March 15, 2011
First thing’s first:
Our thoughts and prayers are with those in Japan who’re coping with the terrible destruction caused by the tsunami and nuclear problems.
If you haven’t already, or even if you have, head over to the American Red Cross and consider contributing to disaster recovery efforts there.
For a little while now, I’ve been fascinated by the rise of Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms and what they can mean to those of us who are doing policy, organizing constituents and preparing for Texas’ future. (Plus, it’s a great way to keep up with people’s birthdays.)
The truth is, I’m young enough to be fascinated by the impact of these new tools. And I’m … well, let’s call it mature enough to have a perspective on what a difference they can make.
Saturday’s extraordinary march on the Capitol in support of Texas children, teachers and schools is a great example.
Thousands of people turned out to protest the state’s terrible budget management, the resulting disaster (which I’ve discussed here and here) and the effects that proposed cuts will have on our state’s future.
There are literally millions of Texans whose hearts are very much with everyone who attended the demonstration, but who just couldn’t get away from work or home on Saturday to be there.
In the past, they would have just missed it, maybe caught a glimpse of it on the news or in the paper, and hoped to talk with someone who went.
But now, thanks to tweets, Facebook posts, blog updates and emails, they can follow what’s going on as it happens and communicate with friends and strangers – just like they would in person – about how to do right for our kids and our future.
In that way, these social media technologies help us expand the conversation in ways that were never possible in the past. So whatever the official number is of how many people rallied on Saturday, the numbers who were energized and inspired by the event are orders of magnitude larger.
And believe me – we’re going to need the energy and input of every single one of them to make a difference this session.
New media’s been on my mind a lot lately – and not just because everyone’s in town for South by Southwest – or because the little interactive festival now looks big enough to start thumping its older music and film siblings.
Earlier this month, I sat down for an interview with Austin blogger extraordinaire Rachel Farris (known to many of us as @MeanRachel, though, as was noted, she’s really not all that mean; it’s sort of like calling me TallKirk) before a few dozen local Twitterers over breakfast. She wrote a summary of the event that you can read here.
And yesterday, I sat for an interview with Facebook, which is making a splash for the festival – you can watch the video here.
The message, over and over, has been that these tools are vital to the world as we now know it. At a time when so many feel disconnected and isolated – particularly from their government and from the decisions being made that affect them – these platforms plug people in and bring them together.
And they help people know their elected representatives in very direct, very transparent ways.
As I said in both interviews, folks shouldn’t outsource their b.s.
All of which is to say, if we aren’t already connected on Facebook and Twitter, go here and click “Like,” and go here and click “Follow.” Let me know what you’re thinking about what’s going on at the Capitol right now.
I’ll be doing the same.
I’ll close this week with a look at some of the bills I’ll be working on this session. Friday was the bill-filing deadline for the session (though we can still introduce new legislation in the Senate on a four-fifths vote), so my table’s pretty well set.
Couple these with the bills I’ve written about in the past (including my Honesty Agenda bills on budget transparency and accountability, our bill to make sure appropriate laws are in place regarding the practice of teen “sexting,” and what we’re calling Pathways to Employment Act), and I get really hopeful that as rough as this session has been, we’ve still got a great chance to do some real good for Texans and Texas’ future this year.
Here are some quick summaries with links to the bill text:
SB 1655: This would take a number of steps to make sure more folks have the information they need about insurance rates – making folks better shoppers and, hopefully, helping make rates lower and the market more competitive.
SB 1648: This would set a framework and a strong step for the creation of new medical schools in areas where they’re badly needed – including Central and South Texas.
SB 449: This would create an innovative path to work with the private sector and encourage landowners to manage their property in ways that increase water quality and water quantity.
SB 1649: This would use a law enforcement fund – the proceeds of which have been diverted for years – to create a grant program supporting border safety and security.
SB 330: This is the bill we almost passed last session that would utilize private-sector forces to make Texas a leader in the 21st Century energy economy.
SB 293: This is a great bill I filed before the session even started to encourage the use of cost-effective telemedicine services to help folks get good healthcare without having to go to the doctor’s office.
SB 291 and SB 1331: These bills would ensure that kids know everything they need to know about the dangers of alcohol poisoning – and that they aren’t afraid to take action if their friends are in trouble.
SB 329: This creates a badly needed recycling program for television sets, building on the innovative electronic waste recycling program that one of my bills created a couple of years ago.
SB 1044: This allows counties to participate with the private sector in partnerships that protect open space land by purchasing the development rights to it.