How is it in Austin? What are you doing when you’re not in session?
I love Austin! I am a proud University of Texas grad, and am happy to be able to experience the city yet again. When not in session, I am meeting with groups, advocates, and individuals both in Austin and at home in House District 134. I am also continuing to represent the indigent in our criminal courts and teach law at South Texas College of Law.
Do you return to Houston every weekend to see your wife, Sonya, and the dogs?
We alternate between Houston and Austin, and of course we’ll always have our three dogs accompanying us. I am thankful that Sonya’s job allows her to work remotely [so she can] be with me during this exciting time.
What are your priorities for the 87th Texas Legislative Session?
My priorities this session are fighting for our working families, fully funding our public schools, enacting common-sense gun reform, and finally expanding Medicaid in Texas to not only provide health care to more than one million uninsured Texans in the midst of a pandemic, but also to bring $100 billion of federal funding back home to Texas as we work to recover from this economic crisis.
Are you worried about the anti-LGBTQ bills and redistricting?
I am hopeful that the anti-LGBTQ bills will be unable to pass this session. While several horrible anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced, I believe that Republicans realize that the majority of Texans are against LGBTQ+ discrimination. Unfortunately, Democrats did not take the House this year, leaving Republicans to entirely control the redistricting process. I hope they can realize that voters want fair districts that allow their voices to be heard.
How are the COVID safety precautions in the House?
When we voted on the rules for the 87th Legislative Session, I am grateful that we landed on rules that take into account the health and safety of not only ourselves, but of all those with whom we interact. While some of our Republican colleagues are rebuking the idea of masks and social distancing, my Capitol office may be entered by appointment only, and masks and negative COVID-19 test results will be required. We hope that as the session progresses, we will be able to open up our office further.
Were you concerned at all about the pro-Trump violence that was being threatened at all of the state capitols in January?
I am very thankful that the Department of Public Safety has been ensuring our safety. They’re doing a fantastic job.
Do you think there is a way forward for Democrats and Republicans to work together, at both the federal and state levels?
I do believe that there is a way for us to reach across the aisle. [There are so many] challenging issues, and we need to come up with solutions for the entire state of Texas. I do expect that you will see a lot of necessary collaboration across the aisle on some of these big issues.
For more information on State Representative Ann Johnson, visit annjohnson.com.
This article appears in the February 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.