As parents of 5, Dan and Stacey Branch are facing many of the same challenges he hears about during visits with students and parents across the district and state. After serving on the House Public Education and Appropriations committees, Rep. Branch was appointed Chairman of the House Committee on Higher Education in 2009. His accomplishments include:
Tier One Initiative: Creates a performance-based funding structure to support the race for more Texas National Research Universities. Three North Texas institutions: UT-Dallas, University of North Texas & UT-Arlington are among the 7 Emerging Research Universities selected for the competition. The University of Houston, UT-San Antonio, UT-El Paso and Texas Tech are also included in the program.
Top 10% Reform: Caps automatic admissions at UT Austin at 75% of incoming freshman class. Allows Top 10% students who attend community college before transferring to the university system to retain their eligibility status. This balanced solution ensures automatic admission to thousands of more students than when the Top 10% law was implemented, but allows one of our premier Tier One universities to continue to admit a broader group of outstanding students.
Reducing Tuition Increases: While many universities in other states were cutting classes and instituting double digit tuition increases, Dan led the successful effort to keep most public college tuition increases in Texas from exceeding 3.95%.
21st Century Classrooms: Provides local school districts the flexibility to purchase interactive content and classroom materials with a portion of state textbook funds.
Expansion of UNT Dallas: Formalized creation of UNT Dallas and authorized creation of the UNT Dallas College of Law - the first public law school in North Texas. D/FW is currently the nation’s largest metro area without a public option for legal education.
Reining in Robin Hood: Recent school finance reforms lowered the property tax rate and shifts more responsibility for funding public school back to the state where it belongs. Since 2006, these reforms have saved Dallas ISD property owners over $785 million and HPISD residents over $163 million. Including Dallas ISD, 26 districts have escaped Robin Hood status, and recapture payments for remaining property wealthy districts have decreased.
Increasing Competition for State Research Grants: Conducting innovative basic research allows universities to create valuable intellectual property, and establish the "proof-of-concept" work necessary to secure federal research or other external funding. Dan passed legislation to allow independent universities, like SMU & TCU in North Texas, to submit their best ideas and compete for certain state research grants.
Rep. Branch is hard at work preparing a legislative package for next session to address the rising cost of college textbooks, improve our financial aid system and gain more transparency and productivity from our colleges and universities.
While other states were building deficits and overspending, Texas has weathered the economic downturn better than most. We’ve added more jobs than any other state in the nation this decade, and more than all other 49 states combined in the last 5 years. This success didn’t just happen. Dan listened to North Texans' calls for less spending and worked to keep more money in Texans' wallets. Some of his accomplishments include:
Balanced Budget & Spending Cut: The Texas Legislature passed a balanced budget, reduced state spending by 2% and preserved an anticipated $9 billion in the state “Rainy Day Fund,” without a tax increase.
Tax Cut for Small Businesses: Dan voted to triple the franchise tax exemption for small businesses, providing complete franchise tax relief for at least 40,000 small businesses over the past 2 years.
Historic Property Tax Relief: As one of the primary authors of the legislation that reduced local school property tax rates by 33%, Dan helped deliver homeowners the largest tax cut in Texas history.
Limiting Appraisal Increases: Dan was a primary author of the voter approved constitutional amendment to lower the maximum homeowner appraisal cap from 30% to 10%, regardless of appraisal frequency.
Eliminating Unnecessary Taxes: The Telephone Infrastructure Tax (TIF) had outlived its purpose, but was still costing taxpayers money on their monthly phone bills. Dan was a co-author of the law abolishing the TIF Tax, saving Texans over $600 million.
Proven Fiscal Conservatism: Dan leads by example and lives within his means in the Texas House. During each term, he has returned money to the state from his office account.
Dan will continue to work for a more limited, fiscally responsible government by fighting increases to the franchise tax rate, and limiting the amount of property taxes subject to Robin Hood recapture.
As the son and brother of doctors, Rep. Branch understands that quality, affordable health care is good for Texans and essential to the future of our state. Texas has a high rate of uninsured citizens and many areas are suffering shortages of health care professionals.
Providing compassionate care to our most vulnerable citizens and helping Texans develop healthier habits are critical to managing a young, surging population with an aging, "boomer" segment. Texas is challenged by a shortage of health care professionals.
Dan’s solutions to address our state’s health care challenges include:
More Medical Residencies in Texas: Dan lead the effort to develop and implement the Graduate Medical Education (GME) formula. GME funding helps reduce the number of locally-trained medical school graduates lost to other states due to a shortage of medical residency positions in Texas.
Increasing Opportunities for Charitable Care: To help more Texans gain access to quality health care, Dan passed legislation to create additional protections against junk lawsuits and an “emeritus license,” to encourage retired physicians to stay engaged and volunteer at local charity health care clinics.
Legislator of the Year: The Texas Medical Association Student Division named Dan their Legislator of the Year for his work to create and fund the GME formula. Since over 75% of medical residents eventually practice within 20 miles of their residency program, increasing the number of slots in Texas is a smart investment for the future of our state.
Creating incentives and other practical solutions can increase the ranks of physicians, para professionals, nurses, and other caregivers. We must continue to improve efficiencies in the health care industry and help more Texans attain better health care coverage.
If we can't turn on the lights, the air conditioning or the computer, we can forget about a strong economy in Texas. A plan for ample, affordable power must be balanced with our desire for improved air quality. Bringing environmentally sound power plants on line is not an overnight process, so a proactive answer that balances enhanced capacity, air quality and affordability must be at the center of our agenda.
Dan’s efforts to address our state’s energy challenges include:
Taking High Polluting Cars Off Our Roads: Dan sponsored the bills to extend the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) & Low Income Repair Assistance Program (LIRAP).
Cracking Down on Counterfeit Inspection Stickers: Dan filed legislation to increase penalties for distributing counterfeit or unlawfully obtained vehicle inspection stickers. Local sources estimate that vehicles with illegally procured inspection stickers create at least 50 tons of NOX in the metroplex per day.
Reducing Emissions: Dan sponsored legislation to provide efficiency standards for state buildings and update building energy codes.
Wind Champion Award: Dan was honored by the Texas Wind Coalition for his work to increase the generation of renewable energy in Texas.
Texas must do its part to reduce our nation's dependence on foreign energy. Expanding power sources for Texas seems to make sense over the long term. Natural gas is clean, plentiful, and it appears will remain inexpensive for many years. Nuclear power has many attributes and coal is inexpensive, but clean coal technology is a work in progress. Conservation should play a critical role, along with alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, nuclear, and biomass.
Keeping our citizens and our border secure is critical to our continued prosperity. Because public safety is a core function of a limited government, Dan has worked tirelessly with his colleagues in the legislature to improve our safety at home, in our neighborhoods, in our schools and on the road. His accomplishments include:
Securing our border: Dan has voted to invest $230 million in additional law enforcement along our border.
Increased penalties for burglary of a motor vehicle: Car burglaries account for 25% of all serious crime in Dallas, which is why Rep. Branch was a principle author of the law to enact tougher penalties for automobile break-ins and punish repeat offenders with a state jail felony.
Background checks for all public school employees: To prevent child predators from obtaining a job of any kind on public school campuses, Dan sponsored the law to require every campus employee to clear a background security check.
Limiting cell phone use in active school zones: Dan passed his law to protect our most vulnerable – our children – by restricting handheld mobile devices in active school zones. This balanced approach allows the use hands free devices, affecting drivers within active school zones only, and was passed overwhelmingly by the Legislature.
Background checks for Attorney General’s employees: Dan sponsored the law that expands background checks to all potential employees to ensure that those hired to protect Texans are worthy of our trust.
Enacted 1st Texas highway safety law addressing elderly drivers: Katie Bolka was just 17 years old when she was killed on her way to school by an elderly woman who drove through a major Dallas intersection over 20 seconds after the light had turned red. "Katie's Law," assigns drivers 85 years of age and older a two-year renewal cycle with a vision test upon renewal.
For his tireless work on behalf of Texas families, Capitol Inside has named Dan to its Best of the Texas Legislature list for 4 straight sessions. In addition, The Dallas Morning News said Dan Branch received praise for being "one of the Legislature's most effective leaders."
Congestion is not only harmful to our environment, it robs people and enterprises of valuable time that could be spent with family, friends and customers. The planning, funding and construction process for roadways cannot happen overnight, which is why we must address our structural shortfall of transportation funding before it reaches crisis proportions.
Dan’s efforts to address our state’s mobility challenges include:
Additional Highway funding: Dan voted for the successful constitutional amendment to support funding for Texas transportation projects.
TxDoT Oversight: Dan has consistently supported legislation to strengthen oversight of the Texas Department of Transportation and limit diversions from transportation funding.
Towing Industry Reform: Dan authored a new law to reform unfair towing practices in Texas and make it easier for owners to reclaim their vehicles from tow yards.
Local Control: Dan fought to ensure local tolls are invested in local projects and public transit authorities get first option to build local projects in their area.
With the population in North Texas expected to reach 10 million by 2025, it’s going to take a full range of options in the transportation “toolbox” to build and maintain the capacity we’ll need to keep Texas moving.
Texas is one of the fastest growing states in the nation. Fundamental to our ability to support this growth is a diverse, long-term water supply.
Regions throughout the state are experiencing different rates of growth and have different water sources at their immediate disposal. Our response to the increased demands for water should be two-fold. We must enhance conservation plans along with strategies to develop new and diverse water resources.
Dan’s efforts to address our state’s water infrastructure challenge include:
Water Planning & Conservation: Dan was as a primary author to the Legislature’s most recent water planning initiative.
Protecting Reservoir Designations: Since North Texas does not sit atop an aquifer, Dan’s successful defense of reservoir site designations will pay dividends for future residents.
Developing New Resources: Strategies to import water from outside the state are likely to become an important tool to address future demand, which is why Dan joint authored the new law to allow existing banks and basins to be used for water transfer purposes.
As the Dallas Area Delegation Co-Chair, Dan will continue to be a leader in the Legislature to ensure a stable water supply for our growing population needs.
Democracy works best when its citizens are engaged in the process. In the advent of the internet age, it’s important to ensure citizens have access to video of all legislative hearings, debates and votes in real or recorded time online.
Because Texans want and deserve to know how their representatives vote on laws that affect their lives, Dan Branch has been one of the legislature’s leading advocates for an open and transparent state government. His accomplishments include:
Recorded Votes: 85% of Texas voters approved Dan’s constitutional amendment to require an on-the-record vote upon final passage of all new laws and resolutions decided upon by the Texas Legislature.
School District Accountability: As a key leader on fiscal transparency, Dan made public school leadership more accountable by requiring districts to post their spending online for public review.
Texas Enterprise Fund Accountability: Dan was a primary author of the law to inject more transparency and enforcement into the Enterprise Fund grant process. As a result of Dan's efforts, Enterprise Fund agreements now withhold a portion of the overall grant until performance targets are met, and require a full return of state money when recipients fall short of major goals.
Open Government Training: To ensure those who serve the citizens of Texas understand our state’s open government laws, Dan joint authored the successful bill to require public officials at every level to complete training on the Texas Open Meetings and Public Information Acts within 90 days of assuming their responsibilities.
Protecting the 1st Amendment: In 2009, Dan voted for Texas to join 37 other states and the District of Columbia in passing a “Shield Law” for journalists. These laws provide reporters and their sources various protections against being forced to disclose confidential information in state court.
Dan will continue to support initiatives that serve our public interest and increase government transparency and accountability.