November 9, 2010
By the time the results were coming in Tuesday night – by the time we knew what a momentous night it had become – well, I was expecting a lot of questions.
But, you know, it’s interesting: after all these years in politics, some of them as a Mayor and now a Texas Senator, I’m proud to say I can still be surprised by how some folks can just miss the point.
There I was on Tuesday night at a post-election gathering here in Austin. I was talking with folks and watching election returns from my reelection race, all of the Travis County contests, and the other legislative campaigns across Texas. Plus, there was a little race for Governor here in Texas. And, as has happened, oh, a million times before at that sort of event, up walked a reporter who wanted to know if I’d talk a minute.
Ego (and maybe common sense) being what it is, I jumped to the conclusion that this reporter (from Austin, Texas) would certainly be asking about my re-election. I have a really deep appreciation and gratitude to the people of Senate District 14, who re-elected me with more than 60 percent of the vote in spite of the electoral dynamics that turned so many elections the opposite direction.
But she promptly dispatched that silly notion, saying, “I’m not going to ask about your race.” A little surprised, I said, “What do you want to talk about?”
Perhaps the tidal wave that’s about to produce another round of change in our nation’s capitol?
Or the massive re-making of the Texas House of Representatives – and what it will mean for the very difficult budget decisions the Texas legislature faces in a little over two months.
Nope. Instead, the reporter said, “I want to talk about Prop 19.”
My first thought was exactly what you’d expect: “Huh?”
I clarified her question by deftly asking her, “Proposition 19?” I also started panicking and thinking maybe I’d just missed something in all of the election activity. Had there been 19 or more ballot propositions that I was, somehow, totally ignorant of and then just didn’t see on my ballot?
In a tone that revealed her disdain for my I.Q., she said, “Yeah. Prop 19. In California.”
Oh, sure. California.
Wait a minute. California?
Well, of course. Proposition 19 was one of those ballot items that had nothing to do with Texas, that no Texan could vote for, and that – let’s be honest – makes it a whole lot easier for Texans to make fun of California.
Suffice it to say, I didn’t answer the question.
Because, among other things, there’s real work to do. And that work is getting clearer and clearer.
Some folks might have raised their eyebrows at the fact that the state’s Business Tax Advisory Committee didn’t meet until, literally, the morning after an election in which the state’s finances were an issue.
Those eyebrows might have risen higher when it turned out that the only discussion item was a report showing the new franchise tax – revised in 2006 and known by many as the Margins Tax – has utterly failed to live up to the promises that were made about it.
All I’ll say about Wednesday’s meeting is that, if nothing else, it’s a crystal-clear indication that the days of politics and name-calling are over, and the hard work and hard decisions Texans face can no longer be ignored. And it was more proof Texas needs budget reform, which will help prevent the structural deficits that have been unmasked by the fiscal crisis Texas faces.
Those in control of the budget have mismanaged the people’s money and created big problems for all of us. Then, they’ve worked hard to cover them up. We need budget reform – badly.
You can read a wrap-up of the meeting, and the problems it highlighted, here. As for what I plan to do about those problems …
On Monday morning, I’ll speak at a Legislative Session Preview event at the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum.
My speech will begin at 10 a.m. I’ll focus on the massive challenges we face – as a result both of a recession that Texas wasn’t prepared to face, and of poor financial decisions that created structural problems throughout the budget.
I’ll also highlight my own agenda for the 82nd Legislative Session, including budget reform. And I’ll discuss some other big issues that, for better or worse, will preoccupy the legislature over the next seven months and shape Texas’ future far beyond the session.
If you want to attend in person, you can RSVP to Yvonne.Reynolds@senate.state.tx.us, or call (512) 463-0114.
So tune in on Monday morning at 10, and start getting ready for session.
And I promise, there will be nothing about Prop 19. You don’t even have to ask.
One last note: Yesterday, Attorney General Greg Abbott and I held a press conference to discuss our partnership in the upcoming legislative session to prevent the practice of “sexting” – in which minors send or receive sexually explicit images through text messages, email and other means.
The bill language that we’re working on will recognize that sexting is wrong, harmful to all who are affected by it, and illegal. In addition, it’ll provide education for our children regarding the harm sexting causes, and give prosecutors an appropriate tool to stop this problem.
One study has shown that as many as one-in-five teenagers has sent a sexually suggestive picture or video of themselves electronically, and nearly one-in-three has received such an image.
Unfortunately, the law has not kept up with our technology or our teenagers. The truth is that technology has changed what it means to be a child and an adolescent in Texas. And our laws need to recognize that the Texas of today is a very different place than it was when most of those who wrote those laws were growing up.
You can read more about this effort in the Newsroom at www.kirkwatson.com.