Local Legislators Sworn in for New Session in Austin

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One day down, at least 139 to go in the 83rd Texas Legislative Session.

The new set of elected officials in the House and Senate were sworn in Tuesday, including a lot of freshmen lawmakers for the Brazos Valley.

On the Senate side, Georgetown's Charles Schwertner switches sides of the Capitol building as he moves from representing a House district to taking over retired Senator Steve Ogden's District 5 seat. He may be a freshman, but he says his time in Austin will help him navigate another session.

"I do have legislative experience. I had a very tough session in the House," Sen. Schwertner said of the 82nd session, one with major budget crunching to balance things out. "I'm also a professional, someone with a medical background, and a businessman, some six generations of farming and ranching roots in Senate District 5. I feel ready to step up and serve and be prepared from Day One."

Schwertner's district runs from Georgetown all the way to Walker County, with much of the Brazos Valley in between.

At Texas A&M in the mid-1990s, Trent Ashby was in the Student Senate and a Yell Leader. Now, he's making the jump from Lufkin school board president to District 57 state representative.

"There's a lot of mileage between the counties on the east, San Augustine, and Leon County on the west, but in terms of the people that actually make up this district, they share a lot of similarities," he said.

Ashby says that makes representing Madison, Leon and four other counties easier. While he touted education as Priority One, rather than push a firm agenda, he said he's going to sit back in his first session and learn the ropes.

A simple philosophy: "God gave me two ears and one mouth, and to be a good listener, not just to the people here in terms of the members, but also to continue to listen to the people back in our district that I represent," he said.

For the offices of veteran lawmakers, they've got to learn the new class along with all the issues. Lois Kolkhorst is entering her seventh session. She will represent Washington, Burleson and Grimes Counties, among others.

"Certainly, we're going to miss Senator Ogden and Representative (Fred) Brown, who have been the senior lawmakers, but we have a great cast of new people coming in in the Brazos Valley, some really good, strong freshmen," Rep. Kolkhorst said. "I'm proud of them."

The region's new senior lawmaker has chaired the House public health committee, and says money due to come to Texas from the Affordable Care Act will have an impact on funding the ever-changing landscape. Plus, there's the next generation of providers that the A&M Health Science Center and Blinn's Allied Health Program are creating.

"That's going to be one of my prioritities, is are we producing enough primary care physicians," she said. "Do have the speciality positions filled? Do we have the nurses and the allied health? It's a huge industry."

John Raney and Kyle Kacal, who represent Brazos County, were among the 150 representatives sworn in. Raney took over Fred Brown's District 14 seat to represent most of Bryan/College Station. Kacal is the new District 10 House member representing the rest of Brazos County, Robertson and others north.

John Otto from District 18 picked up Walker County in redistricting.