With the closing of the latest session of the Texas Legislature, state Rep. John Wray (R-Waxahachie) shared some reflections on his time in office and new developments coming out of Austin with the Sun this week.
Wray announced July 5 he would not seek re-election for a fourth term. This, his third, two-year term will end with the swearing-in of his successor Jan. 12, 2021.
This last legislative session, the 86th Legislature, was long and saw more responsibility placed upon his shoulders, Wray said, noting that when he had the chance to return to Waxahachie, it made him more appreciative of home.
“At the end of my current term, I will be 50 years old,” he said. “My oldest child will be away at college and my youngest will be halfway through his junior year. I am just looking forward to being at home, returning to a private lifestyle and being at home with my family.
“If you piece together the time I was on the Waxahachie City Council and went straight into the legislature, that is 12 years,” he said. “I have been an elected official for 12 years and I am excited not to be an elected official (at the end of the current term). My only plan right now is to enjoy a little bit of time from elected office.”
Wray said he’s proud of what he’s been able to achieve to ensure a better quality of life for the Texans he represents in House District 10. One of the significant issues he was involved in was border security his first term as a state representative, when he served on the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee.
“Border security is a big issue for folks all across the state, especially here in Ellis County and House District 10,” Wray said. “We pumped a lot of resources into DPS to help support border security, made some changes to some criminal laws, created a border security coordination task force down in Hidalgo County. That was one of the things that addressed a really important issue. It continues to be an issue and we, as a state, continue to support that. The legislature has supported that as well.”
Wray said he’s also worked diligently to honor the service of veterans and first responders and to provide them with the resources they need.
“In the second session, I was able to pass a significant bill for firefighters, which allowed them to clarify their coverage for work-related PTSD,” he said. “As first responders, they deal with a lot of terribly upsetting situations when they are first on the scene. That legislation provides some workers comp coverage for PTSD for firefighters. This session, I was able to extend an existing statute in favor of police officers that would allow them to have a presumption if they have a work-related heart attack.”
Wray was able to honor the service of Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle, who served four tours in Iraq and was highly decorated. Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield were murdered at a gun range in February 2013. Through Wray’s work, the portion of U.S. Highway 287 that runs through Kyle’s hometown of Midlothian was dedicated to him. He also saw that Kyle was awarded the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, which recognizes a member of the state or federal military forces who performs a distinguished deed of personal bravery or self-sacrifice.
Wray noted there were some key victories and critical policy decisions in the last legislative session, the 86th Legislature.
“Behind border security, another big issue that I hear about is property taxes in that people are being taxed out of their homes and businesses,” Wray said. “On the one hand, the rising value of real estate is driven by this population growth that we are having here. That is a good thing. But, at the same time, it is causing people’s property taxes to go up.
“This last session, we passed what was called Senate Bill Two, which makes some important changes to our property tax system,” he said. “It is a hard problem to solve fully but I think that we made good progress and the legislature will continue to work on that in the future. I think that it was a good significant step toward bringing some property tax relief.”
Senate Bill 2 requirements include requiring that tax rates and other information be posted in an online database to ensure the process is more transparent and easier for taxpayers to understand. It also has a provision that requires many cities, counties and other taxing units to hold an election if they wish to raise 3.5 percent more property tax revenue than the previous year.
Another area of focus for the 86th Legislature was public education.
“Another thing that we did in the last session that I am proud of is House Bill 3, the public education finance reform,” Wray said. “We put more money into public education, which will allow some property tax relief locally as far as school district and other taxes go, as well as directing more money toward classroom teachers. We tried to make the system fairer and more equitable.
“We also put some more money into the teacher retirement system to make it actuarially sound,” he said. “That will result in this year in a 13th paycheck for retired teachers. They get one every month but this year it will be 13. Those are big policy issues.”
Through the remainder of his term, Wray said he will continue to work hard for the people in his district by assisting them with issues or problems they are facing and helping them find solutions.
He also shared that he will continue to work to bring a four-year nursing program to the area.
“The next big thing I want to help my successor with is to continue to find a way for there to be a four-year bachelor of science in nursing degree program here in Ellis County,” Wray said. “I have worked on that in every single session that I have been there.
“I thought we were going to have success this time in allowing Navarro College, which has a two-year associate’s nursing degree program, to offer a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing. The bill passed in the House but it ran out of gas in the Senate. We are looking to persuade the hearts and minds of members on the other side of the building in the Senate that is a good idea to try and set that up for the next legislative session.”
He’ll also continue through the remaining portion of his term to advocate against the proposed high-speed rail project. He said he hopes his successor will listen to voters’ concerns about the project and its impact. Those concerns have ranged from private property rights, noise, eminent domain and cost, he said.
Those seeking to fill his seat will sign up for the race this fall, with primaries slated for March and the general election in November 2020. Whoever the winner is, Wray said he’s more than willing to share his experience with that next officeholder.
“No matter who it is, I am here,” he said. “My door is open and I am here to share any insight with them from me. I am here for everyone that may want to visit.”
Wray’s district office is located at 2001 Bates Drive, Suite 120, in Waxahachie; the telephone number is 972-938-9392.