May 12

The Energy Question, Episode 41: Genevieve Collins , AFP TX State Director

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The Energy Question, Episode 41: Genevieve Collins , AFP TX State Director

In Episode 41 of The Energy Question, David Blackmon interviews Genevieve Collins, State Director for the Texas Chapter of Americans for Prosperity.

00:00 – Intro

00:56 – Genevieve discusses her background and the mission of AFP Texas

03:02 – Talks about Americans for Prosperity and how it started

04:51 – Discussion of AFP’s legislative agenda in Texas

06:01 – The importance of property tax cuts

09:18 – AFP’s efforts related to charter schools

11:47 – Discussion on Education savings accounts

14:46 – Recap of recent House Public Education Committee hearing on school choice

18:26 – Where you can find AFP Texas and get involved

19:19 – Discussion of Proposition K in El Paso

25:00 – End

 

AFP Texas Home Page: https://americansforprosperity.org/state/texas/

 

The Energy Question, Episode 41: Genevieve Collins, AFP TX State Director

 

David Blackmon [00:00:09] Hey, Welcome to the Energy Question with David Blackmon. I’m your host, David Blackmon. And my very special guest today is Genevieve Collins, who is the state director for Americans for Prosperity, Texas Division. Genevieve, how are you today?

Genevieve Collins [00:00:24] Hey, David. I’m doing great. Thank you for having me.

David Blackmon [00:00:27] Well, thank you so much for doing this. I we were talking just so everyone knows before we started recording about the fact that Genevieve ran for Congress in 2020 and the district where I live, and I was happy to vote for her. Unfortunately, she did, I think. But. But she would have been a terrific representative for Texas in Congress. But now she’s doing work on behalf of AFP, Texas. And do you find that this work to maybe be preferable to being elected official in Washington, D.C.?

Genevieve Collins [00:01:04] Absolutely. You know, as I talked to you previously, I’m a doer and life is so much more fun when you can actually see the things that you want to have come to fruition, the things that you want to see done, get done, and not just kind of wait around for 434 other people to join you.

Genevieve Collins [00:01:25] So I am loving being at AFP and to be honest, I got to RFP because they endorsed my campaign and I thought, you know, there are all these specialists in the political world when you’re running for office, you’ve got all of your social organizations and you’re trying to earn their endorsement.

Genevieve Collins [00:01:44] And those social organizations are great and they’re specialists. But I thought, who’s going to be there for the taxpayer? Everyone’s a taxpayer, and everyone should be talking about monetary, fiscal and tax policy because that affects all of us.

Genevieve Collins [00:01:59] And AFP was the only organization that had a long-standing record of showing up for taxpayers. And I thought that’s the wagon I want to hitch to. And it’s been a lot of fun. I clearly sound like a huge nerd now, which I am, but I mean.

David Blackmon [00:02:15] Me too. Yeah. So Americans for Prosperity, if I remember right, wasn’t it begun back in the eighties or even earlier than that?

Genevieve Collins [00:02:27] Well, it’s probably it’s gone through multiple iterations and really kind of started to take off during the Tea Party movement back in 2000. Okay. So 2009, I think it started as FreedomWorks and then kind of started through that movement and then has evolved now into a national organization that both works at the state and at the federal level.

David Blackmon [00:02:55] Well, it’s becoming a big organization in Texas. You were telling me before we started our interview that you’ve really grown the group there here in the last couple of years since you came on board.

Genevieve Collins [00:03:08] Yeah, I’ve been at the helm of Americans for Prosperity for two years. I started with I started the day for all of the people that watch that or will watch this. I started the day of the Snowpocalypse in 2021.

Genevieve Collins [00:03:21] So imagine that’s your first day and you can’t even get a hold anyone because no one had power. So that was a wild experience. But I started with seven employees in four cities, and now I’ve got 32 full-time staff across 13 cities in Texas. And we are the largest nonpartisan policy and grassroots organization in the state of Texas.

Genevieve Collins [00:03:47] And we’re in small markets where in big markets And our sole goal is to make sure that we educate, we engage, and we activate people on the issues. And it’s so refreshing to be and be a part of an issue-centric organization, even though it seems kind of boring to most people. But issues really are what bind us all together and can facilitate a conversation, can work to bridge divides versus talking just about a candidate or a member. We can actually talk about issues and get work done.

David Blackmon [00:04:23] Well, it’s not boring to me. You know, my audience knows that I’m a public policy nerd nut. And I have obsess about it every day. And, you know, and of course, the legislature’s in session now. I lobbied in Austin for 15 years.

David Blackmon [00:04:39] And so I’m always excited about what’s happening in Austin and very interested in how you guys have are working on an array of issues down there right now. Talk about the agenda you guys have going.

Genevieve Collins [00:04:55] So we have a very robust agenda at this exact moment. I’m thinking to myself, did we bite off more than we could chew? But you know, what we’re really focused on is five main issue areas health care reform, education reform, housing reform, property tax reform and criminal justice reform. And so those are the kind of five buckets. And then within each of those, we break those down to really create more opportunity for more folks.

David Blackmon [00:05:28] Well, for of course, for the energy business, which we focus on here, there’s two of those categories. Well, they’re all important. But the two that really stand out, of course, having been in the industry for so long, are property taxes. And we have this enormous budget surplus that they’re trying to figure out how to give some of it back to taxpayers. And then, of course, education reform, which is vitally important to the whole business community. Let’s start by talking about your average column on property taxes. First. What is your position on all that?

Genevieve Collins [00:06:08] Well, first off, because I have 13 offices across the state of Texas and over 250,000 activists and a huge volunteer base. I hear from everybody, despite any race or creed, everyone thinks that they pay too much in property taxes.

Genevieve Collins [00:06:25] And I think that that’s fundamentally true this is a human issue, not a partizan issue. And so what we’re really focused on and I would say Americans for Prosperity, we’ve been in Texas for ten years and this is kind of been appears bread and butter for probably the last three sessions about six years.

Genevieve Collins [00:06:47] And what we’re really focused on is how do we make property tax reform lasting? You know, there are two separate proposals in the House and the Senate, and they’re divergent. And it looks like these guys are fixing to go into battle and have a big fight between the House and the Senate about their different approaches and their different definitions of lasting property tax reform.

Genevieve Collins [00:07:10] We’re kind of the best case scenario they get their heads together and they say we’re going to increase the homestead exemption, we’re going to decrease appraisal caps, we’re going to compress all of the spending at the property tax, school maintenance, school and operations fund. And we can do all of the above solutions.

Genevieve Collins [00:07:32] I’m not sure that that’s going to happen that is an absolute ideal best-case scenario. But I think as Texas gets, you know, a thousand new people a day, we have to take property tax reform and relief really seriously. So we’re not taking people out of their homes, taxing people out of their homes.

David Blackmon [00:07:52] Yeah. You know, and it’s also important to everybody in Texas. I was watching the news last night. I live in Fort Worth or just south of it, and they’re talking about the Tarrant County appraisals going up 18% this year on average, 18%, while in one year.

Genevieve Collins [00:08:13] you’re tripling inflation. Right. Just say something.

David Blackmon [00:08:16] Yeah, it is. It’s just nuts and people can’t afford that. You know, there’s a lot of people living on fixed incomes who just can’t tolerate that kind of an increase in their tax bill. And so I’m really glad to see y’all are focused on that.

David Blackmon [00:08:32] Yeah, you know, I know the lieutenant governor has his bill already through the Senate and the House is is working on their bill, which focuses on lowering the appraisal caps. And hopefully there is a compromise in there because it’s really important when you look at the oil and gas business that I was in, we’re one of two states in the whole country that allows property taxes to be assessed not just on your physical property value of the reserves in the ground.

David Blackmon [00:09:05] And people don’t know. But the average barrel of oil that’s produced in Texas, you pay taxes on the average barrel three times before you ever get it up out of the ground. And yeah, it’s a big thing. And then on education, you guys I know, are really focused on the charter school issue, correct?

Genevieve Collins [00:09:25] We’re focused on charter schools and making sure that charter schools aren’t discriminated against in their application process. It’s kind of a nuance, but the bigger fight for us is really about school choice and leveraging education savings accounts.

David Blackmon [00:09:41] Yeah, and school choice is such a controversial issue. Why do you think that issue? Is such a point of controversy that when I looked at it just and I don’t have a dog in the fight anymore. I’m old and already raised my kids, but it just seems like a no-brainer to me for everyone.

Genevieve Collins [00:10:05] I agree. I mean, there’s so many complexities in the education space and prior to running for office, I spent 12 years helping build my family company, which is in the education technology space. So I have a first-hand look at working with teachers, administrators, superintendents, students.

Genevieve Collins [00:10:23] So I’ve had this kind of background where, you know, for example, I worked in Memphis and I for eight years I worked with Memphis schools and I had teachers tell me that these poor black kids cannot learn. And I was like, I’m I’m sorry, what? That’s just.

David Blackmon [00:10:41] Nonsense.

Genevieve Collins [00:10:42] It’s fundamentally incorrect and every child deserves to have a world class education. And it should be, regardless of the walls within which you are in, you should be able to have access to a world-class education, escape generational poverty, but also be a productive citizen. As you continue to age, we want to have an educated and innovative workforce.

Genevieve Collins [00:11:05] If we keep kids stuck in failing schools, how are we creating a better and brighter future for the next generation? And so I think from what I can tell, because I’ve sat on all these very long hearings and I’ve been testifying in them, so you know what I’m talking about. I mean, you’re stuck there for a long time.

Genevieve Collins [00:11:25] But, you know, the argument is that having an education savings account would defund public schools. Well, that’s factually incorrect. No part of the $84 billion K-12 education budget is actually touched by the proposal for education savings accounts.

Genevieve Collins [00:11:47] And education savings accounts are essentially a financial tool that will allow parents to direct the money for where they want their kids to be going to school. They’re not getting a check, but they’re going to be able to direct 8 to $10000 on where they want their kid to go to school. That could be a public school. That could be a private school, charter school, home school, micro-school, you name it.

Genevieve Collins [00:12:11] And I think that there’s this fear that if you pass school choice, all of a sudden you’re defunding public schools, which is incorrect. You’re quitting now. You’re turning the Friday night lights off, which is also factually incorrect. And and you’re not supporting teachers. Well, I would say, you know, we’ve been talking about this a lot here in Austin.

Genevieve Collins [00:12:36] And I would say I wanted to say this directly to one of the state reps that represents Houston. I asked I said, Do you really think that it’s fair for your kids, your students, to be stuck in failing public schools that now the state has had to take over?

Genevieve Collins [00:12:51] Do you think that your kids are better off then giving their parents? They’re screaming for an option, any other option, than having to send their kids to the same failing public schools? And this is not a war on public school. This is how do we actually make kids have a how do we allow kids to have a brighter future? And how do we help them learn when so many of them are reading below grade level, and doing math, way below grade level? How do we actually change this changing situation and flip the script?

David Blackmon [00:13:23] And the Houston Public Schools are such a great example. I mean, when I was in school in the seventies, the Houston public schools were a massive failure. They’ve been a failure for four or five generations, children.

Genevieve Collins [00:13:37] And it’s acceptable, apparently.

David Blackmon [00:13:39] Yeah. And people act like there’s no alternative to that.

Genevieve Collins [00:13:43] Right.

David Blackmon [00:13:44] You know, and Randi Weingarten and her union, to me, is it really the most counterproductive force in the whole education debate? How do we fight all the right disinformation and propaganda that comes out of that group and others like them with this claims that school choice somehow is destroying the public schools, which is just it’s not true. And it’s one of my great frustrations that we just can never seem to get past the propaganda to the real nub of the issue.

Genevieve Collins [00:14:20] You know, if I had that, if I had the answer to that question, we would have passed school choice already. But you’re right.

David Blackmon [00:14:29] Well, but your group is so vital what you’re doing, I think, is really a vital part of that. You know, overcoming that disinformation that’s in the.

Genevieve Collins [00:14:39] Way it is. Well, thank you. I mean, last week here in Austin, we had the first time the House Public Education Committee had a hearing on school choice. This is the first time in my lifetime that it’s happened. We’ve actually gotten a hearing. I’m almost 37 years old. So what was really cool is there were 175 folks that testified that said that they wanted to testify.

Genevieve Collins [00:15:07] The majority of them were testifying in support of school choice. The rest were obviously against. But what was really cool is that our organization, Americans for Prosperity, I also run on a sister organization called the Libre Initiative, which is focused on Hispanic engagement across Texas. We brought 40 parents from all over the state.

Genevieve Collins [00:15:28] And at one point, we had a gal from Grand Prairie that’s in between Dallas and Fort Worth, a gal from Grand Prairie. She had just become a United States citizen a year ago. She was so nervous. She was like, I didn’t even know I could come. All of these people said I didn’t even know I could come up here and testify, tell my story.

Genevieve Collins [00:15:46] But she was so nervous that she testified in Spanish. And it was such a cool moment because we had a translator there for her and she was so nervous, but she was so convicted because growing up in Mexico, they never had any choice they were told exactly what they were going to do, how they were going to do it. And she wanted a better future for her kids and had gone through the immigration process, had become an American citizen, and wanted to fight for her kids future.

Genevieve Collins [00:16:13] And it was such a powerful moment. David And watching all of the members on the diocese be like, know you’re breaking your you know, their jaws were dropped. I mean, you’re shattering their notion of minorities wanting school, that school choice. And it was just a really cool moment.

David Blackmon [00:16:34] You know, that’s just such a great point you bring up, But people don’t know how easy it is for literally any citizen of Texas to testify at a legislative hearing. All you have to do is show up, show up, show up, fill out a little card, say you want to testify, and that hearing’s going to last until everybody who has signed up and said they want to testify. Has been allowed and given time to testify. That’s how our public meetings over meetings law works.

Genevieve Collins [00:17:07] Yeah.

David Blackmon [00:17:08] And I’ve been I’ve sat through sessions that went to 4:00 in the morning because you had so many people that wanted to come, you know, offer testimony. So it’s really the easiest thing in the world and it’s your right to be heard. So thank you.

Genevieve Collins [00:17:25] Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I like to say that we’re just we just provide people the platform and hand them the microphone. You know, that AFP can help them find their voice and why their voice is a contribution to the issue, because so many people feel like they have to be invited to talk about the issue before they can actually go in and talk about it. And we try to refute that and say, No, your voice already matters. Let us just hand you the microphone.

David Blackmon [00:17:54] Yeah. Yeah. It anyway, that’s a beautiful thing. It’s a beautiful part of our society that so many people don’t know about. It’s really disturbing. Yeah. Anyway. Oh, no, our audience knows. Right? So. Good. Well, yeah. Go down to Austin a little.

Genevieve Collins [00:18:10] Y’all come down and join me. Y’all look me up on Twitter calling Texas.

David Blackmon [00:18:15] Hey, let’s do this. Now. I was going to stop, but, yeah, tell people how they can get in touch with y’all and get involved before we go to the El Paso issue.

Genevieve Collins [00:18:24] Sure. So you can follow us on Twitter. We have a very active Twitter feed. I’m personally very active as well. So our Twitter feed is Texas Hfp. That’s Americans for Prosperity, Texas at Texas AFP, mine is at G. Collins, C O Alliance, Texas. You can find us there or on our website www Americans for Prosperity dot org.

David Blackmon [00:18:51] Fantastic. Well, we’re going to leave Austin now and go to El Paso. Good, cause I know you guys are very active in opposing this crazy proposition K in El Paso that’s on the ballot right now. Talk about what’s happening there so that people understand the pernicious things that are going on in our cities.

Genevieve Collins [00:19:18] Yeah. Proposition K started out as a grassroots movement and it has three unique attributes. It stated that it wants to, one, reduce the city’s climate contribution to invest in an environmentally sustainable future. And three, advance the cause of climate justice. Well, I’m not sure what climate justice is.

David Blackmon [00:19:44] But I was going to ask you.

Genevieve Collins [00:19:48] Apparently, that’s the thing now. No, that’s the thing. Okay. Yes. But the reality is, is that this is a local government overstepping the state government’s regulations and it is putting on the ballot that they collected 25,000 signatures across the city of El Paso.

Genevieve Collins [00:20:06] And we’re able to get this as a ballot measure that would basically bankrupt, absolutely bankrupt the city of El Paso. It would force El Paso INS who their median income is about $36,000. It would over the course of eight years, I think it’s seven years. It would tax El Paso and $38,000.

Genevieve Collins [00:20:27] They want to buy the entire El Paso electric grid, basically take us from a decentralized energy source or energy grid to a regulated one that the city would regulate, which, you know, they’re incredibly good at managing money in El Paso since they passed over $800 million of debt certificates of obligation, which is non-voter approved debt.

Genevieve Collins [00:20:51] So if you can’t tell by my tone of voice, I am just I am kidding. But El Paso is good at this. But more importantly, it would create a precedent across the state of Texas that would say that we have to compete completely and 100% energy at clean energy by 2035 or 2045.

Genevieve Collins [00:21:15] And to be honest, our energy profile at AFP, we believe in kind of an all of the above solution for energy. We should have oil, we should have natural gas. It’s cheap, cleaner, domestic. We should have renewables. We should have Bitcoin mining.

Genevieve Collins [00:21:31] We should have as many energy options as possible. Because when Texas is energy dominant, America is energy abundant and that helps everybody. But El Paso is trying to make this whole argument about having a clean energy green city and doing it in a city that can afford it the least.

David Blackmon [00:21:52] Right. Yeah. And, you know, to me, this effort is really a can of worms that is just kind of a pretext for using the climate debate to start implementing a more socialist agenda overall and increased local government control of people’s lives. And it just you know, it’s happened in other cities around the country, hasn’t it? And they haven’t had the best results so far happening.

Genevieve Collins [00:22:25] No, absolutely not. I mean, local governments, by and large, are some of the biggest spenders that there are across the country, and they have very little accountability for it. And they just keep spending and trying to fall more power and they’re ending up bankrupting their cities. And you know what happens? Jobs move out.

Genevieve Collins [00:22:48] The El Paso Chamber did a study and they were they estimated 170,000 jobs would cease to exist in El Paso. El Paso already is the only city in Texas that has a decreased population. They have people flood out of there.

Genevieve Collins [00:23:04] And, you know, this is kind of this is this is just not what Texas needs. We just need to showcase across the state that Texas Energy works and that we want clean energy, but we also want to use all of the energy resources that were that are available to us.

David Blackmon [00:23:22] So is that going to be proper when Proposition K come up for a vote?

Genevieve Collins [00:23:27] We are asking people to vote no on May 6th races. Yeah, early voting starts on Monday the 24th and the official election will be on May 6th.

David Blackmon [00:23:39] Okay. Okay. Well, you live in El Paso, so, folks, now’s your chance to kill that thing because it’s going to be a nightmare for you if it passes.

Genevieve Collins [00:23:48] Indeed, indeed.

David Blackmon [00:23:51] Well, I want to tell you, I really have enjoyed this conversation. We’re kind of running up against time now. As always happens to us on this show too fast. I wanted.

Genevieve Collins [00:24:02] To have.

David Blackmon [00:24:03] You take that to us yeah, me too and let’s let’s be sure and cycle back whenever there’s something. You know, any time I can do anything for you. Have you back on, like, about a specific issue, just let me know and we’ll be glad to do it. This has been terrific.

Genevieve Collins [00:24:22] I’ve so enjoyed it. And I do. I will plan on being back. More importantly, thank you for your time and to all of your listeners. Thank you.

David Blackmon [00:24:29] Thank you. And thanks to the Sandstone Group for hosting our show and to our extraordinary producer, Eric Parel. I’m David Blackman. And that’s all for now.

 

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