Lunch with Governor Abbott

Yvette Mendoza

October 12, 2021

On October 12th, the LEAP Ambassadors had the opportunity to attend a luncheon with Governor Greg Abbott. This wonderful lunch was hosted at a soon-to-be-opened restaurant in Huntsville, La Misión Grill and Cantina. As this was a new type of event for us, we didn’t know what to expect, but we were filled with excitement to be able to help the staff set up and have the chance to hear the Governor speak to the citizens of Huntsville.

Setting the mood all throughout the Mexican restaurant were elegant patriotic decorations. The centerpieces were decorated with a beautiful floral arrangement of hydrangeas, roses, and Texas flags, as well as homemade sugar cookies in the shape of the Governor’s Mansion.

Although Jessica and I were admiring the gorgeous set up, we were also running around helping ensure each table had the proper name tents. We were then assigned to the role of giving out name tags to the arriving guests. We were excited to see some lovely familiar faces: Linda McKenzie, Mayor Andy Brauninger, Mr. Alvin Martin, former council member Tish Humphrey, and many more community leaders of Huntsville.

As everyone began to take their seats, the moment we had all been waiting for finally came when Governor Greg Abbott appeared in the middle of the restaurant. He spoke on the topics of currents issues including the crisis on the Texas border, our economy, and his views on the current political scene.

He also mentioned Walker County’s strong voter turnout in the last election.

While Governor Abbott spoke, we were being served by the kind staff at La Misión. We had a plate that had Mexican style cream of corn, rice, cheese enchiladas, and a chicken mini taco garnished with salsa verde. It was nice enough to be in the same room as the governor, but a particular treat to also have some gourmet, flavor-packed Mexican cuisine.

Following his speech, Governor Abbott’s opened the floor for questions and we were able to ask questions, hear his thoughts on a wider variety of issues, and learn about what others thought as well.

Following Governor Abbott’s talk, we were able to hear from Senator Charles Schwertner, who spent much time discussing the special session and redistricting.

The day was a great not only to experience new things, but also to become informed for the upcoming election!

Hanging Around Austin, Texas

With the first part of March spent traveling back to Huntsville  to host the Texas Supreme Court at Sam Houston, the month was off to a great start! Between experiences at the Capitol and in the city, living in Austin for the semester has been pack full of excitement! This session, I am interning for State Senator Schwertner. Senator Schwertner is the Chair of Health and Human Services Committee for the Texas Senate and is a member of several other committees. My responsibilities include a range of office tasks that range from administrative duties to policy analysis.

Kaitlyn Tyra, Austin Internship Program, LEAP Center, Senator Charles Schwertner

This month the 85th Legislative Session hit two important milestones: the sixty-day filing deadline and the Session halfway point! According to the Constitution, the first sixty days of session is the only period where bills can be filed. During this period bills can not be heard on the Senate or House Floors unless the Governor declares it an emergency item. However, after the sixty day deadline no more bills can be filed.

Now that the deadline has passed, the House and Senate can vote on regular bills. As a result, committee hearings, floor discussion, and bill analyses are an every-day occurrence at the Capitol. Also, the session halfway point has come and gone which means our 140 days of session are flying by and leaving!

Not only have I been learning every day in the office at my internship,  I’ve also had interesting experiences as a result of my internship. This month I attended the Texas Legislature’s Army Day where Legislative members and staff learned about the Texas Military.

Kaitlyn Tyra, Austin Internship Program, LEAP Center, Senator Charles Schwertner

I, along with other Legislative staff members, had the opportunity to fly out Camp Swift in Bastrop, TX, where the Texas Military Department hosts thousands of National Guard militants for training every year. During our day at camp, we flew on Blackhawk helicopters…

Kaitlyn Tyra, Austin Internship Program, LEAP Center, Senator Charles Schwertner

…participated in firearm simulations, and shot a real machine gun (with the supervision and assistance of National Guard members of course).Kaitlyn Tyra, Austin Internship Program, LEAP Center, Senator Charles Schwertner The experiences were as memorable as working inside the capitol! I appreciated that the Texas Military Department took the day to teach us through a hands-on experience about their department’s duties.

One of my favorite parts of living in Austin has included trying new restaurants every week! Often, I get together with my fellow LEAP Ambassadors and Austin Interns to try a new and exciting restaurant. This month, my favorite restaurant we tried proved to be Kebabilicious which not only has great food, but a fun atmosphere! Exploring Austin has given me new perspective and experiences that I am thankful for! I am looking forward to the rest of Session and more of our weekly food adventures!

Additionally, I have enjoyed sightseeing around Austin. This month I visited Pennybacker Bridge which is not only an architecturally interesting bridge, but includes a short hike to overlook the sprawling hillsides of Austin.

Kaitlyn Tyra, Austin Internship Program, LEAP Center, Senator Charles Schwertner, Pennybacker Bridge

Although our days at the Capitol can be long and exhausting, I always enjoy getting away from the busy city to enjoy the refreshing scenery of the hillsides.

As I continue through this session, whether I am shooting a thousand rounds per second or making my 5 mph commute through I-35, I cherish every day of my Austin experience. As the Senate gets busier I’ll appreciate a moment to just hang around in Austin.

Kaitlyn Tyra, Austin Internship Program, LEAP Center, Senator Charles Schwertner