BIG COUNTRY, Texas (BIGCOUNTRYHOMEPAGE) – In a recent interview with News Director Manny Diaz on Big Country Politics, District 71 State Representative Stan Lambert discussed various topics affecting the Big Country and Texas, including the situation at the border, education savings accounts, and the importance of rural representation in Austin.

On Wednesday, Lambert and other representatives took a trip to the border in the Eagle Pass sector to see what is happening firsthand.

“We flew down from Austin, and then we boarded helicopters. And we flew up and down the river for about 15 to 20 miles just looking and observing and trying to get a lay of the land, so to speak,” Lambert explained. “We saw a number of groups that were in the process of trying to walk across the river and navigate in the low, low water areas of the river. So then, we saw kind of where the buoy system that has been very controversial was being used as a deterrent. So it was a good firsthand experience for me, as well as the other representatives, to visit with our law enforcement, our DPS personnel, Texas military department.”

He added that they were given briefings to learn more about the current border situation, including the latest numbers and issues.

“We were very close to a port of entry, and so we had some discussions about why some will avoid going to the port of entry or elect to just come across and try to make it to the mainland and usually get apprehended by DPS and then sent off to a processing center,” Lambert said. “Just seeing that firsthand… was just a very eye-opening experience for me. And it made me realize, just in fact, that the buoy was only about 100 yards in length. And when we flew down the river, we only saw one set of buoys that was about 100 yards. And so it’s not something that is everywhere in the river; it’s something that’s just being used in a very certain sector where there’s been a lot of crossings. And again, the purpose is to try to deter and send those crossings to those folks that are coming across to be processed through either DPS or through Border Patrol port of entry systems.”

Lambert added that they have asked the federal government to help with resources, but the State of Texas has had to foot the bill so far.

“We have asked the federal government to do their job to send the resources, whether it’s through additional personnel or to provide funding. And we’re happy to do some of the legwork and actually be the agencies that are doing the work, but we feel like it is a federal responsibility,” Lambert shared. “I think we all would agree, at least from our standpoint, we’re spending over $5 billion every two years now in our state budget. Those are dollars that could be used in public education; those are dollars that can be used in healthcare and building more roads and transportation because of the growth of our state. So we see ourselves having to foot the bill for responsibility that the federal government has not lived up to.”

Lambert added that what’s occurring at the border is impacting the entire state, including Abilene and the Big Country.

“Vehicles are being stolen. And so when you get in the vehicle in three hours or four hours, you can be on I-20. Then it’s not a problem that’s just occurring on the border. And when you hear ranchers talking about their fences being cut, their livestock being killed, bonfires being set, a lot of waste is left when they have these encampments. And they’re hiding out, I mean, they’re trying to avoid and not get caught or not get apprehended. So, yes, I think it’s it’s becoming more of a problem for the entire state,” Lambert explained.

He said more and more people have been seeing the effects of the border situation from all over the country.

“We’re seeing more visits from representatives and from senators and others from other parts of the country that may not have this problem going on in their state. But they are seeing the effects of illegal drug activity that’s going on, the fentanyl and the meth and the other types of illegal drugs that are coming into our country and are impacting our youth and creating problems as far as capacity in our jails and prisons and so forth,” Lambert said. “They’re starting to, I think, get the understanding. And the idea that this is, this is more than what we consider normal. We’ve always been a country accepting immigrants, and there is a legal process. And we are glad to have that. But this is more than that, and this has become a problem that is creating other problems, not just in Texas, although we are bearing the brunt of the illegal activity and as well as an open border policy by our Washington administration, but other states are seeing the problems start to evolve in their areas as well.”

Lambert also shared that he is running for a fifth term, as he believes his experience and background can play a key role in rural representation in Austin.

“I’ve been involved in other public service positions, being on the school board, and having been a mayor of a small town at one time in my career. So this is just kind of what the next step was, for me to serve at this level and to be representing an area that I feel very strongly about, which is my hometown and the Big Country,” Lambert expressed. “Rural representation is extremely important right now because a lot of the issues that were being discussed in Austin are really not so much the ideology between a certain party or another party; it’s really more about urban versus rural. And we, as rural representatives, are asked constantly by our urban friends, what does this mean? Or how does this affect Abilene if we pass this bill that really is going to have an impact in Dallas, Fort Worth, or Houston? And so there’s that collaboration, that experience that I mentioned, is important in building those relationships. And I want to continue that I want to continue to work on things that are important, not just to our district but the entire state.”

Across each state, voucher programs and education savings accounts have been a topic of discussion. According to Lambert, the outcomes of such programs vary. However, he is committed to ensuring that if Texas implements such a program, it is fair and accessible to all students.

“They’ve had different results, varying results. In other states, there’s been some success, there’s other states that have not seen the success. So it’s kind of a mixed bag as far as looking around at other states and seeing how vouchers have impacted their public education system,” Lambert said.

He said that most of the discussion has revolved around a universal education savings account that anyone could apply for and use.

“So if they wanted to homeschool, or if they wanted to send their child to a private school, they could use this education savings account to do that. But with no accountability, without any strings attached, without any requirements to work under our current education guidelines that the Texas Education Agency oversees for all of our public education for the 5.5 million students in Texas, we have certain criteria we want to make sure we measure growth measure progress,” Lambert explained. “But the program that’s being touted in the one that’s being promoted right now does not have any of those strings attached; there’d be no accountability. And I just have a hard time right now seeing using taxpayer dollars to fund private education with no accountability. We have some great private schools here in Abilene and in other parts of rural Texas. But there are some small communities just not very far from here that are also part of my district that would not have those choices. And so I want to make sure that whatever we do is fair and equitable. And it’s something that all students in Texas would still benefit from as far as having those opportunities to be successful.”

Lambert said that once the special session begins, the bills will be presented on the house floor for debate and discussion.

“Once we see the actual language in those bills, we’ll know if it’s a bill that only applies to a certain demographic of students, if it’s special needs children, or if it’s just going to apply to students that are currently in a low performing school would benefit from one of these voucher programs. So until we really see the bill language, it’ll be a lot of general discussion about vouchers,” Lambert explained. “And again, you kind of come from it either from a rural or from an urban background. You know, I’ve heard from my colleagues, particularly our rural representatives, that a few of them are a little more open-minded to listening and seeing what those conditions might be and what strings are attached. Others have pretty much put a stake in the ground and said, ‘No way under my watch will a voucher program.'”

He added that, at this time, he is not a voucher supporter.

“I’ve not seen a bill that I could support. Because, again, up to now, it’s been mostly a universal discussion. There’s been no limitations, no strings attached, no accountability. And so, under those types of scenarios and conditions, I would not be voting for that,” Lambert said.