January 12, 2009
My wife Liz and I first met back at Saginaw Elementary School up in Tarrant County. We started dating when I was around 14, married when I was 21, and will have our 30th anniversary in 2009.
In one of my campaigns a few years ago, we prepared a “bio” ad to introduce Kirk Watson to voters. It had all of the expected stuff about how I’d taught myself to read by candlelight, spent several formative years in a log cabin, and, of course, walked to school through the snow.
But it had nothing showing my wife and kids. When I asked about that omission, I was hesitantly informed that people who’d seen the ad thought Liz (who, by the way, is more than a year older than I am) looked, well, so much younger than me that the viewers didn’t believe she could be my first wife.
Clearly, Liz had to be a “new” one.
So I’ve learned to be careful with things that are said to be “new.” But I have to say that a couple of weeks into 2009, the New Year seems truly “new.”
In just the first 20 days of 2009, we’ll have a new President, a new Congress, a new Speaker of the Texas House, and a new reason to hate the BCS.
Most significantly around here, we’ll have the opening of a new Texas Legislative Session. For my 30 colleagues and me, that starts tomorrow at noon, when the Lieutenant Governor will gavel the Senate to order – the starting gun for our 140-day sprint to draft a budget, pass important new laws, and put the state’s house in order for the next two years and (hopefully) beyond.
In other words, if you’re passionate enough – or, I guess, nerdy enough – to crave policy minutia on the countless issues affecting Texans, the Capitol is about to become a cross between a racetrack and a candy factory.
With all of this newness floating around, it seems like the perfect time to launch something new with the Watson Wire.
First of all, as you may have noticed, today’s Monday. Starting today, I’ll be sending out the Watson Wire at the beginning of the week. I hope you’ll keep checking it out for a perspective on what’s going on in the Legislature and what’s coming up over the week.
I’m also going to start recording and posting new Video Watson Wires. These will be short (I think of them as “time-challenged”) presentations on what I’m writing about that day or whatever else is going on around the Capitol. The first one is above – just click on the screen-shot to watch it. (You can click here to see the full video archive at www.kirkwatson.com.)
I’m pretty excited about this chance to talk – literally – about the big issues facing Texas. I also think it’ll be a good way to provide important background about the policy decisions before the Legislature.
Hopefully, that’ll be another new thing that makes 2009 a great year.
The most familiar thing about the session might be the collection of challenges that the Legislature’s going to take up when everyone comes back to town. I imagine my list of issues looks a lot like yours – health care, education and higher ed, economic development, insurance reform, clean energy, the environment, budget transparency and tax fairness, transportation, state employees … it goes on and on.
Needless to say, there are a whole lot of perspectives in the Legislature about how to address all of these things. But I imagine there’s something we can agree on:
We all want to maintain this state’s relative prosperity, and we all want to build on the things that made Texas great.
I wrote a guest editorial about all of this over the holidays; you can read it here. It raises a question that I find myself asking more and more: Are we going to embrace the future, or are we going to fight it?
More than any particular issue or policy debate, I hope this question dominates the legislative session. Texas needs to follow in the path of our founders, who left us a tremendous inheritance by committing to teach our kids, build great universities, create transportation systems, and lay the foundation for future generations.
Back when Texas was little more than a dream, Texans dared to think big. They invested in people and resources in ways that proved transformative decades later. They never lost sight of the great state they wanted to create.
None of you who know what’s important to me will be particularly surprised my priority list for this session – I want to make Texas a leader in 21st Century energy, add to our pair of nationally recognized public universities, protect our small businesses while being open and honest with the state budget, and invest in compassionate, common-sense measures like the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
But even more than that, I hope the Legislature will view this session as a truly new day. I hope we will seize this chance to embrace the future, not fight or fear it.
Of course we’ll all think long and hard about Texas and its future over the next five months.
But when we do, let’s think big. That’s not really a “new” idea.