March 8, 2007
No, that’s not a reference to the Capitol. I started the week last Sunday with the honor of making a small cameo in McCallum High School’s theatre production of the musical by that name. McCallum has a Fine Arts Academy that is, well, very fine. They didn’t let me sing or dance, which I would argue was their loss. Instead, I opened the play by reciting a narrative setting up the story.When they called the office and asked me to do this, they said I would be giving the introductory speech that the kids called the “Voice of God.”I naturally accepted that opportunity, even though I usually try to avoid typecasting.
Today is the “filing deadline”, which means all bills (other than local ones) must be filed to be considered in this legislative session. That makes for a crunch. In fact, it’s a little nuts. Of course, there’s a lot of stuff that people have been working on for a while, and it’s just time to file it. There are also new ideas that have popped up.But I’m amazed by the number of people who just show up here at the end, looking for someone to carry some bill. Man, it’s really gratifying. They tell you that “you’re just perfect” for this bill. Some folks tell you how good/important/critical the bill is. They also tell you how good/important/critical you are.I’m not sure they all really mean it. But, I’m still kinda new. Maybe they do.
Longtime readers of the Watson Wire know I’m excited about today, and not just because some bill I’ve never seen before can make my legislative career. They will remember that last summer, I convened a big group of elected officials from across Central Texas to discuss the challenges and opportunities presented by State Highway 130. A lot of that work will come to fruition today when I file three bills designed to give small cities, counties, and Austin the tools they need to get our arms around this growth and make sure it’s a boon – and not a burden – to our communities. It wasn’t long ago that I had to explain where this new highway was going to be. By now, with part of it open and the rest supposed to be done by Christmas, you probably know that SH 130 runs 49 miles, from south of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to north of Georgetown. What you may not know is that the road presents a significant challenge and an unprecedented opportunity to the cities and counties around it. As I noted in a letter I sent this week to participants in the SH 130 effort, everyone came into this process with their own ideas and experiences about the tools they needed to take advantage of the road and avoid its potential negative impacts. But there were two basic needs that everyone shared: certainty about the quality of future development along SH 130, and money. So, as I wrote, groups of jurisdictions have been working over the last several months on tools that local officials want and need to meet the challenge of 130. The three bills are the beginning – and, as we all know, they’re nothing but a beginning – of our effort to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and avoid mistakes that could haunt future generations. The door isn’t closed on new ideas, by any means. The bills will almost certainly need to be amended after filing. But the fact that they exist at all, and the fact that the region is coming together around a growth policy that’s good for everyone (even if it’s not perfect for anyone), is a giant step toward our long-standing goal to work together in Central Texas as partners and neighbors. Like I say, I’m very excited.You can read details about the bills here, in one of my updates to people who’ve written the Senate office about transportation issues. I call these updates Mile Markers, and I’ve been keeping them at www.kirkwatson.com. This week, I’ve written about:
Some of you may have noticed that I dove head-first into an important issue by filing a bill this week that would make so-called “party boats” safer for the partiers. I suppose it’s not possible to be the guy saying “safety” on a party boat and not look like a wet blanket. In fact, one or two people have publicly said I’m all wet for suggesting such a thing.But this bill ain’t taking on water. It seems like recreational activity on our lakes – something that’s such a part of life in Central Texas – ought to be safe and protect the lives of those who enjoy the outdoors.I filed this bill after two people died during party boat trips on Lake Travis last summer. It turns out that there are precious few rules governing these boats, and some operators were even asking for guidance from the state last year. My regulations are pretty straight-forward, particularly for anyone who’s familiar with boating – things like periodic inspections, passenger limits, safety courses, and licenses for boat operators. It also requires boat companies to make sure their boaters – just the drivers, mind you – aren’t drunk. Party on, dude. But let’s assure some basic safety measures. Captain Stubing will love this boat bill.