Much of what gets addressed, let alone tackled, during the upcoming state legislative session hinges on who becomes the next speaker, state Rep. DeWayne Burns, R-Cleburne, said on Wednesday.
Former House Speaker, state Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, declined to seek re-election leaving the seat open.
Although Burns is not one of the several campaigning for the seat, several House Republicans recently put forth his name as a possible speaker candidate.
Burns, while addressing the quarterly membership luncheon of the Cleburne Chamber of Commerce, said he was honored, humbled and a bit shocked by his peers’ gesture.
Burns, as he did in an Oct. 23 Times-Review article, reiterated that he is not actively seeking the position but did not completely rule out the possibility.
“If it comes to that I’ll let the Lord work that out and that would involve a lot of prayer and discussion with my family,” Burns said. “My focus right now though is what I can do for District 58.”
Burns, now in his second term, is running unopposed for his third in Tuesday’s general election. District 58 includes Johnson and Bosque counties.
Burns said it was an honor to address the 200 plus chamber members and guests gathered for the event.
“You’re either really hungry or really angry,” Burns joked.
Revenues are up across the board according to the latest reports from Comptroller Glenn Hegar, Burns said, and the state of the state is robust.
“We saw 350,000 new jobs created last year,” Burns said. “All that points to the fact that we’re doing something right in Texas. The big secret is no secret at all really. It’s low regulations, low taxes and the freedom to do business in Texas.”
Rosy conditions on one hand, however, don’t deny the existence of challenges on the other, he said.
Among the big ticket items in need of addressing are border security, property taxes and public education.
Immigration issues while divisive are imminent and need to be discussed, Burns said.
The state, though it’s not the state’s job, has already poured some $1.3 billion into border security of late, Burns said.
“It seems to have slowed the progression of crime and contraband, but it still surges sometimes,” Burns said.
Plans are in place to address the 4,000 person strong caravan in the southern part of Mexico bound for the United States, Burns said. Burns said he could not go into the details of those plans at this time.
Burns credited President Trump’s recent efforts to address border security as well.
“Now that the federal government has taken more ownership, as they should, that may free up more state dollars for other needs,” Burns said.
Burns described the current property tax situation as out of control.
“It’s hard to stay in your own house because property taxes are so high that it feels like you’re renting your home from the government sometimes,” Burns said.
A number of ideas are being bandied about to remedy the situation including a possible sales tax increase.
Although Burns didn’t advocate for that, he did say different ideas have to be considered at this point.
“We have to do something because we can’t continue this path where property taxes are out of control.”
Burns in fact said he doesn’t foresee any tax increases coming out of the upcoming session.
Burns said he plans to reintroduce his bill calling for curtailment of unfunded mandates and hopes to strengthen property owners’ rights when it comes to eminent domain.
School safety issues also need to be addressed.
“We need to address that but need to keep in mind that those are best left to the folks in the individual districts,” Burns said. “They know their needs better than people in Austin do. We also don’t want to come up with some kind of cookie cutter approach for the whole state that ends up leaving our kids at risk or school districts in danger of going broke.”
Much needs be done, Burns said, but he’s looking forward to the upcoming session.
“On Jan. 8 we’ll be sworn in and the swearing at will start right after,” Burns joked.
Burns concluded by quoting Ephesians in addressing America’s deeply divided political culture.
We can disagree with honor, Burns said, and should reflect the face of Christ even when dealing with those we disagree with.
Cleburne Chamber President Cathy Marchel, who dressed as Barbie in honor of the Halloween holiday, said the state of the chamber, much like that of the state, is hearty as well.
“We’ve welcomed 24 new members since our last quarterly luncheon in August and 73 new members so far this year,” Marchel said.
Marchel awarded chamber member Jeff Denson of Renew Home Health, who arrived decked out as a rodeo clown, with the luncheon’s most creative costume award and Apos Floor owners Fernando and Maria Rodriguez, dressed as Dracula and his bride, with the best business costume award.