Hutchison, Edwards Among Wednesday's B-CS Chamber Meetings

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The second day of meetings on Capitol Hill for the Bryan-College Station Chamber of Commerce ran the gamut when it came to length and type of gatherings.

The typical meeting is with a staff member of a state representative. An example Wednesday was when one of the small delegate groups found their way to Congressman Solomon Ortiz's office where they spoke with a legislative assistant.

Not only do the chamber delegates try to get the word out on the issues impacting the Brazos Valley, but they also try to find common ground with their fellow Texans. In the case of the meeting in the District 27 office of Representative Ortiz, it was the nursing shortage. The Democrat represents Corpus Christi, where the A&M System school is sending nursing students to College Station for a young Health Science Center program.

The vast majority of meetings don't last much more than 30 minutes, if that. Congressman Chet Edwards (D-District 17) found 75 minutes to discuss a wide array of issues with his constituents, discussing everything from lowering the number of employed uninsured to getting the FutureGen clean-burning coal plant to nearby Jewett. Texas has two of the final four candidates, with Illinois having the other two.

Then, there was transportation. Edwards expressed deep concern at the lessening of dollars at TxDOT and heard continued B-CS calls for improved access.

"Ever since I started in the business community back in 1975, transportation has been the issue with the connectivity with the rest of Texas and the rest of the US," Mallard said. "We're still working towards that."

Edwards added, "Easing congestion, improving safety and just the quality of the roads system in the Brazos Valley is a very, very top priority."

The congressman also was thankful the delegation made such a thorough visit to Washington, meeting with not only Texas' congressional delegation, but also various departments and agencies based in the nation's capital.

"They can get information from those agencies on programs and work together on," Edwards said. "That will directly affect jobs and economic development in the Brazos Valley. They're a great help to me, and working together, we can do some good for the area."

Not surprisingly, transportation was also high on the list in the delegation's meeting with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who serves on the Senate's transportation committee.

"When you've got Texas A&M there, all the students that come in and out of the state, I would love to see air service and train service," Hutchison said. "We talked about high-speed rail as well, and I think having a Houston-Dallas, stopping in College Station route for a train would be an excellent option."

Before high-speed rail becomes reality, roads will continue to become packed in the region. The delegation made it clear to Hutchison and others that Texas needs to keep more gas tax dollars in-state. For years, the LoneStar State has been a donor of dollars to others.

"We need to figure out a way how to get more of those tax dollars back to our state," College Station Councilman Chris Scotti, a chamber delegate, said, "and I'd say everybody we've met with, including Senator Hutchison, were extremely positive."

Hutchison's quick stop -- one the delegates said went very well despite it only being 10 minutes due to the senator's busy schedule -- was the last major meeting for the group, though Hutchison will be the last person they meet with, as she is set to have a photo session and coffee with them Thursday. Following that, the delegates will get ready to head home.