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The Watson Wire is one of the more unique political newsletters in Texas. Stay tuned for a different perspective about Texas politics, news from the Capitol, and the best stories I can come up with every week (believe me, I try).

Senator Watson -- already with his successful "Watson Wire" -- has pushed the envelope throughout the campaign season ..." Burnt Orange Report

It’s your Med School too — what are your hopes?

This is a special day.  And a happy one.

Less than 18 months ago, Travis County voters passed Proposition 1. We voted to invest in and partner with — in a meaningful, personal way — a medical school that promised to transform our region’s healthcare and economy.

And as of today, the construction of this transformative project is officially underway. Hundreds of folks from across our community came out to a ceremony that will launch the construction of the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas.

I’ve been in Austin for a long time, so I’ve seen more than my share of happy, special days.

But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a moment quite like this one.

Sen. Watson Speaking at UT Medical School Launch

Send in your hopes!

Normally, ceremonies like this are called “ground-breakings.” A bunch of swells will stand around in suits, wearing hardhats, carrying ceremonial shovels, and stick those shovels into the ground to symbolically start construction.

That was a little, well, boring for our brand new, cutting-edge med school.

So, instead, all of us — you, me, everybody — have been invited to offer hopes and aspirations for the medical school and what it will mean for our community. Submissions of hopes and aspirations will be incorporated into the med school’s design and decoration. It’s a phenomenal way to be a part of this tremendous project.

What word or phrase summarizes your hopes? Shout it from the rooftops — virtually! — in any of these three ways:

Seriously, let us hear it. Like, right now. #IHopeDellMed. The tweets don’t tweet themselves, people.

There were some signing boards at the ceremony this morning. Here’s some of what folks wrote:
          UT Medical School BoardUT Medical School Signing Board

Continue Reading…

Worried about your water? Remember your history.

I’ve been thinking a lot about water lately. A brutal drought will do that, I guess. 

The economic and environmental devastation are bad enough. But the fights and fears over Austin’s water supply are making it worse.

Photo by the San Antonio Express-News 

So this seems like a good time to remember a little history – to take stock of what we’ve accomplished in Central Texas and where we need to go from here.

One thing we know for sure: this drought has exposed an outdated, inadequate management plan for our region’s water supply. That spells trouble for our economy, quality of life and future.

Fortunately, Austin’s in a strong position to defend its water supply. Continue Reading…

We Have a Winner

I wrapped up my first ever meme contest last week. I had a great time sponsoring it. The entries were terrific, and the audience participation was impressive. Way to go, everybody.

First thing’s first: The winner of the #GetCovered Meme Contest is Marcy Barnard Sprott.

(I guess it should have been obvious that whoever teamed up with the Most Interesting Man in the World – all to make sure young people got health coverage that’s available under the Affordable Care Act – would be pretty much unstoppable.)


Go, Like, Vote

If you’re just back from Spring Break, welcome back. If you were working the whole time, well, let’s be grumpy together.

One way or another, I’ve got one more item for your to-do list today:

The finalists in the #GetCovered Meme Contest are posted. To vote, just go to the gallery and click “like” on your favorite (or, I guess, favorites – we’re all Facebook friends here, after all). Support the meme you think is most likely to help persuade young adults to get health coverage that’s now available under the Affordable Care Act.

Remember, your “like” is your vote.

So go, like, vote.

All votes need to be in by Thursday, and I’ll post results to my Facebook page on Friday. The winner gets a VIP tour of the Texas Capitol and four VIP tickets to my annual “Concert Under the Stars” event.

Here are the finalists. Which one do you think will encourage the most young people to #GetCovered?

Meme 6

 

Meme 22

 

Meme 7

 

Meme 2

 

Meme 1

You’ve Got Memes

Happy Spring Break, everybody. Whether you’re having a blast on South Padre Island, rocking out at South by Southwest, watching Disney Channel marathons with your out-of-school kids, or, y’know, working, I hope it’s a good one.

I don’t mean to drag you away from whatever you’re doing – for heaven’s sake, if you’re driving somewhere with your family, DO NOT read the Watson Wire right now. Just pull over onto the shoulder there, come to a complete stop, and go through it in its entirety, no matter which of your loved ones are screaming or glaring at you. It’s totally worth it. Better yet, read it out loud to everyone in the car.

#GetCovered Meme Contest: The Early Returns

I’m excited to show you some of the entrants from the #GetCovered Meme Contest that I’m sponsoring with the Young Invincibles. We received a bunch of phenomenal entries – you folks are a smart, creative, not-at-all sick bunch.

I’m very pleased with the enthusiasm. Check in at my Facebook page on Friday, when I’ll reveal (dramatically) the finalists.

Then you’ll all have a week to vote for your favorite by clicking “Like” on the meme that you, umm, like. On Friday the 21st, I’ll announce the winner, who’ll get a VIP tour of the Texas Capitol, four VIP tickets to my annual “Concert Under the Stars,” and all of the notoriety that comes with being celebrated in the Watson Wire.

Just ask my pal Alfonso how special the Watson Wire treatment can be.

Anyway, here are some of my favorite memes so far:

Meme 4

 

Meme 3

 

Meme 6

 

Meme 10

 

Meme 9

 

Meme 7

 

Meme 2

 

Meme 1

I look forward to putting this to a vote. Stay tuned.

Civil Rights, Texas and the 21st Century

A remarkable event kicks off here in Austin today.

Four US Presidents and dignitaries from across the country will arrive at the LBJ Presidential Library for a summit commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

This is a great event — if you’re in Austin, I hope you get a chance to go. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to honor a movement that reshaped and continues to mold our great nation.

But more than that, it’s a chance to reflect on what “civil rights” — ideas like freedom, fairness, equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — really mean here in Texas in the 21st century.

Civil rights remain a struggle in Texas

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, partly because the struggle for civil rights, fairness and equality was such a driving influence on me as I went into public service decades ago.

But even more than that, these issues are still so relevant for Texas and Texans today.

I put together this video about civil rights in Texas. It ends with one of my favorite speech passages ever, a moving excerpt from President Johnson’s 1965 speech on voting rights. I hope you’ll check it out.

The Senate Democratic Caucus also co-authored an editorial that ran today on civil rights in the context of issues that the state is facing. You can read the whole thing here, but here’s an excerpt:

Freedom, fairness & equality; Life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness

There are still unfair laws to fight. But in Texas, the civil rights struggle has expanded to unfair budgets as well.

Make no mistake: Education is a civil right. Healthcare is a civil right. So are the rights to drink clean water, move freely about our communities and, most importantly, vote.

For years, these rights have been undermined, and even openly attacked, in the Texas Capitol. There may not be the same grainy, violent news footage that people associate with the civil rights struggle, but the basic stakes of fairness and equality haven’t changed.

Texans love this state. We settle and stay here to pursue our fair share of Texas’ prosperity. So we rightly demand a fair system that provides real, meaningful freedom and opportunity to each of us — no matter our ethnicity, our gender or where we live.

But when we look to those running state government, Texans don’t always see fairness.

Instead, we see a fixed system that consistently puts well-connected millionaire donors and corporations ahead of middle-class working Texans.

We see a school finance system that’s so unfair and inadequate that most Texas school districts felt compelled to sue the state over it.

We see a sustained attack on health services, women and the poor, along with efforts to revise history, whitewash the record, and ignore the plain fact that Texas leads the nation in its percentage of uninsured residents.

We see a murky, incomprehensible budget that makes it difficult to determine how much of our money is going to school kids and how much is going to billionaire sports team owners.

We see budget writers who piously scold others about “budgeting like a family” while they watch state highways grind to a halt, allow rural areas to fall into drought, and ignore the obvious investments that would keep the state’s infrastructure from crumbling like a neglected house.

And in clear echoes of struggles from 50 years ago, we see repeated efforts to make it harder for Texans to exercise the most fundamental right of all – the right to cast their ballots.

These are subtle attacks. They generally occur in back rooms and behind closed doors. They don’t make for iconic television.

But for children, women and men of all races – for hard-working citizens across Texas – these are attacks on dignity, opportunity for prosperity, freedom, and, yes, civil rights.

For these millions and millions of Texans, the fight for freedom and fairness is as much about the present and future as it is about the past.

—————-

Whether you’re at the summit over the next few days or not, thank you so much for your concern about these issues. Thanks even more for your passion in taking them on.

And don’t forget the words of President Johnson that are just as important today as they were when he said them: “… Really, it is all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.

“And we shall overcome.”

Civil Rights remain a struggle in Texas

By Members of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus

This week, Texas will welcome four U.S. Presidents and dozens of dignitaries for the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library. It’s a chance to honor an essential movement that’s reshaped, and is continuing to reshape, our great nation.

It’s also a chance to reflect on what “civil rights” — ideas like freedom, fairness, equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — mean to 21st century Texans. There are still unfair laws to fight. But in Texas, the civil rights struggle has expanded to unfair budgets as well.

Make no mistake: Education is a civil right. Healthcare is a civil right. So are the rights to drink clean water, move freely about our communities and, most importantly, vote.

For years, these rights have been undermined, and even openly attacked, in the Texas Capitol. There may not be the same grainy, violent news footage that people associate with the civil rights struggle, but the basic stakes of fairness and equality haven’t changed.

Texans love this state. We settle and stay here to pursue our fair share of Texas’ prosperity. So we rightly demand a fair system that provides real, meaningful freedom and opportunity to each of us — no matter our ethnicity, our gender or where we live.

But when we look to those running state government, Texans don’t always see fairness.

Instead, we see a fixed system that consistently puts well-connected millionaire donors and corporations ahead of middle-class working Texans.

We see a school finance system that’s so unfair and inadequate that most Texas school districts felt compelled to sue the state over it.

We see a sustained attack on health services, women and the poor, along with efforts to revise history, whitewash the record, and ignore the plain fact that Texas leads the nation in its percentage of uninsured residents.

We see a murky, incomprehensible budget that makes it difficult to determine how much of our money is going to school kids and how much is going to billionaire sports team owners.

We see budget writers who piously scold others about “budgeting like a family” while they watch state highways grind to a halt, allow rural areas to fall into drought, and ignore the obvious investments that would keep the state’s infrastructure from crumbling like a neglected house.

And in clear echoes of struggles from 50 years ago, we see repeated efforts to make it harder for Texans to exercise the most fundamental right of all – the right to cast their ballots.

These are subtle attacks. They generally occur in back rooms and behind closed doors. They don’t make for iconic television.

But for children, women and men of all races – for hard-working citizens across Texas – these are attacks on dignity, opportunity for prosperity, freedom, and, yes, civil rights.

For these millions and millions of Texans, the fight for freedom and fairness is as much about the present and future as it is about the past.

We’re glad so many people have come to Texas this week to take part in this critical conversation. Let’s make sure it extends beyond this event, through this year’s elections and into next year’s legislative session.

This article was co-authored by members of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus, including Senators Kirk Watson (Chair), John Whitmire, Judith Zaffirini, Rodney Ellis, Eddie Lucio, Jr., Royce West, Leticia Van de Putte, Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, Carlos Uresti, José Rodríguez, and Sylvia R. Garcia.

“Stop fighting the future”

“Texans deserve better than laws rooted in prejudice that don’t live up to the ideals of our Constitution.”

 

Senator Kirk Watson on Wednesday issued the following statement about a federal judge’s ruling that Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional:

 

“The future values all Texans. It builds on what strengthens Texas and spits out what weakens it. It’s bigger than the fearful, petty prejudice that denies loving Texans legal recognition of their love.

 

“Those in control of this state need to stop fighting the future. They must stop governing by fear. They must stop pretending there’s some security blanket in laws that treat others unfairly.

 

“The same folks who piously declare their love of the Constitution must stop tearing down the very jurists – the constitutional third branch of our government – who are empowered by that Constitution to protect liberty and justice for all. If they love Texas as much as they say, they must stop demanding laws that weaken our state. They must stop preaching the heresy that God somehow approves of bigotry.

 

“Over and over again – on issues as fundamental and as basic as Texans’ right to marry, or to vote, or to ensure their kids have a decent education – we see courts empowered by constitutions repudiating the governance of fear. Texans deserve better than fearful demagoguery from reactionary politicians who’d cast Texas backward. Texans deserve better than laws rooted in prejudice that don’t live up to the ideals of our Constitution.

 

“It’s 2014. Let’s embrace this moment. Let’s have clear eyes about where we are and where Texas is going. And let’s cast out those who would undermine Texas’ future in the name of a cowardly culture war.”

 

Texas women deserve a full hearing

Senator Kirk Watson, Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, released the following statement Wednesday regarding the Senate Health and Human Services Committee hearing on women’s health issues in Texas:
We’re encouraged by Chairwoman Nelson’s pledge to have “a thorough discussion of every aspect” of the state’s efforts to provide healthcare to Texas women. We hope she’ll pursue it, even if the Lieutenant Governor didn’t specify that thorough discussion in the interim charge that’s on the committee’s agenda.
The interim charge (quoted in full on the agenda for tomorrow’s committee hearing) frames this interim study – apparently without irony – as an effort to “build on previous legislative achievements in women’s healthcare.” This after a summer in which those in control of the Texas Senate sought to insulate themselves from the effects of anti-women legislation by pledging to hold hearings during the legislative interim that would take an open and honest look at women’s health issues in this state. 

In July, the Senate Democratic Caucus requested interim studies to take a much more comprehensive look at women’s health. Our language was not reflected in the Lieutenant Governor’s interim charge.

Now, Texans must hope the Health and Human Services Committee will go outside the strict bounds of the interim charge to have the honest, transparent and comprehensive discussion that Texas women deserve. Those in control of the state shouldn’t be afraid to simply talk – honestly and transparently – about the effects of their actions.