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Property tax failure a ‘severe disappointment’ for the grassroots: What Plano lawmakers had to say at 2017 Texas Tribune Festival

The following article was written by Daniel Houston and published by Community Impact Newspaper on September 23, 2017

State Rep. Jeff Leach said his most conservative constituents saw the recent session of the Texas Legislature as a “severe disappointment” as the Republican lawmaker from Plano responded to questions at a state politics conference in Austin.

The comments were made on Saturday at the Texas Tribune Festival on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, where Plano’s state Sen. Van Taylor, also a Republican, spoke at a separate panel on how military service prepares some veterans for careers in government.

As Leach’s fellow Republican panelists claimed conservative legislative victories on the issues of immigration, abortion and the state budget, the Plano lawmaker said the Texas Legislature’s failure to pass measures to limit property tax growth had upset his more conservative constituents.

“This session, more than any of the three sessions that I’ve served in … the grassroots felt largely that their voices were silenced,” Leach said.

The panel, which included the director of a conservative think-tank and three members of the state’s Freedom Caucus, weighed in on the rise of grassroots conservatives in the Texas Legislature, and friction that influence has produced with some of the state’s most influential business advocacy organizations.

State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, told the panel audience that recent developments in Texas politics, where the Freedom Caucus has increasingly had a hand in crafting policy, may have caused “a little bit of a rift” between the business community. This rift, he said, should not stop the two sets of constituents from working together on common issues.

Leach, for his part, downplayed the significance of party tensions.

“This perception out there that the conservatives don’t care about the business community is just patently not true,” Leach said.

Leach also weighed in on the state’s so-called bathroom bills, disputing claims that the failed bid to legislate which public restrooms transgender people can use was a distraction in the past session.

“We feel strongly about protecting the safety and privacy of women and children,” Leach said.

Van Taylor on military service

In a panel discussion with a less political bent, Plano’s state senator Van Taylor recounted what he learned from his time in the U.S. Marine Corps and how it prepared him for serving in the Legislature.

Recalling a time when his battalion struggled to maintain high performance during a leadership change, Taylor said his military experience taught him the importance of strong leaders and sound processes for the success of a group.

The perspectives of veterans, Taylor said, are valuable as part of a diverse lawmaking body. That’s not to say other perspectives in the Texas Legislature—including from lawyers, educators and other professions—are not similarly important, Taylor said.

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