The Texas Legislature is currently in its 88th legislative session. The Texas Legislature meets for 140 days in every odd numbered year. Each session, community members from around the state make the pilgrimage to Austin and meet with lawmakers and staff members to provide feedback and insight as well as learn about the process of governing the Lonestar State. Last week a large contingent of Mayors, County Judges, Chambers of Commerce, Economic Development Groups, and civic leaders from northeast Texas did just that. The Northeast Texas Coalition met with legislators and staff from state agencies to provide a northeast Texas perspective to policy makers in Austin. The NETX Coalition is led by the Ark-Tex Council of Governments (ATCOG) which is comprised of nine Texas Counties including Bowie, Cass, Delta, Franklin, Hopkins, Lamar, Morris, Red River, and Titus. City, County, and civic leaders from communities within those ten counties formed a group numbering close to one-hundred participants.
Cass County Judge Travis Ransom, who previously worked in the Texas Senate as a legislative staffer was among those who participated. Day one began with recognition in the House and Senate Chambers and small group visits to individual legislative offices addressing a variety of topics. Judge Ransom met with both staff and legislators in the Northeast Texas region to discuss infrastructure issues like the future Interstate 69 Corridor, economic development initiatives, and private property rights protection associated with the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir in our region. Judge Ransom also met with the Alliance for I69-Texas and received an update on transportation funding from Blake Calvert, Budget and Policy Advisor with Governor Greg Abbott’s office
On Wednesday afternoon the delegation heard presentations from Dr. Gary Gibbs, Executive Director of the Texas Commission on the Arts, Lisa Craven, Chief of Staff and deputy comptroller for State Comptroller Glenn Hegar, and Adriana Cruz, Executive Director, Office of the Governor Economic Development & Tourism. The focus on economic development opportunities for communities in Texas was clear. Craven also provided some insight on upcoming funding availability for broadband internet buildout in Texas. Comptroller Hegar’s office has been tasked to head-up the Texas Broadband Development Office and will serve largely as a resource for local governments seeking to leverage state and federal funding to expand broadband infrastructure.
That evening the group hosted a reception for legislators and heard from State Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) as well as Representatives Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) and Representative Bryan Slaton (R-Greenville). Following the reception, Sen. Hughes provided a personal tour of the State Capitol building. The highlight of the tour for those not afraid of heights was the Rotunda tour with participants climbing the 218 feet to the top of the Rotunda. At the top of the interior dome is a huge sheet metal star, measuring 8 feet from point to point, surrounded by lettering that spells out “TEXAS.” The terrazzo floor at the bottom features the six seals of the sovereign nations that have governed Texas. Portraits of past presidents of the republic and governors of the state line the walls with the most recent on the first floor and the oldest on the fourth floor. The 88th Legislative Session will end on Memorial Day weekend. There is much work to be done between now and then. If you are interested in learning more about proposed legislation in this or in past sessions, you can access the Texas Legislature Online at https://capitol.texas.gov/.