Texas


Jeffrey Payne, Democrat

Jeffrey Payne:
The spirit of innovation and discovery have always been the driving forces in the growth and progress of our state, from NASA to our Military Complex to investments in finding cures. Science and Technology have always been the cutting edge of that innovation and should be encouraged and supported wisely by the government. State and National support for applied science as well as fundamental research is crucial to keeping our state and country moving forward. Invest through educational institutes is key to better students and a better Texas.

Jeffrey Payne:
Human caused climate change is real, we have seen it here in draughts, flooding, and coastal wear. The quicker we get past this fake controversy the better we can mitigate these effects: By enforcing rules and regulation through tougher penalties that at least cover the State’s cost in healthcare service. By continuing to grow our electrical grid into the wind, solar & hydro fields. By encouraging research into new problems of electrical storage, similar to Australia working with Tesla Corp. By making sure that Texas’ finite oil supply and the oil industry are cleaner, more efficient, and used effectively.

Jeffrey Payne:
A comprehensive cyber security policy is critical. Though we have an existing cyber security council now, we must continue to bolster this important defense. We must implement a system to secure our public and governmental networks while maintaining the robust flow of information that our country and civilization has come to rely upon. Particular attention must be paid to the rights and privacy of individuals as we do this. We cannot sacrifice freedom and privacy at the altar of security. It will not be a simple task but Texas has shown we are already ready to pursue it. Our nuclear power plants have already been through this assessment. I will continue to work with the Federal Government (National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act (H.R. 1731) 2015) and our Cyber Council, in making sure that what has started in San Antonio continues to grow.

Jeffrey Payne:
We must make mental health services affordable and available to all Texans. Diagnosing and treating mental health issues early prevents suffering and prevents greater problems if left untreated. Even though we have taken great strides during the 85th Texas Legislature (about 10 bills dealing with mental health were passed), there is much more that can be done. We must fund mental health services just like any other health related service. I firmly believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege.

Jeffrey Payne:
T‐STEM is an ever‐growing part of Texas education along with a balance of a well‐rounded programs that include critical thinking, language, history and culture. I will continue the Governor’s Science & Technology Champions Academy and Summer Merit Camps through The Texas Workforce Commission. I will also bring in more participation from the Private Sector. Apple is helping to develop code programs/classes in Austin, so why can’t we get Dell, Exxon and other companies to help drive students into fields that they will need filled in the future. We need to encourage the next generation of teachers are obtaining their STEM Certifications too.

Jeffrey Payne:
Our state depends on an abundant supply of clean water. Implementing a recent study can assure that through responsible conservation by cities and rural farmers, smarter reuse programs, larger/more surface retention, and by reinforcing, expanding and modernizing the infrastructure to deliver it can make sure every Texan has clean water. Texas must also take steps to mitigate the pollution or our waterways from agriculture and industry. I would like to see a quicker path from the Municipalities to start projects, if we could cut start time down to 2 years instead of 5, we would be much more proactive. Some Proposition 6 projects haven’t even started.

Jeffrey Payne:
Texas is a leading producer of agricultural products. We produce more livestock than any other state and is second in the country in total agricultural products. Texas also has more women and minority farm operations than any other state in the nation. We must maintain our agricultural industry but do it in a sustainable way by continuing our research programs in our colleges. Relying on excessive antibiotics has led to unexpected super‐resistant diseases. Use of antibiotic on Texas livestock needs to be examined and perhaps regulated. Our Grants and Programs should continue, and hopefully we can expand the Organic Cost Share Reimbursement Program.

Jeffrey Payne:
Texas has a deep connection to space research and exploration. The benefits of the past robust space program have been positive for our state. I believe we must invest more time and effort into continuing space exploration using both private and public funding. Replacing our ageing satellite infrastructure is key to maintaining ongoing weather and climate research, and working toward more manned space exploration may be the future of our long‐term survival.

Jeffrey Payne:
Texas is blessed with the sixth longest coastline in our nation. The health of the oceans is vital to not only Texas fisheries but to our health and welfare. I will make sure that those who are impacted by the rules and regulations of shrimping, crabbing and oyster culls, etc., will have input and receive the same information we have, this way we can help each other’s bottom line. We must avoid over‐fishing and monitor the health of the Gulf of Mexico. We must reduce offshore drilling pollution and for a state like Texas that will be a big step. I would like to see the continual restoration of our reefs. We need to invest in finding better biodegradable plastic, and limit the use of plastic bags and six pack holders. We need to examine the impact of plastic glitter in our Texas waterways, and beach fronts.

Jeffrey Payne:
Politicians have no business trying to control scientific inquiry simply because the outcome might disagree with their beliefs. Scientists should be free to pursue and report their findings without fear of reprisal by politicians. A robust program of state and privately funded science will assure that our state is a leader in knowledge and innovation. People need to know that without scientist, we would have not been to the moon, we will not have shrimp to eat, we will not have prepared employees coming out of our schools, nor we will have the ability to adapt to the ever‐changing energy sector. With the new standards, “Fostering Integrity in Research” coming out, scientist should have a better sway over politicians and their own credibility. When we have an open and honest public discussion with scientist, then I feel both sides gain integrity.


Jason Westin, Democrat, District 7
Mike Clark, Democrat, District 31

Jason Westin :
The history of America is the history of scientific achievement, from Ben Franklin and the kite, right up to today curing disease once thought incurable. We are stronger because of science. The government plays an important role to stimulate innovative science and technology in three ways.
  1. Adequate funding of basic science research. The research funded by the private sector is often focused on a project ready for commercialization, but the work required to get to this point is essential and more difficult to justify in a for profit company. Breakthroughs rarely happen in a vacuum – usually, they are incremental and start in an academic research setting
  2. A visa program that allows and encourages the best and brightest from around the world to come to the US to train at our universities and stay to help drive science and technology innovation. The smartest students in the world want to come here, and we are better for it.
  3. A robust patent system, with pushback on patent trolls. If an innovative company invests in developing a new technology, they should benefit if the technology is successful. If patents are weak or too narrow, it is a strong disincentive to innovate.

Mike Clark :
As one who grew up during the Apollo and Space Shuttle era, I was inspired to go into science by those accomplishments. The role government has had with science and technology has not only promoted but nurtured many innovations throughout our history. It is critical that government fund science and technology education in our public schools and colleges. It is also vital that government provide low interest loans and grants to help start science driven businesses. The economic benefit to our country is felt many times over and the return in tax revenue is also positive. Cancer research, GPS, weather monitoring, satellite communication, and many more are examples of how government can kick start innovation. The National Science Foundation has been at the forefront of many of these scientific adventures and should continue to do so.

Jason Westin :
The science is clear: The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which reviewed all the available information, concluded that it is extremely likely that human activities have caused more than half the increase in global temperatures, that it is virtually certain that global temperatures have increased since 1950, and that each of the past three decades has been the warmest ever recorded. We must do two things immediately.
  1. Begin a responsible but real transition from primarily depending upon carbon emitting energy production to increase our usage of zero carbon emitting energy production.
  2. Invest in technology that can begin to “drawdown” the amount of atmospheric C02.

Mike Clark :
Climate change is real and needs to be taken seriously. It poses a direct threat to our jobs, health, and security. Trump trashed the Paris agreement, but that should not prevent us from stepping up to implement that agreement in our homes, businesses, communities and cities. John Muir, one of our early naturalists in America, knew how vitally connected we all are to this planet. He noted, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” True then, and still true today. Promoting businesses and homes to reuse gray water for irrigation is an efficient, effective, and a true conservative way to conserve and repurpose our water. Constructing green buildings is big business, and we should foster those efforts. The Carbon Fee and Dividend initiative is a positive step at reducing CO2 emissions and putting money back into the middle class.

Denying climate change is like denying the bubonic plague. Both can kill us, and we’d be fools to deny the facts. I come from seven generations of Texans whose livelihoods were farming and ranching. I have inherited the meaning behind sustainable environmental practices. A sustainable land is part of my upbringing and ethics. So, let’s show the world that we do cherish our planet and will take care of it now and for the sake of future generations. I believe we all want to provide our future generation some of the same opportunities to experience the many splendors of this planet that we can see and experience today, such as, the Redwood Forest, Corel Reefs, Glaciers, and many more. Let’s all be good stewards of the land that we depend on.

Jason Westin :
We have unprecedented information access with the internet and smart phones, but has come at a great cost to our privacy with significant increases in the amount of personal information available to attack. There is also a significant risk that our consumption of information can be compromised by people who wish us harm – the epidemic of false news stories that exploded in the 2016 election. We must do two things
  1. Increase the robustness of passwords, utilization of two-stage verification, and securing online data to reduce the risk of compromise of our personal information.
  2. Make it clear to other nations that an attack on American citizens from their nation, regardless of state sponsored or private citizens, will result in serious penalties, including economic sanctions, cancelation of trade deals, and potential military force.

Mike Clark :
Our current Congressman from TX-31 chairs a subcommittee on Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is at the forefront of using technology to help keep us safe. Our Congressman seems to repeatedly struggle with basic technology concepts, such as encryption, during these hearings. With Russia using cyber-attacks to meddle in our elections and extortionist using ransomware to hold our money hostage, these issues must be seriously addressed. I have an extensive background in science and computer technology. That technical understanding will help me formulate sound strategies for DHS. Being able to draft appropriate legislation on this topic is very important as we face new changing technology threats in the 21st century.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act needs to be updated to not only address modern technology influence but also to ensure that our personal privacy is protected. The FISA court is too opaque and the laws are too inadequate to address current technology challenges and privacy issues.

Our federal government must be the clear leader in securing our technology infrastructure. The oversight of private business contracts must be strengthened to ensure compliance and timely deliverables. Getting the right technology matched with the right problems is fundamental to accomplishing this critical task.

Jason Westin :
Mental health issues are like any other health issues – a matter of biology, and thus should not be treated with a stigma of weakness or blame. We don’t blame someone for having type I diabetes, why should we blame someone for having anxiety or depression which leads to substance abuse? When elected, I would do the following
  1. Increase research on the triggers for substance abuse to identify people at risk and begin treatments before a crisis emerges.
  2. Increase availability and awareness of appropriate counseling, community support networks, and medications if required.
  3. Increase funding for substance abuse treatment, with a focus on continuity of cessation by continued contact to avoid relapsing addiction.

Mike Clark :
Mental health needs to be treated just like other chronic diseases. Having Medicare for all and having Medicaid in all 50 states is essential to help provide the much needed services and coverage for treating this growing nationwide problem. I would also support funding that focuses on prevention and intervention. Talking care of a problem before it becomes a crisis is well worth the money and time spent up front.

Far too often our society locks up people with mental health conditions as a way of hiding the problem from society. This barbaric practice is not only a burden on the prison system and but only exacerbates an ongoing crisis. Shutting down private prisons will remove the profit driven motive that is behind keeping people with mental health conditions locked up.

We lose almost two dozen veterans per day to suicide, with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) being the leading cause. We need to bring this to the forefront because PTSD IS a national crisis. It represents the true cost of war. This cannot be ignored. Taking care of our veterans should never be in question or be in doubt. Our veterans have honorably served our nation and made considerable sacrifices for our freedom and liberties. Many of these fine men and women have endured things most of us could not comprehend. As a parent whose children, brother-in-law, grandfather, uncles and father-in-law have served, this issue is very close to my heart. I have heard many heart wrenching stories from families and veterans during my 2016 campaign. Our focus should be on quality and meaningful care for our veterans. We can NEVER quit on them because they NEVER quit on us!

Jason Westin :
We cannot teach our students for the 20th century, we must prepare them to enter the workforce of the 21st century. This means including coding, online security, and a focus on STEM education into our curriculum so that tomorrow’s leaders are equipped for our new challenges.

Mike Clark :
It took the Soviet Union launching Sputnik to “wake-up” America to the importance of science and math. From that, America was motived to invest in science and technology. It shouldn’t take another wake-up call for us to get re-motived. The current political environment at both the federal and state level in Texas has been to decrease funding for education. This has been detrimental to both the science and the arts. The lack of emphasis on critical thinking in public schools has created a shortfall of thinkers and doers in our workforce. I support federal funding at all educational levels to jump start an eager generation of science and technology innovators. However, funding will need to be complimented by leadership examples, and we will need to use inspirational science and technology innovators in our society to help lead by example and inspire others.

Jason Westin :
Clean water is taken for granted, and lack of it is a common cause of disease and death around the world. Our leaders have not done enough to improve our infrastructure, including water, to modernize America for the 21st Century. Congress must pass legislation requiring that all cities have clean water, and fund repairs needed to ensure Americans do not suffer the health consequences of contaminated or polluted water. We must also ensure we have the infrastructure for our growing population, using technology to have scalable clean water availability.

Mike Clark :
Climate change has drastically altered out nation’s long term water supplies. Certainly, the Clean Water Act needs updating to address our 21st century needs. Our EPA rules and regulations need to be strengthened and enforced to ensure our water is clean and pure. However, we also need good leadership at the top to make that happen. The lack of focus from top government leadership should not deter us locally from doing the right thing. Reusing gray water in our homes and businesses is a practical conservation way to make the best use of this precious resource. Green buildings that not only reuse their water for irrigation, but also for cooling will lead to significant energy savings, as well. I would support repealing and removing archaic laws and rules that hinder water reclamation efforts. With our increasing dry hot summer months in Central Texas, it is imperative that native plants and native landscapes are used because they are not only naturally drought tolerant, but very water-wise. I would support funding through the Agriculture Department programs that promote and encourage the farming of crops that rely less on water in dry farming regions. This would put less burden on the fragile ground water supplies as well as area lakes. Wetlands naturally cleans our water systems and should be preserved and protected from development. Fracking should also be banned where water is scarce. I would also support funding from Congress to modernizing state and local government water infrastructures for more efficient, reliable, and smart management practices.

Jason Westin :
The American agricultural system is incredible and highly efficient with use of technology, but we must continue to innovate. Indoor farming with artificial lighting and little to no soil is emerging as an option to produce highly nutritious produce and this should be explored for expansion. The use of genetically modified agriculture to increase yield, nutrition, and decrease pesticide usage has been successful and should be increased in a responsible manner.

Mike Clark :
Yes, it IS true! We are what we eat. In today’s fast food environment, we often forget the value that fresh food has on our health. The high cost of health care can be directly related to what we eat. Your body knows what it needs to sustain you. Knowledge can help counter those cravings and desires to have something other than what you need. Full disclosure on what is in our food is a must. I will support legislation that requires full disclosure of everything, and I mean everything that is in the food we eat. We deserve to know what’s in our food, and we have the right to choose what we put in our bodies. Ingredients must be easily readable and explained. If the CEOs of big food companies don’t know what is in that package of cereal, then why should we eat it?

Funding early childhood nutritional programs and education are crucial to getting children on the right start for a healthy lifestyle. Chronic disease and issues like obesity and diabetes can be avoided or at least minimized simply by adopting good eating habits early in life.

Farming is becoming cool again! I am encouraged that more millennials are starting up farm businesses. Let’s also encourage locally sourced food and make it easier for consumers to access. It’s good for our local economy and good for our health. This is where Congress needs to update our agricultural policies for a sustainable 21st century farming era. It is no longer the 1930’s! My ranching and farming family members would have never grown or raised anything that they would not have consumed themselves. The same can be said for our local farmers. If we live and work in Williamson and Bell County of Texas, then there’s no reason why we can’t easily enjoy the same great foods grown here as well.

Jason Westin :
We must continue our progress towards exploring our solar system, and beyond, to both learn more about our universe and how we can improve our lives, and to build the necessary technology for colonization of our moon and other worlds. Public-private partnerships, like that of NASA and Space X, have the potential to reduce costs and drive innovation. America is a country that does big things, like go to the moon, and we are inspired by big dreams. Sending a human to another world would capture the imagination of generations to come.

Mike Clark :
We should set our goals high and achieve greater results. That is how we push the boundaries of space exploration. Aiming for the moon was one such approach by JFK and thus, we set forth tangible and achievable steps to get there. Much of the same can be done for Mars, and beyond the solar system. We have enough smarts, experience, and technology to make space travel safe and economically affordable. All that we lack is the political will and clear vision to make it happen. Such space based investments have benefitted our economy many times over. GPS, Processors, satellite television, heat resistant materials and more are all outgrowths of space exploration.

We also stand on the verge of having an amazing technologically efficient system for observing and analyzing the earth. What we lack is the automated analytical systems to process all the data that is collected. Even with every human on earth analyzing all the data, there would be no way to process all that information and come up with results. This is a prime example where investing in artificial intelligent analytics and geospatial technology can have the best benefit to our planet. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) play a critical role in smart decision making when it comes to our natural resources. The science and math are there to make it happen. We just lack the inspiration to make it happen. I had the pleasure of studying under Dr. Bill Muhlberger at the University of Texas and Dr. Victor Whitehead of NASA who trained Apollo and Space Shuttle on earth observations. They were part of the first generation of scientists at figuring out the science of space based earth observations. I’m proud to have followed in their footsteps. My graduate work in GIS and Geology with remote sensing and ground data was a value contribution to the scientific community.

I would definitely support funding the National Science Foundation to continue to spur such innovation in this sector.

Jason Westin :
This is a challenging subject, as much of the damage done to oceans including increasing temperature and acidification, are due to extra-ocean factors like climate change. Addressing our carbon production and sequestration will have an impact on the health of our oceans. We should invest in creative engineering solutions to deal with ocean acidification. For overfishing, we must ensure that our biodiversity is protected and could do so via taxation of the product of overfished populations to ensure the economic forces support responsible fishing.

Mike Clark :
Implementing the Paris agreement is a must. Implementing the Carbon Fee and Dividend system must also occur in tangent. Limiting fishing of species that are on the decline in our exclusive economic zone should be a priority. Limiting new constructing of petro-chemical plants is also a must to ensure our rivers and oceans are free of toxic pollutants. We must also ban the dumping of garbage in our ocean and promote more reuse and recycling of our used products. Requiring that many one-time use products are biodegradable is a meaningful way of keeping our oceans from becoming one giant garbage dump. The ocean is losing oxygen at an increasing rate which has contributed to the Giant Coral Reef off Australia dying off. This is having a domino effect on the oceans ecosystem and affects our land ecosystem, too. Let’s think before we act and focus on a sustainable living on land so that our oceans are sustainable with life for future generations.

Jason Westin :
I focused my first campaign video on this subject because I believe that the attacks on facts and science are a crisis for America’s future ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oz4wg4AqEg&t=21s ).

Facts are facts, and should not be treated as partisan fictions. We must respect and elevate science by having more scientists involved in government and in policy development. It is irresponsible and dangerous to have career politicians with little to no scientific background creating our scientific policy and funding levels.

I am a scientist and a doctor (in addition to my MD, I also have a masters of science degree). I understand and respect the importance of science for America, and would fight to protect and expand its role for our future. My district includes many people who work in the Texas Medical Center, a hub for medicine and innovative research, and thus these issues are critical to our local economy and future. If America falters, other nations will be glad to pick up the mantle of scientific leadership with all the benefits that it entails. For America to remain a dominant force for centuries to come, we must increase our investments in and respect for science.

Mike Clark :
The political efforts at denial of science for political gains is destructive for our livelihood and wellbeing. Investing in critical thinking at a young age is a priority if we are to move out of the denial dark ages. Federal funding must be increased and promoted in this area. The methods of scientific inquiry and investigation is what leads us to new discoveries. There is no half-baked solution on this.

Super Pacs and big money are the biggest threats to fact based reasoning. Campaign finance reform is a top priority if we are to get secret money out of politics. Protecting scientists from prosecution and work place retaliation as a response for just reveling the facts must be legally protected in our labor laws.

Leading by example and sharing by example is the greatest way we can foster our scientific culture. There are many tangible benefits that everyday Americans take for granted thanks to science. Highlighting these examples will help educate and promote more science. Let’s make science cool again!

Mike Clark :
Cuts in education at the state level have had a negative impact on educating our next generation. This not only affects the quality of life, but also future innovation and economic growth. It will be a mortal wound to our society if we do not restore full funding for education.

The lack of state environmental regulation and enforcement has lead to more air pollution and tainted water. The “look the other way” policies by our state governmental leaders has put profit above safe keeping. The lack of enforcement of environmental laws has further endangered many wonderful species of Central Texas in TX-31, such as, the beautiful Golden-cheeked Warbler that nest only in Texas. This trend must be reversed at the federal and state level if we are to preserve our best natural resources for future generations.

The runaway land development process has caused areas in TX-31 to be more flood prone. With more concrete covering our land, there is less natural open spaces to act like a sponge to soak up rainfall. Central Texas is already naturally known as “Flash Flood Alley” and the deregulated policies of our state has only made flood matters worse. This has caused more loss and has lead to higher insurance rates. Focusing on construction that naturally blends in and works with nature instead of against it is both economical and environmentally sound.

Some of our local cities in TX-31 have acted at the local level to be more environmentally friendly with city growth, but the anti-science state political leaders have passed legislation that limits or bans local community efforts. Help me become your Congressman, and I will commit to having more fact based and scientific solutions at the federal level. But it is imperative to have similar efforts at the state and local levels to make tangible solutions happen.


Organizations Who Developed the Questions: The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Chemical Society (ACS), the American Geosciences Institute (AGI), the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), the American Institute of Physics (AIP), the American Physical Society (APS), the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Council on Competitiveness, IEEE-USA, the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Media Partner: Scientific American