Big Country has new representation in Austin

Photo by: Daniel Mayer

AUSTIN, Texas - It's official. The Big Country has new representation in Austin.

The 85th Legislative Session began Tuesday.

We had a crew on the Texas House and Senate floors as State Sen. Dawn Buckingham of District 24 and State Rep. Stan Lambert of District 71 were sworn into office. We also had a chance to spend some time with them in their new offices to learn what they think about some hot topics this legislative session, and we found out they don't agree on some of the issues.

Lambert, a former board member for Abilene ISD, said one issue he'll support this session is a plan by some lawmakers to increase funding for Texas' struggling Child Protective Services.

"I certainly am appreciative of the fact that they did commit $150 million to hire some additional caseworkers as well as raise salaries to hopefully reduce some of the turnover they're having," Lambert said.

Buckingham said she's skeptical about giving the agency more money.

"Until we fix the core problems of why we have turnover, additional pay isn't going to solve all of our problems," Buckingham said.

They also differ on a plan to bring the so-called "bathroom bill" to Texas. The Texas Privacy Act, first brought to light by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, would require transgender Texans to use designated bathrooms of their born genders. Opponents of the measure have said it's discriminatory and could hurt the state's economy. Buckingham said she'd support it for safety reasons. Lambert said he'll keep an open mind, but at this point he's against it.

"I don't think it really addresses the issue," Lambert said. "I think there are other ways to deal with it, and that would not require us putting so many restrictions and limitations in that respect. So we'll look and see and try to do a balancing act to make sure we're not hurting the business side as well as protecting our kids."

Both lawmakers agree it'll be a busy session with many more issues sure to come up during the next 140 days.

"We're going to see things from A to Z, from transportation to border security, from things that were dealt with in the 84th Legislature, the open carry law that has gotten a lot of attention and probably will need some tweaking and fine tuning," Lambert said.

"One of the things we need to work on is decreasing the standardized testing that we have," Buckingham said.

When I talk to educators from Abilene, as well as other places across the district, they just feel like the creativity has gone out of their profession."