State Rep. Jay Dean’s list of accomplishments from the recent legislative session was topped Thursday by a successful effort to kill a bill that likely would have wrecked plans for a Gap Inc. distribution center in Longview.
Dean, R-Longview, met with a group of constituents during a town hall meeting Thursday at Posados Mexican restaurant in Longview, reviewing the legislative session and taking questions from the audience.
In addition to trying to get measures through the Legislature, lawmakers sometime spend their time “trying to kill bad bills, bills that are detrimental to your district,” Dean said. One of those bills showed up late in the session.
Earlier this year, the Longview Economic Development Corp., Longview City Council and Gregg County commissioners approved a set of incentives to help lure a Gap Inc. e-commerce and distribution center to the city. The incentives are tied to requirements that Gap Inc. invests $140 million to build its 850,000-square-foot center in Longview and employ a minimum average of 255 people in 2022 and ramping up to 1,222 by 2026.
House Bill 4072 was introduced to change how companies pay sales taxes for online sales, and would have directed that money to the city where an item is delivered instead of the city where the item was manufactured or shipped. Some of the incentives for Gap Inc. are tied to sales tax revenues.
Dean referred to dirt work taking place to prepare the distribution center site in the North Longview Business Park.
“They slowed that process down,” he said of the work, saying the bill would have cost Longview and Gregg County about $3.2 million annually in revenue.
“That deal was getting ready to die,” he said, adding that the bill had been sponsored by two of the most powerful people on the House floor, the chairmen of the Calendar and Ways and Means committees.
“They set tax policy for the state. This was their bill that I was having to go kill,” he said. “We were able to get eight members of the calendar committee to tag the bill every time they tried to bring it to floor.”
Dean said people fighting the bill argued that not a lot of places in rural Texas can boast about having a project like the Gap Inc. distribution center. His efforts were supported by Coppell, for instance, which gets 60 percent of its revenue through a similar distribution center.
“We have a difficult time competing for these projects,” he said, adding that the bill would have “wiped out” an important economic development tool.
“I’m as proud of that as anything,” he said of his successful work to kill the legislation.
He also included the creation of a COVID-19 vaccine hub in Gregg County among his top accomplishments.
In January, when vaccine distribution first started, Gregg County was not getting “a very big supply,” he said.
“Our people were being told if they wanted to get a vaccine to go to Tyler. I don’t have to tell you how long it took (Gregg County) Judge Bill Stoudt to pick up the phone and call me,” Dean said.
That led to a meeting with state officials making the decisions about where vaccine hubs could be located. Christus Good Shepherd operated the vaccine hub at the Longview Exhibit Building in cooperation with the Gregg County and the city of Longview. Christus announced Thursday that the hub was shutting down and vaccine appointments moving to various clinics across the area.
Dean said he was “really proud” of the job Christus, the city and county did in providing the hub.
“Everybody would say it reminded them of going to Chick-Fil-A — smooth,” Dean said. “That was a real good accomplishment.”