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State Sens. West and Burton call for “due process” in colleagues’ harassment allegations

Watch the full video of our conversation in Dallas with state Sens. Konni Burton and Royce West. Or check out our recap below.

Two Dallas lawmakers — state Sens. Royce West, D-Dallas, and Konni Burton, R-Colleyville — joined The Texas Tribune Friday morning to discuss their Dallas-area districts. Though both senators are up for re-election next year, neither has an immediate worry in the March primary. West, who has served in the Senate since 1993, has neither a primary nor a general election challenger; his only opponent, he joked, is “apathy.” And Burton won’t face a challenger until the November general election.

Here’s what they had to say:

Taxes. Both senators identified problems with the state’s current system of taxation — particularly with property taxes and school finance. But they differed on how to solve them. Burton advocated for the Legislature to at least consider the idea of replacing property taxes with a consumption tax — and West floated a potentially even more controversial proposal.

“Solutions? I don’t have a problem putting it all on the table… including a state income tax,” West said. “I’m not saying I’m for a state income tax, but we need to talk about everything.”

Back to bathrooms. West and Burton sparred briefly over what was arguably the most divisive issue of this year’s regular and special legislative sessions: the “bathroom bill.” Burton argued that the bill — which would have imposed restrictions on transgender individuals’ bathroom access in schools and other public facilities — would merely have codified a policy that most schools already have in place.

“What we were saying — albeit we lost the PR war — was to continue to allow our local school districts to continue doing as they are doing,” Burton argued.

“Why put it in law if we’re handling it already?” West questioned several times. “If we’re handling it already then we don’t need a law.”

And the national conversation on #MeToo. Two of the lawmakers’ Senate colleagues, Democratic Sens. Carlos Uresti and Borris Miles, have come under fire in recent weeks over sexual harassment allegations — accusations that led Annie’s List, an influential political group nationally, to call for their resignations. Asked whether their colleagues should step down, both Dallas senators demurred. Instead, they emphasized the importance of improving the Capitol’s sexual climate and establishing effective procedures for processing complaints.

“You’ve gotta have a system in place,” West said. “You listen to the complainant, but you also make sure there’s a due process.”

“Sexual harassment should never be tolerated,” Burton said. “Right now what we have is accusations and we have denials. I don’t have the facts in front of me.”

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Konni Burton Royce West