A Recap of Our Most Recent Trip to Austin

February 20, 2023Doug Williamson, Government Affairs Director

Pro-business advocacy is among the top priorities of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce.

In a year when the Texas Legislature is meeting (such as 2023), the activities around advocacy increase exponentially.

The Chamber organized “Big Country Day at the Capitol” earlier this month, and 28 local and area residents descended on the Legislature to tell the Abilene story, to better understand how the Legislature works and to advocate for a variety important needs.

We had a robust conversation with former Abilenian Shane Woodard, Gov. Abbott’s Legislative Director. He talked about the Governor’s priorities, and we shared specific things for which we are advocating.

Of course, Sen. Charles Perry and State Rep. Stan Lambert spent time with us. They have been working on many of the items in our legislative agenda for month. Our agenda this session encompasses more than 75 items including general ones to support business, specific ones for Abilene and the area, and ones that are specific to Chamber-member businesses. A few examples of those member-specific items are the Abilene Christian University NextLab reactor; an innovative cooperative partnership between Hendrick Health System, Texas Tech Health Science Center and Cisco College to train and place more nurses locally; and a permanent Texas Forest Service base and ramp at Abilene Regional Airport.

Dr. Mike Reeser, Chancellor of Texas State Technical College, spent time with us. He was at the Capitol to testify on TSTC’s portion of the state budget. Reeser, who spent 10 years in Sweetwater heading TSTC-West Texas, shared much information about the operation and needs of TSTC. In the question and answer time, there were several great ideas for program expansion brought forth by our group.

Staff members from Sen. Perry’s and Rep. Lambert’s offices, spent several hours walking us through the legislative process. (There’s a lot more to it than just writing a bill and voting on it.)

Among the revelations we left with are:

  • The Legislature will have $32.7 billion more this biennium than last, and everyone has their ideas on how to spend it.
  • We were amazed by how much time the staff and elected officials put in during a Session. It is not uncommon for committee hearings to begin before the House or Senate meets on a day, and then the hearings continue after the House or Senate adjourns. Those hearings can carry over into the night or even the early morning hours.
  • The staff is a vital conduit to the lawmaker. It is important on many issues to start with a staff member. They will gather more information on the topic and present it all to the lawmaker.

Your Abilene Chamber of Commerce team actively advocates for you and your business.


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