April 26, 2007
I’ve known for a week now that the Austin High varsity lacrosse team won the final game of the season by a score of 11-4, making them undefeated in regular season district play. It probably merited a special Watson Wire so that you guys wouldn’t be distracted all week wondering about the outcome. Sorry about that. Anyway, this means the playoffs have started. We got a first round bye and play tomorrow evening. By the way, Preston Watson made All-District Honorable Mention as a defenseman. Speaking of that boy, Preston was on the Senate Floor this week as an “Ambassador” for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. It was better than cool to see him out there, along with five other Ambassadors, being introduced by Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano.Senator Shapiro was the sponsor of a resolution honoring JDRF, which is a great organization. A group of kids with Type 1 juvenile diabetes and their parents were in the Capitol this week educating lawmakers about this miserable disease, what they go through every day living with it, the fact that there is no cure, and the critical need to find one. Preston, who has had diabetes since he was five, is an outstanding Ambassador and just generally a kid that a dad can be very proud of.
One of the things I’ve thought about more than once in my first session is whether the things that go on inside this building make any sense to anyone who doesn’t work here. Take the HPV vaccine bill.In two days this week, the Senate and House of Representatives came together in a rare and potentially historic way around an initiative that purportedly sought to dramatically reduce a kind of cancer in women and young girls. Naturally, nearly all of us voted against it. If that baffles you, then you can’t possibly be in state politics. The bill in question is HB 1098, which overturns Governor Perry’s executive order mandating that girls in our public schools be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer. It passed the Senate 30-1 on Tuesday (I was one of the 30, not the 1) and won more than 130 out of 150 votes in the House Wednesday. Not only was the margin overwhelming, but we left ourselves enough time to override Governor Perry’s veto, just in case it comes to that. At this point, you should be asking a question, and probably out loud. The question is, why? Particularly given the impact that beating cancer had on my life, why would I be joining so many of my colleagues in opposing something that seems to have such good intentions?
I passionately agree with the Governor’s goal of having Texas do all it can to cure cancer. But I disagree with the Governor giving himself the power to mandate this vaccine through an “executive order.”Instead of letting the legislature consider, and deliberate on, this very big, very new policy, Governor Perry tried to single-handedly impose it at the very moment when the policy makers in the Legislature were meeting. The legislative process was created to air just this sort of issue before the public and their elected officials. The HPV executive order at least threatened to fundamentally change the constitutional balance of power in Texas.As I’ve said, I’m a big fan of some of Governor Perry’s efforts to fight cancer – I even co-authored a bill he supports that would dedicate hundreds of millions of dollars a year to cancer research. But ordering these kids to have this vaccine, no matter what their parents think, bugs me.
I know that we require other vaccines for kids. Those vaccines, though, are typically for potential or historical epidemics, like polio. Or they’re the kind of diseases where you drop a snotty-nosed kid in a classroom and, before you know it, the whole school has mumps or measles or chicken pox. I pray that this new vaccine will end up preventing a lot of people from contracting cancer. And I hope the state is smart enough to make sure that parents of girls know lots about the vaccine so that they can make decisions on behalf of their kids. For me, for now, that’s the best way to address the issue – give parents the information they need to protect their children. The Governor should leave the parenting to them and the lawmaking to the lawmakers.We’ll know soon, I guess, whether the Governor will veto this bill. While this might look like a mess from afar, I suppose the good news is that it’s focusing attention on an important health-care issue.And, I suppose, it also allows some high school government teacher the chance to discuss balance of power.