Local Delegation Makes B/CS Voices Heard in Austin

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It's becoming a big tradition for those who oversee government in Aggieland -- a trip to Austin for precious time with the state's leaders. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the local Chamber of Commerce delegation delivered its wish lists.

Wednesday, some two dozen local leaders divided into eight groups, with 50 stops on their schedule, but one message: think about Bryan/College Station.

"In the past, we actually visited more offices than we're visiting today," said Royce Hickman, the president of the chamber, "but the time wasn't quality time. Today, everyone I've talked to has had quality meetings with the people we've had appointments with."

Armed with their legislative action plan, the delegation's groups often had mere minutes to convey dozens of objectives, everything from consideration for interstate access, to funding for Texas A&M's faculty investment program, to helping the state's mental health care system.

"If every year, we come up here and our message is different, we would lose credibility," Hickman said. "But our message is consistent. We're concerned about transportation. We're concerned about healthcare. We're concerned about education. We're concerned about workforce development and economic development."

On a busy day in Austin, meeting time can be hard to come by. To get with Senator Steve Odgen (R-District 5), it was a brief recognition in front of the Senate, and then a 10-minute chat in the hallway.

"To the extent that I can hear from people from my district to hear what they want and hear what they believe in, it helps me do my job," Ogden said.

Representative Fred Brown (R-District 14) found time Tuesday and Wednesday, but another quick visit in the cafeteria didn't hurt.

"It means everything because they prioritize what's so important for our district, like Texas A&M, transportation and health issues and county issues," Brown said.

"I don't know that I can fully explain it, but there is a difference being on their turf versus being on our turf, so to speak, theirs and ours together," Hickman said.

This is the sixth straight time the Chamber of Commerce has sent a delegation to Austin, and it's a process they continue to tinker with. This time is no different, especially since they'll be in Washington, DC, coming up in May.