UT Student Government hosts state representative panel ahead of midterm elections

Joseph Sweeney, News Reporter

UT Student Government hosted a discussion panel with Democratic state representatives James Talarico, Ron Reynolds and Gina Hinojosa in the Union’s Eastwoods room on Thursday. 

Hinojosa said the Democratic party, if elected to a state majority, will pass legislation allowing abortions in cases of rape, incest or when the pregnancy is non-viable.

According to the Texas Tribune, Texas state GOP lawmakers plan to introduce legislation next session which will prevent businesses from helping employees get out-of-state abortions. 

“Young people are making choices to not have children anymore,” Hinojosa said. “I was approached last week by this young woman. She said, ‘We used to want to have children. My husband just got a vasectomy because we don’t think it’s safe for me to get pregnant.’”

Because the terms of state representatives last two years, the three candidates will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot for re-election. They said if their party wins a majority in the upcoming election, the next state legislative session will focus on improving state healthcare, increasing funding for public schools, the Texas teacher shortage and further student loan debt forgiveness.

“(Education) is something that every person is entitled to,” said Talarico, District 52 representative. “Forgiving debt is a moral imperative … I’m thankful that the Biden administration made some progress, but I wish they had gone all the way.”

District 49 representative Hinojosa said teachers in Texas make $7,500 less than the national average and that the state provides some of the lowest amounts of public school funding in the nation. 

According to data released by the Texas Education Agency, just under 19,000 teachers became certified during the 2020-2021 school year compared to over 21,000 that became registered the year prior. According to TEA, teacher retention is consistently dwindling: nearly 2,000 teachers have left the field every year since 2016. 

“One of my sons did not get a teacher this year because there is an extreme teacher shortage in Austin, as there is all across the state,” Hinojosa said. “Teachers are just done with all of the pressures and very little pay.”

Talarico, who sponsored and passed a bill capping insulin copays at $25 last year, said he also hopes to pass legislation addressing the state’s lack of health insurance: according to Statista, nearly 18% of Texans were not insured as of 2020. 

Reynolds said he believes students and young voters will be the deciding force in the upcoming elections and encourages them to vote for candidates that stand for their values. 

“I have so much faith in our young people,” said Reynolds, District 27 representative. “It’s really going to take your generation to change the carnage and the damage that has been done … I want to charge you all to be the change that you want to see.”