August 30, 2007
I almost always loved the first day of school. New teachers, new friends, new clothes. It always felt like a fresh start. Plus (and this will surprise many people) I was kind of a social kid and liked being around all of those folks at school and getting involved in all of the activities. I’m still a fan of the first day of school. But now it’s because the other people in my house will finally have to go to bed at a decent hour. These kids have been killing me this summer. It feels like it was worse than in past years. That may be because I now have an 18-year-old and a 12-year-old. Or it may be that I’m what those two would call an old man. Regardless, I strongly support sleeping at least a little bit each night. When there’s no school, there’s no routine bed time for any of the other three in my house, and all three stay up late. (I’m sure they will argue that I define “late” as something like past 8:00.)Anyway, school’s back, and we’re back to a more established bed time now. I’m pleased about that, but I’m seriously considering introducing legislation to establish a year-round school schedule. We’re engaged in those typical first-week discussions with the boys. The kind where you ask how the day went and the kid mutters, “Fine.” Or you ask what he did, and he grunts, “Nuthin’.”But it’s cool when you do get something like Cooper telling us how much he likes his new Social Studies teacher. Or Preston tells you he got the teacher he wanted for English.
Of course, teachers make the school experience.Always, it seems, the good stories involve teachers. For so many, including me, the lessons may fade or get buried below the more interesting and challenging stuff you learn later. But the great teachers seem to accompany us all our lives. In January, when I took office, I invited several of my teachers from Boswell High to the swearing in ceremony in the Senate, and some of them were able to be there. It was a special day, and I wanted them to see what they helped me become. I’m frequently asked about what I think we need to be doing in the area of education. My response is that we should start with treating our teachers as professionals, including in the way we pay them. We need to do what’s necessary to attract and retain the best teachers we can. So, as we celebrate the first week of school, let’s celebrate those who are having such an impact on the lives of our children.
Saturday was one of the best days I’ve had since I became State Senator. We spent the day at Parque Zaragoza in East Austin, signing kids up for the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.I wrote last week about how important this program is, both for our kids and our economy. But I’ve never been able to do anything as direct as help these kids and their parents apply for the program. It was incredibly rewarding, particularly when you looked at the children and remembered that they would now have some protection if they ever got real sick. But it was also just a really fun time. A lot of it felt like a carnival – kids running around and jumping in the inflatable romper room, a radio station raffling off goodies that Time Warner Cable donated, and everybody chowing down on hot dogs and popcorn.Good day. Great cause. What could be better?
Tomorrow’s going to be a big day, too. More than 600 of the bills that survived the 80th Legislative Session will become law.Just for your information, here are more than a half-dozen things that, as of Sept. 1, you can call laws. These aren’t the biggest, thickest, or most famous of the work that we did during the last session – a lot of those bills took effect immediately or at other times, or won’t become law until after the Constitutional election in November.But these do represent the nuts and bolts of the legislative process, and they’re things that you might notice, or that might affect you, or that you’ll probably be glad to know are there. Without further ado . . .House Bill 2714, Computer Recycling: This is the House version of the landmark recycling bill I carried in the Senate. Working with manufacturers, it creates a program that allows computers to be recycled and keeps the harmful chemicals in them out of landfills. Senate Bill 369, License Plate Frames: This bill responded to the minor furor that broke out when folks realized that they could be pulled over if any part of their license plate was obscured by things like a frame. The bill would now forbid only stuff that “significantly impairs the readability” of the state name or numbers on the plate. (By the way, Liz got stopped and received a warning for this about a month ago in Blanco County.)House Bill 1522, Trucks in Subdivisions: This bill expands the law keeping 18-wheelers and other commercial vehicles from parking overnight in residential subdivisions. As of tomorrow, in most cases, these vehicles would also be prevented from parking overnight on a street adjacent to a subdivision and within 1,000 feet of a house, school, church, or park.House Bill 1279, Motorcycles at Red Lights: Here’s another bill I carried in the Senate, and it concerns the sensors at traffic lights that cause lights to change when traffic starts building up. The bill states that whenever a vehicle detector at a stoplight is installed, repaired, or replaced, it has to be able to detect the weight of a motorcycle. Otherwise, motorcyclists (and the cars behind them) might have to wait forever before a red light turns green. House Bill 948, Labels on Prescription Bottles: This requires the wording on prescription bottle labels to be printed big enough that folks can read it, and written clearly enough that they can understand it. House Bill 1412, Emergency Medical Information: Two years ago, the Legislature created a pilot program in which 9-1-1 medical dispatchers sometimes give folks advice and instructions after there’s been an emergency but before crews can get to the scene. The program was a success, and this bill makes it a statewide initiative.As I said, there were plenty more bills that passed this session that were higher-profile or more controversial. But a lot of bills go through that you never hear about, even though they might affect Texans at least as directly. And while I love big initiatives as much as the next guy, it’s fun to work on issues like these where you can really see the results. I’m sure I’ll be doing a lot of that as I get ready for the next session in 2009.