Toward the end of state Rep. DeWayne Burns, R-Cleburne’s, Thursday presentation to the Cleburne Rotary Club he switched gears from legislative update to a call for less dissension and more understanding.
“When I look at the Rotary Four-Way Test on the banner over there a lot of that goes into what I have to say right now,” Burns said.
Divide and partisanship accomplish little, Burns intimated.
“Given the public turmoil of our political system nationwide and what you read and hear on Facebook and in the news I feel like we have forgotten how to disagree and still love one another,” Burns said. “I think we’ve forgotten how to have a different political opinion about an issue and yet not think of another person as our enemy.
“There’s a lot of people who don’t agree with me. The only person who personally agrees with me all the time is the guy in the mirror. And sometimes even he doesn’t agree with me.”
Burns urged attendees to fix their focus on the big picture.
“We’ve got to remember there’s a greater call here,” Burns said. “The great commission in Matthew was not to be right. It was not to win that Facebook argument. It was to go out and seek and find people to bring them to Christ.
“So I just encourage you when you’re out dealing with the public, and coming across folks who disagree with you. I come across them all the time and some times they’re very upset and have good reason to be. But I really truly believe we can reflect the light of Christ even when we disagree. We don’t have to sacrifice principle, don’t have to sacrifice what we believe. But we can listen and we can speak amicably with love and share with folks.
Burns otherwise discussed what the Texas Legislature “did to and for” Texans during the recent session.
“I have a Power Point presentation of 46 slides,” Burns joked. “But lucky for you I forgot to bring it. But, [Rotary President Blake Jones] didn’t give me a time limit so I can talk all day.”
He didn’t. But he did cover a number of legislative developments including the state budget and education.
“We increased the budget by 16 percent,” Burns said. “This is the first session I’ve been involved with that we tried to tackle education. Of the $94.5 billion we budgeted to education, $5 billion went to buy down property taxes. It’s relief [for property owners]. It’s reform and sets us on a pace where, hopefully, that burden will not increase but decrease over time.”
Other action education wise includes $2 billion for teacher compensation, $200 million for school safety improvements and positive steps toward improving the retirement system for teachers, Burns said.
At $125 billion and counting, Hurricane Harvey ranks as the second “most devastating” hurricane to hit the U.S. since 1900, Burns said.
Legislators allocated millions toward rapid deployment grants, recovery costs and other needs including flood risk and remediation.
“We budgeted $47 million for state flood risk mapping,” Burns said. “We have a state water plan and a drought plan but we’ve never had a flood map of our flood plain. Also $793 million to the flood infrastructure fund that will assist in financing drainage, dam projects, flood mitigation and flood control projects.”
Legislators also budgeted several million dollars to various anti-human trafficking initiatives.
“I was sickened and disturbed by the facts,” Burns said. “We have 25 million enslaved worldwide by human trafficking. Consider that the population of Texas is about 30 million. Because of our economy and proximity to the border and activities of the cartels we see a lot of it in Texas.
“We found that there are 234,000 victims of labor trafficking in Texas at any given time. People basically held prisoner and forced to work. You would think that doesn’t go on. But it does, here in the state of Texas. We found that there are 79,000 victims of youth and minor sex trafficking at any given time as well.”
Burns touched on steps taken to beef up border security and fund allocated to address the more than 18,000 untested rape kits in Texas, many of which have sat untouched for years.
Less successful were Burns’ stabs at eminent domain reform and his attempt to eliminate unfunded mandates, two issues Burns vowed to continue to fight for.
On a happier note,Burns noted that 10 of his bills made it out of the House and 6 went on to receive the governor’s autograph, a record, in both cases, for District 58.
One of those bills passed waives fees and training requirements for honorably discharged law enforcement officers wishing to get a handgun license.
“I get excited when we can inject common sense into government, Burns said. “I feel if you have a law enforcement officer who’s spent decades carrying a gun and defending the public there’s no need for that person to have to attend a four hour class on how to carry a gun and then have to take a proficiency test.”