Monday, September 19, 2011

Plano Sen. Florence Shapiro Announces Retirement

District 8 State Senator Florence Shapiro, a Plano Republican, announced this afternoon that she will not seek re-election next year. Shapiro has served in the state Senate since 1992, where she has chaired numerous committees including the Transportation Committee and most recently the Public Education Committee. Shapiro is also a member of the powerful senate Finance Committee which helps craft the state budget.

When first elected to the senate Shapiro represented a rural suburban district that stretched from Collin County north of Dallas to Smith County in East Texas. Since then, her district has been consolidated into the fast-growing suburbs of Collin and north Dallas counties. In the statement announcing her retirement Shapiro said,

“My parents came to the United States in search of the American dream, and I lived it. I entered public service as a Plano city council member, then mayor. I entered the Texas Senate, with a desire to promote opportunity and to make a difference in the lives of everyday people. It has been humbling to serve in the state Legislature with so many outstanding men and women from all across our great state. I am leaving public service, knowing that I have given my best to hopefully make Texas better.”

On June 28, 2011 Gov. Perry signed a $172 billion 2011-13 budget passed by the super Republican majority Texas House and Senate. The budget signed by Gov. Perry cut $15 billion from the level of spending last authorized in the 2009-11 state budget.

Serving as chair of the Education Committee and a member of the Finance Committee Shapiro helped shape the biennium budget, in which, the largest individual spending cut was to public education. Over $4 billion was cut from the public education budget for the current biennium, which started on September 1, 2011.

During the 2011 legislative session Shapiro argued that school districts should be allowed to give teachers unpaid furloughs and cut their salaries to help pay for the spending cuts.

“One of those burdens that we have placed on our school districts is that they cannot decrease teacher salaries and they can’t furlough teachers. It’s not allowed in the law. The only option is to fire,” said Shapiro. “We need to give them the ability to lower teacher salaries.” [Houston Chronicle]

According to the Texas Tribune, Shapiro will move into the private sector working with an education company.

State Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, who sought to topple House Speaker Joe Straus at the start of the 2011 legislative session, is widely considered to be among the possible front runners interested in running for Shapiro's senate seat. After learning Shapiro's retirement announcement Paxton commented, "I want to congratulate Senator Florence Shapiro on her many years of service to fellow Texans. Angela and I extend our appreciation for the sacrifice she has made as a public servant, and we both wish her the very best in her future plans." Paxton also indicated he will shortly announce his plans related Senator Shapiro's SD-8 seat.

Shortly after Shapiro announced her her retirement, Scott O’Grady, a retired U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, became the first Republican to announced his definite intention to file as a SD-8 candidate for the March 2012 Republican primary. O’Grady’s campaign spokesperson Keats Norfleet, said that recent polling among likely Republican primary voters in Shapiro’s district placed O’Grady ahead of a possible primary contest between the two men. O'Grady had previously announced his intention to run for a Texas House seat. O'Grady was shot down in Bosnia in 1995 and evaded capture for six days before the Marines rescued him; he's now an author and lecturer.

Plano native Jack Ternan had already filed with the Texas Ethics Commission to run for the SD-8 seat in the Democratic primary next March. In a statement released by his campaign Ternan said,

“As someone who grew up in Plano, I know Senator Shapiro has had an enormous impact on our community. Moreover, I want to thank Senator Shapiro for her service and for opening the door to a new generation of leadership.”

Upon learning of Senator Shapiro’s decision not to seek re-election, many local Democrats were quick to show support for Mr. Ternan’s candidacy. “The Texas Democratic Women of Collin County has gotten to know Jack over the last couple years. We are quite impressed with his competence and passion to be our next State Senator,” said Barb Walters, President of the Texas Democratic Women of Collin County.

Ternan received his law degree at The University of Texas and he currently practices law at the Dallas firm of Bickel & Brewer. Ternan's complete biography can be found on his campaign website @

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