegari: I have a son right now who doesn't have children, he wants to adopt a child, and that's important.
Adryana Boyne: Yes, since the last session, we have been fighting for that Sonogram Bill, and I'm very happy that finally you have been able to accomplish this.
Bill Callegari: I have another bill that I have filed, I have authored it, it just made it to calendars last night, I don't know if it will make it to the floor. It's a Coercion Bill, it basically provides penalties and protections for, more than penalties, protections, for a woman who is threatened by a spouse, parents, whoever, you know, if you don't have this abortion, I'll take away your phone, I'll throw you out of the house, I'll beat you, and it really tries to provide some protections legislating no, that there are protections from that and provide some opportunity for people to be able to resist those kind of threats. I don't know if it will make it to the floor, but we're trying.
Adryana Boyne: We'll pray for that. Mr. Callegari, how many years have you been serving in the House?
Bill Callegari: This is my sixth term, so I've served a full ten years and about 5 months now.
Adryana Boyne: Seeing in your office that this is a lovely office, I can tell that there is something about horses specifically that you like. Can you tell me a little bit about that, the saddle, and the horses around.
Bill Callegari: Well, I live on about 40 acres just outside of Katy and I grew up around horses and animals and what have you, so horses are kind of a passion for me. I have eight horses, which are probably seven too many, but we enjoy them. We have ten grandchildren, and soon to be eleven, if the adoption goes through, which I think it will, and my kids grew up learning to ride, it's just something we like to do.
Adryana Boyne: Well, that is wonderful. Mr. Callegari, I want to thank you much for this interview. Thank you for serving not only the people in your district, but thank you for serving the people of Texas. Thank you Mr. Callegari.
Bill Callegari: Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity.
Adryana Boyne: Thank you Mr. Callegari.