Upstream Texas - Fall/Winter 2016 - 17
Texas State Representative
REPRESENTATIVE LARRY GONZALES, R-Round Rock, had a
background that prepared him well for the Texas House of
Representatives, but it also nearly kept him from seeking
public office in the first place.
Gonzales first won election to his seat in 2010, but arrived at the
state capitol knowing his way around both literally and figuratively,
thanks to experience as a staffer dating back to 1991. In the intervening
years, his positions included working for many prominent names in Texas
politics, such as Rick Perry, John Cornyn, Kevin Brady and John Otto.
But far from whetting his appetite for public office, Gonzales says,
the experience almost quashed it.
"I saw, firsthand, elected officials' sacrifice of time from their
families along with the financial sacrifices, so I never thought I would
pursue elected office," he describes. "My role was to work for some
really good people and be the best legislative staff member I could be."
But when a prime opportunity arose to seek his home district's Texas
House seat, Gonzales and his wife, Marie, an associate principal who
has spent her career in special education, reconsidered.
"With my experience, friends and contacts, we knew I had something
to offer," he says.
Nevertheless, he continues, they also knew it would add many new
responsibilities for the man who already was a husband to Marie, a
father to two children Leah and Alexander-who are in 11th and 9th
grades, respectively-as well as the owner of a graphic design business.
"At the age I am, with my kids the ages they are, with what my wife
and I do for a living, a lot of things all worked together to tell us we
had something offer," he says. "We were at a place in our lives where
we knew I could help."
As chairman of the Sunset Advisory Commission, the government
body responsible for reviewing and then recommending to the legislature
how to improve, or whether to even continue, various state agencies,
Gonzales finds himself in firm agreement with the conventional wisdom
that the 2017 Texas Legislature must pass a Railroad Commission (RRC)
sunset bill-something lawmakers attempted to do during the 82nd and
83rd sessions respectively.
"We have to pass this legislation," he emphasizes.
And 2017 will play out differently he predicts, if legislators and
stakeholders stay disciplined.
"By that I mean having reasonable goals and expectations that
make the agency stronger, more efficient, more accountable, but also
recognizing the incredible significance of the oil and gas industry in
Texas," Gonzales says. "I don't want people to think that the sunset
bill has to be the place to take on significant oil and gas policy. The
sunset process is not about policy."
"TIPRO MEMBERS HAVE BEEN GREAT.
I NEED THEIR INPUT, COLLABORATION
AND CONVERSATIONS. TIPRO MEMBERS
ARE THE EXPERTS. THEY KNOW THE
SUBJECT BETTER THAN ANYBODY.
THEREFORE, I AM COUNTING ON THEM
AND OTHER STAKEHOLDERS TO WALK
ME THROUGH THIS BILL AND HELP AS
MUCH AS THEY CAN."
He hardly takes such discipline for granted, noting how RRC sunset
legislation sometimes becomes a magnet for "zombie" bills that have
died throughout the session. However, Gonzales urges, everyone should
resist that temptation this time around.
"This will not be the vehicle for that in February, March, April nor
May," he states. "To use a golf analogy, we have to keep this thing
in the fairway."
Gonzales expresses gratitude to House Speaker Joe Straus,
R-San Antonio, for appointing him to the Sunset Commission and
acknowledges the honor of serving as its chairman. As for any
attributes that may suit Gonzales well for the position, he points
to his experience as chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee
for Articles VI, VII and VIII of the budget. Article VI covers Natural
Resources, which is where biennial General Appropriations for the
Railroad Commission are outlined.
"Of the 24 agencies up for sunset review, I lead appropriations for
17 of their budgets," he notes. "As a member of the subcommittee, we
learn about those agencies' programs and costs to a granular level, line
by line. Transitioning that conversation to sunset is very smooth. Looking
at these agencies' operational structure is really in my wheelhouse."
That is not to suggest that he comes to his role thinking he has little
to learn. In fact, with regard to the RRC sunset, Gonzales indicates
that he and his colleagues have appreciated hearing from the Texas
Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO).
"TIPRO members have been great. I need their input, collaboration
and conversations," he says. "TIPRO members are the experts. They
know the subject better than anybody. Therefore, I am counting on
them and other stakeholders to walk me through this bill and help as
much as they can."
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