AUSTIN -- Settled into his office in the Capitol Extension, State Rep. Tony Dale (R-Cedar Park) recalled his first day on the job just two weeks ago, on the opening day of the 83rd Texas Legislature.
"It was pretty special because my wife and my two daughters were able to be there. My littlest one is eight years old and she sat on my lap for most of it," Dale said.
For the longtime Cedar Park resident and former city council member, the Texas house brings a new set of challenges.
"There's seven members of the Cedar Park city council," said Dale. "You only needed three other people to agree with you to get something done, so building coalitions was a little bit easier on one side."
Dale shares a desk with fellow Williamson County resident State Rep. Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock), who Dale said has been a friend since before either was elected to the Texas House of Representatives.
"He does give me some advice," said Dale. "A lot of it I think is common sense. Listen, learn, get to know everybody in the chamber. It's nice to have someone right next to me on the floor that I trust that I can ask questions."
Like many freshman lawmakers this session, Dale has begun filing legislation. One bill authored by Dale and State Rep. Marisa Marquez (D-El Paso) would allow school board trustees direct access to important district information without having to file an open records request. Dale said the law codifies a 1983 ruling by the Texas attorney general, which recently came into play concerning actions of the El Paso Independent School District which led to scandal.
"I think if you're an elected official you need to have access to documents so that you can understand what's happening in your government organization so you can govern," said Dale.
In his Williamson County district, Dale said Second Amendment rights have been the number one issue raised by constituents.
Dale is one of 32 state representatives signed onto a controversial bill that would outlaw enforcement of federal laws affecting gun rights which the state deems unconstitutional. Dale said while the bill may be difficult to actually pass, much less enforce, it still serves a purpose.
"Some of this also is a statement to the federal government just saying look, Second Amendment rights are important to a lot of Texans," said Dale. "This is a way that we can show that we're listening to the people that are talking to us, and hopefully sending a message to the federal lawmakers that it's not something that should be taken lightly, and they need to be careful about how they do it."
This week the military lifted restrictions on women serving in combat. A former armor officer and graduate of the Army's Airborne School at Fort Benning, Dale said he met his wife while both were serving in the Army.
"What people in the military value is that you can do your job and you can do it well, and if you can meet the standards required for that job you should be able to do it," said Dale. "But you need to make sure that the standards that are set are ones that meet the needs of the mission. That's what's most important."
Dale has also filed legislation to abolish the Alternative Fuels Research and Education Division program administered by the Texas Railroad Commission. Created in 1991 and charged with "researching and educating the public about propane as an environmentally and economically beneficial alternative fuel," Dale said there's no need for the state to continue marketing propane.
For this session, Dale maintains his focus will be on keeping government local and limited.
"Really for me it's about listening to the people in Williamson County," said Dale. "Learning this job down here, building relationships with other members of the legislature and just trying to make sure we can do the best job for Williamson County that we can do."