Texas Reps. Lambert and Springer talk speaker's race, property taxes, school safety

The Texas Tribune hosted a conversation with state Reps. Stan Lambert, R-Abilene, and Drew Springer, R-Muenster, moderated by Tribune multimedia reporter Alana Rocha.

State Reps. Stan Lambert, R-Abilene, and Drew Springer, R-Muenster, said Thursday that the new House speaker should promote dialogue in the legislative body.

“I don’t believe that we would see anybody from the far right or the far left side of the [Republican] caucus, somebody who wouldn’t work with Democrats, be selected,” Springer said.

Lambert and Springer were speaking with The Texas Tribune’s Alana Rocha during an hourlong event in Abilene. You can watch the replay above. Here are a few highlights:

Speaker's race

Lambert said the next House speaker should make the House “more open and fair minded,” then drew comparisons to outgoing speaker Joe Straus.

“I think Speaker Straus attempted and wanted to do many of those kind of things and reflect those kind of characteristics,” Lambert said. “I think there were some other things coming along that may have prevented him from doing some of those things.”

Taxes

Lambert said the House should stop approving laws without the necessary funds to carry them out, which he said passes the economic burden onto counties. Texas law says that counties can’t increase their property tax revenue by 8 percent or more unless voters collect enough signatures to force an election.

“I don’t think it’s fair to talk about caps unless we are also willing to talk about making sure we don’t pass unfunded mandates,” Lambert said.

Springer said that lack of appropriate mental health care is also affecting the counties’ finances.

“The fact that we don’t have enough mental health beds means we are leaving people in county jail too long, and that costs county taxpayers, and that’s not fair,” Springer said. "We need to step up and address those things as well.”

School safety

Lambert and Springer agreed that school safety solutions that work in cities may not be as effective in rural communities. That’s why Lambert said he wants to continue funding safety efforts such as the school marshal program.

“In rural Texas, it may take 15 to 20 minutes for first responders to respond to an active shooter on a campus,” Lambert said.

They also said schools should focus on mental health and the role of school counselors.

“We can identify and help prevent — or at least get them the help they need if they become isolated, if they have been bullied, if there are problems going on at home,” Lambert said.

Springer said any solution to school safety will need matching funds.

“The state needs to cover that cost,” Springer said.

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