On Tuesday, Scott Cosper will be sworn in as the District 54 representative in the Texas House. The realization started to sink in a few weeks earlier, when he brought some of his family members to Austin.
“We saw my name up on the board,” he said. “That’s when the realities set in that this is getting near.”
The former Killeen mayor had a hard-fought battle in Bell County, and defeated Democratic nominee Sandra Blankenship by 264 votes — just 0.6 percent of the vote. Lampasas County, on the other hand, was not close. Cosper took the rural area with 79 percent of the vote.
Cosper is faced with the task of taking over for a man who was widely regarded across the state as a champion for education. Republican Jimmie Don Aycock of Killeen was honored by the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.
Several state representatives, including Drew Darby and John Otto, were on hand to thank him for all the hard work he put into pushing legislation for public education. He offered a bill that lowered the number of required high school exams at year’s end from 15 to five and rewrote graduation requirements, allowing students to follow a career or technology track.
Aycock also is one of the main reasons Texas A&M University-Central Texas is in operation. These are facts not lost on the District 54 representative-elect, who lists Aycock as one of his mentors.
“There’s no way we could appropriately thank him for all of the work and time he has invested in the community,” Cosper said. “I know I’m following a legend in the House of Representatives, and I don’t take that lightly.”
There’s a medley of issues that Cosper’s constituents want him to take on. He’s gone on record in the past as saying that Fort Hood, TAMU-CT, public schools and job creation are the most important, and he reiterated that Thursday night.
On Tuesday, the Herald’s readers were asked via a Facebook post what issues they wanted their lawmakers to focus on. There were more than 50 comments, but one issue that kept popping up was education.
More specifically, readers wanted something to be done about the overcrowding of schools and the special education departments.
At a pre-election debate, Cosper said that he believed in fully funding area schools, and setting them up to succeed. But he also believes that the government should take a hands-off approach and allow individual school districts to be in control of things.
The superintendents from the respective independent school districts are among the first people he’s talked to while getting a feel for the issues, he said Thursday.
Cosper will be faced with the task of balancing the issues his District 54 consituents care about with the Texas Republican Party’s five goals for the 85th Legislature. Those goals are:
To pass constitutional carry while maintaining licensing as optional for reciprocity purposes.
Abolish abortion by both enacting legislation and refusing to enforce any and all federal statutes, court rulings, regulations and executive orders.
Prioritize the allocation of funds to secure the border through “whatever means necessary.”
Call for a limited Article V convention of states for the specific purpose of restricting the power of federal government.
Replace the property tax system with an alternative other than income tax and require voter approval to increase the overall tax burden.
It’s too early to say just what area his efforts will be focused on the most, Cosper said. House members don’t receive their individual committee assignments until early February. Once they do, he’ll know just who exactly has oversight of each issue.
The same day that Cosper became the representative-elect, Dawn Buckingham became the senator-elect for District 24, which stretches from Abilene all the way down to Lakehills. The Republican eye surgeon never met Cosper before the two hit the campaign trail, but there seems to be a certain level of mutual respect that developed immediately.
“I think Bell County is going to see a very cohesive relationship between the House and the Senate,” Buckingham said, “(District 55) Rep.-elect (Hugh) Shine, Cosper and all of us working hard to see what we’re working on together.”
One of those common viewpoints is the importance of water. It’s an issue that has affected Killeen directly, as the ongoing regional battle doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.
Groundwater wells have began to dry up in Bell and Williamson counties, and much of the state’s surface water already is allocated. It’s a system that has to change, according to Cosper and Buckingham.
The biggest challenge, Cosper said, is making sure that each city is represented and treated fairly. He wants to make sure that the cities in Central Texas are not just well off for the next decade, but also for the next 50 years.
Buckingham said, “There’s a big move to reshape the Texas water policy. Currently, it’s the law of the biggest pump gets it, and I think that’s fundamentally wrong. We are really keeping tabs on how everybody’s water use affects its neighbors.”
The two also placed border security high on the list of concerns, aligning with one of the main platforms that made President-elect Donald Trump so appealing across the country.
“A weak border puts our national security at risk. As the home of major military installations, that impacts Central Texas families in a major way,” Cosper said in an interview with the Herald in May, before he won the primary. “Washington, D.C., and the Obama administration have failed Texans when it comes to securing the border.”
His Senate counterpart also feels as if the Obama administration has left Texans to fend for themselves when it comes to border control, and cited the state’s $800 million expenditure as proof that the country needs to invest more money along the border. However, she didn’t appear to be as invested in the idea of a wall along the border as the president-elect.
“I think when you talk about a wall it’s more of a virtual wall,” she said. “There are some places where a wall would make sense, and there are some places where it would not.”
Buckingham’s already helped prefile two pieces of legislation. The first should come as no surprise to anyone in Texas, as it is a bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, otherwise known as “Obamacare.”
The second is a piece that would punish state electors from failing to comply with the popular vote. If passed, the bill will impose a $5,000 fine on any elector who votes for anyone but the candidate the majority chose, and bars that elector from ever serving in that role again.
Her vision for her constituents: “I think we’re kind of representing the little guy, whether they’re active military, a rancher, they go to work every day and work hard for their money,” she said. “We want good government, but responsible government, and we’re going to help them out in areas that they need to be helped.”
Cosper will be sworn in at the state House chambers at noon Tuesday. Buckingham will also be sworn in Tuesday.