Springer: New map doubles Parker County clout in Austin

·4 min read

Sep. 10—Parker County is poised to take double the political power into the 88th Legislative Session in Austin in January after redistricting split the county into two Senate districts, one of those two senators told supporters in Weatherford Wednesday.

"I see that as a good thing," Sen. Drew Springer said, describing the new Senate District 30 which now takes in much of Weatherford and northeast Parker County under the redrawn map.

Springer, R-Muenster, is unopposed in his bid to represent Senate District 30 in the 88th Legislative Session in Austin. So is Texas Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, in his bid to move to the Senate as the District 10 member.

That makes King the senator-apparent in a Senate District 10 stretching from South Fort Worth and west into six counties plus southwestern Parker County.

Speaking at a town hall at Weatherford College, Springer told some 25 supporters the upper chamber is likely to be dominated by 19 or 20 Republicans when it convenes on Jan. 10.

Springer, who grew up in Weatherford and reunites with the northern part of the city under the new map, said he and King will represent 10 percent of that 20-Republican majority in the 31-member Senate.

Election day is Nov. 8, with early voting starting Oct. 24. The last day to register to vote is Oct. 11.

Springer, who earlier held a town hall in Mineral Wells which he represents now but won't come January, touched on border security, school safety, sales taxes and the $27 billion revenue surplus the Texas Comptroller of Accounts says will greet lawmakers when they convene.

"(Comptroller) Glenn Hegar is never going to give us a high number — he's going to give us a low number," Springer said. "I think we need to use the majority of that to bring down the property tax rate."

He later said he also supported using some of that surplus to make cost-of-living raises for retired teachers permanent and to recruit mental health professionals.

State lawmakers don't set property tax rates, but they decide how much the state funds public education, which in turn affects local property tax rates set by school boards.

Springer also advocated using "consumption-based" taxes to outright eliminate the portion of school property taxes which fund daily operations.

The most common consumption tax is sales tax, but the definition includes excise taxes and value-added taxes. An excise tax is a legislative levy targeting specific goods such as gas, tobacco or alcohol. A value-added tax is an incremental tax placed on a good at each stage of production.

Springer said he would consider supporting sales taxes on bottled water, possibly over-the-counter medicines, labor on automobile repairs and haircuts to fund schools' so-called maintenance and operations budgets.

"It's $100 million if we tax haircuts," he said, after estimating a bottled water sales tax would bring in $150 million annually.

Springer said he and fellow lawmakers passed 17 school safety bill after the 2018 school shooting in Santa Fe that left eight students and two teachers dead.

"If there was a magic, silver bullet we would find it," Springer said. "If banning 30-round magazine to a 5-round magazine would help, we would do it."

He said the 18-year-old shooter who took the lives of 19 students and two teachers on a Uvalde elementary campus in May clearly needed mental health care the state struggles to provide.

"Everyone who's read that kid's file knows he needed mental health help," the senator said, before relaying reports of difficulty hiring staff that officials at Pecan Valley Mental Health, the area's mental health authority, describe to him.

That creates a one-two punch, with direct care options overburdened and a significant number of mentally impaired people languishing in county jails waiting for the state to decide whether they are competent to stand trial.

"We're probably 5,000 short today in the state of Texas," he said, proposing spending another portion of the surplus to "pilfer" mental health care staff or students from other states. "We probably would save over $150 million that are spent at the county sheriff's office."

Springer expressed support for "parental choice," letting parents spend their children's portion of state school funding on private or charter schools "if they properly set it up."

And he listed a few bills lawmakers passed in 2019 that could use some cleaning up, including border security measures.

"We have over 300,000 illegal kids in our schools, and it costs us $6 billion a year to educate them," Springer said. "Texas shouldn't pay the brunt of educating most of the illegal kids in Texas — that should be the federal government."

The flow of the deadly opioid, Fentanyl, and the human trafficking industry are byproducts of lax border security, he added.

Springer praised the Parker County Commissioners Court for its July disaster declaration of an "invasion" from the Mexican border. The action drew criticism — and a voter registration drive — by the League of United Latin American Citizens.

"I applaud your commissioners court resolution," he said. "I know you may have walked 2,000 miles through Mexico. You can walk 2,000 miles back."