State Senator Dawn Buckingham spoke to a gathering at the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce boardroom on Thursday afternoon as part of a multi-city swing through District 24.
The senator touched on topics like her freshman session in the Texas Legislature, Hurricane Harvey relief and her recent appointment as the “Victory Chair” for the Republican Party of Texas.
Buckingham received several honors for her work during the 85th Texas legislative session. Capital Inside named her the Senate’s “most outstanding freshman,” and President Trump invited her to the White House with a group to discuss healthcare reform.
“That was a fascinating experience,” Buckingham said. “I thought that was pretty good for a freshman rural senator to be able to go up and talk about Obamacare and how we can make that better.”
Buckingham said one of the few surprises of her first legislative session was how often she and her colleagues agreed. She said her office made a point to work within the party and across the aisle to find common ground. “At the end of the day, we ended up partnering with about 98 percent of the 181 legislators in the state on something,” she said.
The session was not without its challenges, as Republicans failed to pass measures addressing property tax reform and restricting public bathroom use by biological sex. Even after Gov. Greg Abbott called a summertime special session to enact more agenda items, tension between the House and Senate stalled several bills.
But Buckingham said these bills were the exception rather than the rule, and the legislature did pass over 1,200 new laws during the session. “A lot of times you can find common ground and work with folks on things,” she said.
She also spoke about the legislature’s efforts to streamline regulations and eliminate wasteful spending, and said she was glad the state had opted not to tap more “Rainy Day” funding to cover its next budget. “We chose a more conservative budget and to keep that Rainy Day fund for an actual rainy day, such as Harvey, which is probably going to be one of the most expensive storms to ever hit the United States.”
She said she does not anticipate another special session to allocate Rainy Day funding for storm relief because that money can be distributed without one.
After brief remarks Buckingham took several questions from the crowded audience. She said her new position as the Texas GOP Victory Chair will involve fundraising and spreading the word about Republican candidates and values in the run-up to midterm elections next year.
She also said the growing divide between Texas’s urban and rural communities may be the biggest challenge facing Brown County and the rest of her district. “I do a lot of educating for the people who come from urban areas,” she said. “They don’t always understand some of the complexities of living in a rural area.” She listed telephone co-ops and improved access to broadband internet as two examples of her advocacy.
“There are a lot of things that we just kind of have to have conversations about,” she said.
Buckingham works as an eye physician in her hometown of Lakeway, Texas. According to her Senate webpage, Buckingham passed 39 pieces of legislation in 2017 including bills to “provide tax relief, reduce the size and scope of government, eliminate waste and abuse, cut unnecessary regulation, protect public safety, defend veterans, streamline healthcare and encourage job creation and economic development.”