Local Lawmakers Ready for New Legislative Session

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Tuesday marks the start of the 83rd Legislative Session, as much of the region will have new representation.

John Raney has been District 14's elected leader for more than a year, but this will be his first session. He filled the unexpired term of Fred Brown after a special election, then won a full term in November to represent most of Bryan/College Station.

"Am I going to introduce a lot of legislation? Probably not," Raney, a Republican, said Monday. "I think this is a learning time for me. That may not be what people want to hear, but I think it is a learning time."

Raney is one of five Aggies who occupy a single hallway in the extension portion of the capitol.

Kyle Kacal from District 12 is down the hall from Raney, a true freshman who will represent the remainder of Brazos County, all of Robertson County and three other counties to the north. He arrived in Austin over the weekend after watching his Aggies win the Cotton Bowl in Arlington.

Priorities for Kacal?

"Johnny's taking care of the stadium, so we can work on other things with higher education in Bryan/College Station and throughout the district, all the way up to West," Kacal, a Republican said. "There's different opportunities for A&M. We have the opportunity to build a Level 3 lab to protect the food in this state and this country. What a great opportunity."

Straight across from Kacal's office is John Otto of District 18. This will be the fifth session for the Dayton native who picked up Walker County in redistricting. The Republican's 1970 A&M yearbook has pictures of a couple of young guys with new budget concerns: A&M System Chancellor John Sharp and Governor Rick Perry.

"While the revenue picture looks very much better than it did the last session, there were also a lot of demands on that budget," Otto said. "We're looking at what we call a supplemental, which is to make up the money we're going to need additionally for the budget we adopted two years ago, and that number right now is about $5.3 billion."

The other new House member for the area is Trent Ashby, a Lufkin Republican who will be District 57's representative, which includes Leon and Madison Counties.

Charles Schwertner is the new senator for District 5, which covers the majority of the region. The Georgetown physician has been a state representative, but won election to replace the retiring Steve Ogden.

Rookies and veterans alike will have 140 days to overcome any learning curve this session. The 31 senators and 150 representatives get sworn in Tuesday morning.