Aug 26, 2015 04:56PM
● By Dia
If you’re a legislator and you really want to know what’s on constituents’ minds, just go door to door and ask. That’s what Giovanni Capriglione does. As the State Representative for Southlake and surrounding areas, block walking is one of his favorite ways to stay connected to the community.
Capriglione has some extra time to be out ringing doorbells and chatting with citizens now that the 84th Texas legislative session is in the books. For 140 days from January 13 to June 1, 2015, all 150 members of the Texas House of Representatives were in session, debating hot-button issues such as education and taxes.
On a sunny day in June, we caught up with Capriglione at Keller Town Hall, which is where he works when he’s not in Austin. Everything in his office emanated state pride – from the giant Texas flag behind his desk to a smattering of historic Texas photographs on the walls.
Capriglione serves approximately 175,000 residents in House District 98, which includes Southlake, Keller, Colleyville, Grapevine and Westlake, along with portions of Haslet, North Ft. Worth and Trophy Club.
He has always had a passion for politics, although his path to becoming a State Representative is as winding as a Texas country road.
After earning a degree in physics, Capriglione worked as an electrical engineer designing computer chips. He then attained an MBA in finance and went to work for a private equity firm, eventually branching out on his own to manage various private equity funds through his company, Texas Adventure Capital.
He recalls 9/11 as the turning point he needed to get involved in politics. “That was the first big moment for me,” he says. “I felt that I had to get more engaged in the political process.”
Capriglione ran for State Representative in 2010, but was not elected. It didn’t take long for him to get back on his feet. In November 2012, he was elected with more than 85 percent of the vote and was sworn into service in January 2013. He was re-elected for a second term in November 2014.
“As you start to get involved in the political process, you realize you’re doing it all for the people,” Capriglione says. “Everything we do is for Texans.”
In this most recent legislative session, Capriglione served on three committees: Appropriations, Investments and Financial Services, and Local and Consent Calendars.
On the Appropriations committee, Capriglione helped manage the state’s $210 billion budget. On the Investments and Financial Services committee, he handled a variety of bills related to banking, securities and credit. And on the Local and Consent Calendars committee, Capriglione had the opportunity to vote yes or no on bills, deciding whether or not they move on.
“By serving on these committees, I was really able to help our local communities,” he says.
Better Education for Texans
Capriglione was also part of an ad hoc work group committee that focused on the formulas relating to how school financing happens.
“Texas is so varied. The needs of our district are different than other districts,” he says. “In our area, we want to make sure we focus on education and education financing. I moved to Carroll ISD for the schools [Capriglione has three young daughters], and I know many other people did as well. It’s important for me as a legislator to keep this in mind when I go to Austin.”
Carroll ISD is ranked the top district in the state of Texas, according to SchoolDigger, which ranks schools based on test scores provided by the Texas Department of Education.
Though the Dragons enjoy a promising educational landscape, education isn’t flourishing in all parts of the state. To help promote quality education throughout Texas, Capriglione pushed for higher standards for teachers and more accountability for schools.
“There are multiple ways to become a teacher, and I felt that the barrier to become a teacher through a certification process was too low,” says Capriglione.
He filed a bill that will increase the standards necessary to complete the teaching certification program in Texas. Capriglione also filed a bill that will create a pre-K program that helps mostly foster kids, homeless children, and kids of active-duty military parents.
If we can get quality education to children at the earliest age possible, the benefits compound quickly,” he says. “It’s going to be an impactful tool here in Texas to be able to give kids a head start on their education.”
When it comes to testing, Capriglione aimed to ease the pressure on students by reducing end-of-course exams from 15 to seven. “We found that we were putting kids in a box,” he says.
“They may be super bright, but they just don’t do well on tests.”
The classroom isn’t the only focus when it comes to education reform; Capriglione worked to create additional training for high school counselors, making them better prepared to help students determine their career paths. “This requires a different skill set,” he says.
Creating a future that’s bright for young Texans is important to legislators – and the funds back up this commitment. “We spend the most amount of money on education,” says Capriglione.
Texas schools spent an average of $9,559 per student last school year, according to figures compiled by the National Education Association.
Capriglione works hard to create a better Texas for young people for a variety of reasons. For starters, he has three daughters: Cristina, Helen and Natalie. And, he simply enjoys volunteering with kids. Capriglione is a former Odyssey of the Mind coach, and he often visits Government 101 classes to teach students the voting process.
“Kids are our future, and any opportunity I have, I get involved with them,” he says.
Keeping Texas Strong
Economic development was another key issue of Texas’ 84th legislative session. With nearly 1,000 people moving to Texas every day, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Capriglione aims to ensure that our area is an attractive place to work and live.
“We want to make sure this area remains the hotbed of economic development and vibrancy,” he says. “We vote on so many bills, but for me, and most of legislature, jobs is job number one.”
Texas is in constant competition with other states and other countries when it comes to attracting new businesses. But in this legislative session, Capriglione and other legislators made the Lone Star State a whole lot more appealing by slashing the Gross Margins Tax by 25 percent.
Most corporations in Texas pay this business tax, and those with more than $1 million in revenue will see their business taxes reduced by a quarter.
“Ultimately, I hope we’ll be able to cut the Gross Margins Tax completely,” Capriglione says, “but I’m glad we got rid of a fourth of it.”
This session, Governor Greg Abbot and Texas Speaker of the House, Joe Straus, received the first award from the Texas Enterprise Fund to bring the Kubota Tractor Factory to the city of Grapevine. The move is expected to bring nearly 400 new jobs to Texas and $51 million in capital investment.
Additionally, Texas legislators eliminated fees for 16 different professions such as architects and real estate agents. “Many professionals have to pay a fee to have a license and work,” says Capriglione. “Though it’s not technically a tax, I call it an income tax because if you have to pay money to go have a job, then it’s effectively that.”
What’s Next for Texas
Depending on your views, Texas’ 84th legislative session brought some big improvements to
residents of the Lone Star State. But Capriglione isn’t resting on his laurels; he’s out knocking on doors, getting to the heart of what matters most to the people of Texas.
“There will always be issues coming up, so we’ll be constantly gather ing the needs and suggestions of constituents to be able to address it in the next session,” he says.
Although, when you’re fortunate enough to live in Southlake, the needs often aren’t many.
“When I was going door to door, one voter said, ‘What issues could we possibly have? We live here,’” Capriglione says. “I love every part of Texas, but the quality of life in Southlake is second to none. I’m glad to call it home.”