Elected officials share their thoughts on upcoming Legislature

Jennifer Reiley | Kerrville Daily Times |

A new Texas legislative session launches Tuesday, and Kerr County will have new and returning representation in the 85th Legislature.

Dawn Buckingham, an opthamologist from Lakeway, is the newly elected senator representing District 24, which includes Kerr County. She will be sworn in for the first time Tuesday.

“I am so excited,” she said. “Really, for the first time, it seems real — that it’s actually going to happen.”

Buckingham said her general approach to government is “that it should be simpler and less invasive in our daily lives.”

“It’s the same things that are in the campaign — decreasing the footprint of government in our daily lives,” she said. “Looking at the agendas of Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, we’ll be working on sealing the border and getting rid of sanctuary cities, as well as addressing public education.”

Rep. Andrew Murr returns to his second session in the House of Representatives. He said that in this session, the state is expected to have less funding than it did two years ago, although the Legislature is still waiting on the formal report from the comptroller’s office.

“That will result in some challenging budget decisions in certain areas,” Murr said. “We will also have a discussion about the availability of federal participation in certain areas — Texas border security — with a new administration in Washington, D.C., and whether Texas will continue to fund certain efforts at last biennium’s funding levels. Personally, I believe that the legislature will give serious consideration to changes in both policy and funding in the broad area of mental health.”

In the interim, Murr served on the House Committee on Mental Health.

“We heard many hours of testimony from a vast number of experts in a variety of fields and backgrounds,” he said. “The topic itself covers many areas: insurance, young people and our schools, jails and our criminal justice system, rural access to services, the stigma and financial limitations for access, our outdated state hospital system, professional training, lack of psychiatrists in the state, and the list goes on. I look to actively participate in carrying legislation to make specific policy changes in a number of areas, including criminal justice.”

Murr said he expects other important priorities this session to include water, child protective services and foster care reform and property rights.

“I anticipate that you will hear a lot of discussion about property taxes,” he said. “Always remember that the State of Texas cannot and does not collect a property tax — our constitution prohibits that. Our local governments levy these taxes as their primary revenue source in order to provide public education, roads, law enforcement and an array of other services. I think we should always turn to our local elected leaders and engage them in this conversation to find out what tools they need to accomplish these public services in the most economical way possible.”

While there is a rush of bills filed prior to the beginning of the session, the deadline to file bills is in March.

“I try to work on meaningful bills that are beneficial to our 12-county House district and the State,” Murr said. “I have a number of bills being drafted. One of those that I have already filed is important to property owners in our part of Texas when dealing with the possibility of a ‘navigable stream.’ It’s focus and goal is to ensure due process when dealing with a state agency attempting to assert control over a small creek or stream that the agency says is navigable but historically has not been treated as such.”

Buckingham said as a first-time senator, she will be working to help pass bills written by more senior members of the Senate on bigger issues. She also expects to be assigned by Patrick to between four and five committees.

“We are anxiously awaiting assignments,” she said. “We’ll be happy wherever he puts us. I did send in requests that were most central to the needs of the district, such as veterans and agriculture.”

Article written by Jennifer Reiley and provided courtesy of the Kerrville Daily Times