EXIT INTERVIEW: Texas Rep. Dan Huberty talks political changes
AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, is one of many state legislators whose name won’t be on the ballot come primary elections in March after years of lawmaking.
“I accomplished the things that I wanted to do,” he said. “I did more than education, I did a lot of really cool things and help my community.”
Huberty served on the Humble ISD school board for five years before deciding to run for the Texas House in 2010.
In 2019, he helped lead major reform to the way Texas schools are funded — which included $6.5 billion to improve public education and pay to teachers, plus $5.1 billion to lower school district taxes. When House Bill 3 was signed into law in 2019, Gov. Greg Abbott called it a “monumental moment in public education history in the state of Texas.”
Huberty acknowledged it as “major accomplishment” from his time in the legislature, and political analysts agree that it will likely be his greatest legacy.
“The system we had was…very archaic. He modernized it. He got the state to accept responsibility for more money going to the schools, rather than just being funded by local property taxes,” said Harvey Kronberg, publisher of the Quorum Report. “Certainly the institutional support for the schools is better as a result of HB3 and any number of bills that Huberty passed.”
The Houston Republican’s departure from the legislature joins a number of other longtime lawmakers leaving the Texas Capitol — either for higher office, retirement or pure exhaustion from the hostile political environment in society.
“I would never put my name on the ballot if it was in today’s society, based on what I’m seeing today,” Huberty said. “There are extremists on the far right, extremists on the far left, and they can’t come together for the common good and general ideas. And you’re seeing that at every level of government right now. It’s super frustrating.”
Kronberg, who has been covering the Texas legislature for decades, said there has been a noticeable shift in what was once seen as a very bipartisan statehouse.
“The session was dispiriting in a lot of different ways,” he said. “We function best as a government when we’re having an argument between the left and the right, which is where the best policy is made is when you have that interaction.”
Kronberg said the hyper-partisan atmosphere, combined with institutionalists leaving, could have a negative effect on good policymaking.
“All you have to do is spend five minutes with somebody who’s trying to explain to you the formulas for allocating funding to education — to find out that you’re lucky if you’ve got four or five experts on the floor. So yeah, there is going to be an institutional knowledge vacuum,” he said.
A struggle with addiction
In April of this year, Huberty was arrested in Montgomery County after crashing his car into another vehicle and failing a sobriety test. Shortly after, he apologized to his colleagues publicly in an emotional speech on the House floor about his struggle with alcoholism.
“You don’t have to hide in the dark, you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to get help. You don’t have to be ashamed,” he said. “If you need help, you know, there’s tons of people that are willing to help them, you know, including me.”
Huberty said he hasn’t had a drink in eight months.