State Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, whose district includes UT, announced plans to file her first three bills regarding college preparedness, gun safety and property rights Thursday at a press conference.
She said the foundations of the bills include economic improvement, protection against discrimination and preservation of local communities.
“The inspiration for my legislative agenda comes straight from our shared home — Austin,” Hinojosa said. “And while we have our challenges, our growth and our strength comes from bold investments in community, in education, in innovative partnerships that not only amplify our resources, but amplify our ideas.”
Hinojosa said recognizing education initiatives and partnerships is one of her top priorities. One of the bills she filed, House Bill 1174, includes the incorporation of the OnRamps program into the state accountability system, which is currently based on standardized test scores and graduation rates.
OnRamps, a UT program funded by the Texas Legislature, partners with local school districts, including Austin ISD, to provide students with opportunities to earn college credit and experience UT college courses at no cost.
Hinojosa said her second proposed bill addresses creating safe communities where members are free from unreasonable threats. The bill would make possessing a firearm while intoxicated illegal. At this time, the bill has not been filed.
Ana Lopez, Plan II sophomore and president of Students Against Campus Carry, spoke at the press conference in favor of legislation to prevent gun violence.
“I feel like it is a more reasonable goal than just getting rid of campus carry entirely, and I feel like this is a step in the right direction because it serves to protect all Texans,” Lopez said. “Just like you can’t drink while you are driving, you shouldn’t be able to drink while carrying a lethal weapon, because any accident could happen. I strongly support this bill.”
Hinojosa said she also wants to return control to local communities. HB 1175 confirms petition rights for community members living within 200 feet from unzoned land.
Former Austin City Council member Laura Morrison said the bill is a clarification of the current law, which states neighbors within 200 feet of the property or the property owner have the right to object zoning changes. In a recent case, however, Morrison said the city misconstrued the law and claimed petition rights did not exist for community members in an unzoned area being changed to a zoned one because this does not constitute a “change in zoning.”
“The bottom line is that this is a bill that will serve individual property owners wanting to protect their own property rights, as well as communities across the state,” Morrison said. “This clarification will put an end to the arguments and allow all of us to move forward.”
In closing, Hinojosa quoted President Barack Obama and said being a citizen is the most important role in a democracy. She called upon the citizens of Austin and beyond to make their voices heard at the Capitol in order to bring about change.
“Ultimately, I cannot pass this legislation alone,” Hinojosa said. “It’s going to take a team effort to make this happen, and by team I don’t just mean like-minded legislators who share our values, though we’ll need them, too. But I mean all of us, everyone who gives a damn about what’s going on in this state or in this country, we need all be part of the effort to turn things around.”