Student Council Conference

State Rep. Jay Dean, R-Longview, speaks about leadership Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020 during the Ore City High School Student Council Spring Forum.

For House Rep. Jay Dean, the workings of the Texas Legislature is a lot like making gumbo. Legislators, like roux, first meet on the floor. Then, as Dean put it, filed bills are “onions and bell peppers” mixed in and beginning to cook. Like adding sausage, committees are selected and assigned. Now at the halfway mark of the legislative session, committees are stirring as they hear bills they will soon be voting on.

Dean, R-Longview, has served at the House since 2016 and as Longview mayor for 10 years prior. In a recent interview, he said his biggest priorities for this session were the state surplus budget of $55 million, electric grid issues and energy, property taxes and school vouchers and parental rights for children at school.

“We have to be really smart about how we use the taxpayer-funded surplus that we have and invest this to the citizens of Texas,” said Dean, who turned 70 earlier this month. “Very similar to being the mayor of Longview, we make decisions thinking how this impacts our citizens. Is it having a positive impact and is it going to help people?”

Following Winter Storm Uri in Feb. 2021 and a close-call storm earlier this year, Dean said he is passionate about issues relating to the electric grid. He attributes current power issues to the deregulation of the Texas electrical market in 2002. Over 85 percent of Texas is now deregulated.

Gregg County, Dean pointed out, is not a part of the deregulated electric grid but receives electricity through the Southwestern Electric Power Company. Originally decided as a cheaper financial decision for residents and local industries, Dean said the decision allowed Longview to lose only a fraction of its power during Uri compared to the rest of Texas.

“Deregulation is all about cheaper, but it wasn’t in our case,” Dean said. “During the Uri event, we did not lose near the power that some of these other places did. Even Tyler, as close as it is, they’re part of the deregulation deal and they had an awesome amount of problems that they had to deal with.”

Dean was one of the major proponents for Longview to stay regulated, and now he said he turns toward the rest of Texas to help ensure citizens — regulated or not — have access to cost-efficient and reliable power.

“Affordable has got to mean that during the toughest times, those light switches come on,” Dean said. “I want to take a common sense approach, have the stakeholders work with us to define reliability and determine what it’s going to cost to do that. We incentivize the building of new infrastructure like power plants — which we need to have — and more transmission lines.”

Dean is also a proponent of natural gas and has authored bills this session to limit cities from barring the use of natural gas or propane-powered appliances. Recent green energy policies and ordinances in cities like Dallas and Austin strive to eliminate these appliances in residential homes by 2030 and commercial buildings by 2040.

“We are an oil and gas state,” Dean said. “To mandate something like that is just absolutely ridiculous. You know, I like to cook, and if you’ve ever cooked on a gas stove versus an electric stove, it’s not even close.”

Dean also authored a related bill to ensure larger farm and industrial equipment can remain powered by natural gas and propane.

As far as whether the state’s surplus will go to power, energy or other outlets, Dean’s utmost priority is making sure that the citizens of Texas are getting “a return on their investment.”

Dean compared his work as mayor to how he approaches allocating the surplus. He said he hopes to possibly save citizen’s property tax dollars along the way and see renters also receive benefits through the “trickle-down effect.” Dean also offers the possibility of looking into lowering the state’s portion of the sales tax so everyone sees savings there.

“When we did projects that we budgeted for, we used taxpayer dollars to create a bigger base,” Dean said about his time as Longview mayor. “We went in and redid a lot of the old roads in South Longview. We had 100-year-old plumbing that was coming apart… So we reinvested, and you see now a lot of new structures coming in… That’s the big picture — how we utilize this surplus in order to better the lives of Texans.”

With over 4,600 total bills filed in the House, it’s obvious Dean’s gumbo is not quite ready to serve. He said he and his colleagues have their work cut out for them during the remainder of the regular session which ends May 29.

“You’ve got to start off boiling water,” Dean concluded. “But the final product is a whole lot of things that go in the middle to make sure you’re able to do good things for your citizens.”