MIDLOTHIAN — The Midlothian Chamber of Commerce hosted state Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, at its luncheon Wednesday in the Midlothian Conference Center.

Pitts spoke about Senate and House bills and his achievements for Ellis County and the state of Texas.

“I was honored to be reappointed to serve as chairman of the Appropriations Committee this session,” Pitts said. “It was my job to write House Bill 1, which contained the budget for the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years. However, before I could do that, we were $4.3 billion in the hole from the 2010-2011 budget and we had to close that gap.”

Pitts said he and Speaker of the House Joe Straus began to lessen that shortfall by asking state agencies to cut 5 percent from their budgets. These cuts affected all state agencies except education and prisons. However, those cuts had to be followed up with a second, statewide cut of 2.5 percent to all agency budgets, including education and prisons. These cuts saved Texas more than $1.5 billion.

“While those actions were able to alleviate some of the deficit, we still had to find $3.2 billion in order to pay all of our bills on time,” Pitts said. “We had to dip into the rainy day fund and take out $3.2 billion to cover our bills.”

As Pitts began writing HB 1 for the upcoming biennium, he was faced with a historic $27 billion shortfall.

“It was my firm belief that cutting spending and not raising taxes, was the right way to pass a balanced budget and continue the strong economic progress Texas has made,” Pitts said.

Pitts acknowledged that the first budget as written would have been devastating to Texas’ nursing homes, hospitals, public schools and university and community colleges. However, through his commitment and continual work to improve the budget, Pitts secured funding for all of those areas, while still cutting $15 billion from spending.

“This was the first time in Texas history that state spending was reduced by over $1 billion for two sessions in a row,” Pitts said.

Pitts said he was proud to be co-author of House Bill 278, which overhauled the process of eminent domain in Texas and created a statutory prohibition against a government or private entity taking land that was not for a public use.

“I’m proud to say that we are protecting Texas residents’ property rights with this bill,” Pitts said.

Pitts also spoke about his service on the redistricting committee for the state.

“I have represented District 10 for 18 years and was committed to keeping Ellis County whole through the redistricting,” Pitts said. “The first map the committee presented split Ellis County and I told them we had to keep it whole.”

The map Pitts agreed to and voted on was changed at the last minute to keep Ellis County whole, but removed all of Hill County from District 10 and added portions of Henderson County.

Another achievement for Texas, Pitts said, included an amendment to SB 1 that continues the exemption for small businesses from franchise fees. He also voted for an immigration bill that requires individuals to provide a proof of citizenship when obtaining a driver license.

Pitts said he also took steps to protect Texans’ 2nd Amendment rights by passing SB 321, allowing citizens with a valid concealed handgun license to keep a firearm locked inside their vehicle at work or in a private parking lot.

Pitts voted for SB 14, requiring registered voters to display a valid photo ID when voting. He also secured $3 million for a Multi-Institution Teaching Center in Midlothian. The center is a collaborative program led by Tarleton State University, Texas A&M University at Commerce and Navarro Community College.

Pitts was elected as state representative of District 10 in 1992. He has served on numerous committees since being elected, most recently served in the capacity of chairman of the House Appropriations Committee for the 82nd Legislative Session. Pitts also serves on the House Redistricting Committee and is a member of the Select Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding.

Contact Aaron at 469-517-1456 or a.schwaderer@wninews.com.