LSG's Freshman of the Year Talks District Concerns, Freshman Surprises, and Visions for the Future

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This last legislative session saw the arrival of many news faces in the House of Representatives. One of those new members was Representative Mary Ann Perez, an Annie's List endorsed candidate and true Houston success story. A graduate of Milby High School and the University of Houston Downtown, Representative Perez has an insurance agency in Southeast Houston and served as the Chair of of the Houston Community College Board of Trustees.

Find out more about the Legislative Study Group's Freshman of the Year below the jump.

 Perez appreciated the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the myriad of issues facing different regions of the state in her first legislative session. “Although one may hear the headlines in the news, I don't think they truly understand or feel the impact until they experience or see it firsthand,” Perez said. Citing transportation issues in the shale oil areas, how certain regions experience the drought differently, and the priorities of border regions that differ so greatly from her own in District 144, Perez recognizes that each Representative has a unique charge in their time under the dome.

Perez is most proud of the passage of HB 2712, a highly technical bill that clearly demonstrates how seriously she takes the needs of her district. The bill is “an energy storage bill for non-attainment areas that will be used to clean the air in my district,” she explained. District 144 is one of the few House Districts in the state that could truly qualify as a “swing” district. That Perez' biggest accomplishment comes in the form of such a district-specific bill, benefiting residents on both sides of the aisle, is a perfect example of how well she fits HD 144.

Perez did feel the strain of being a Democrat in such a red chamber in her first session. “On any given subject,” she explained, “without the need for a 2/3rds vote, I did not feel that the Democrats had much of a voice.” In the instances where the rules worked in the Democrats favor, Perez saw moments of true “strength and unity.” In these moments, she said, “the strategies we implemented and our willingness to stick together on important issues” were incredibly rewarding.

The Representative also found herself in another minority: that of women elected to state level office in Texas. Though she is quick to point out she she did not personally feel “discriminated against” on the basis of her gender, Perez says she “strongly believe[s]that we need more women in the legislature.” For her, this is an issue of perspective. The legislature deals with issues that impact both men and women in Texas, and Perez believes that a larger number of women in the legislature will “create more of a balance.”

With her first session (and three specials) behind her, the Representative is focused forward. There are three areas she wants to focus on as she looks toward her second session. Firstly, there is an “empty pipeline in the workforce” in her district, which she hopes to fill by finding ways to partner educators with businesses in the area. Second, she wants to move towards “continuous monitoring of the emission excursions in and around the district.” Finishing out the list, Perez speaks about the “possible dredging of the Port of Houston prior to the completion of the Panama Canal expansion.”

After the third special session, Perez is happy to be able to focus on her district. “I am looking forward to participating in the growth and economic developments in the district,” Perez said, “[and]getting to know my constituency better.” She says an important goal for her in the interim is making sure her constituents see her as resource for the community. “I want them to know that I am there for them,” she said. “I will listen to their concerns, and together, we can work to make a better life for our communities and families.”

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About Author

Genevieve Cato

Genevieve Cato is a feminist activist and a native Texan. While not writing for the Burnt Orange Report, she can be found working for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, serving as a community member of the Communications Committee for the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, and drinking copious amounts of pretentious local craft beers.

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