May 4, 2009
29 days left. Everything’s at full speed.
But let’s take a few minutes to talk about non-partisanship. Let’s praise people who can put experience and ambition aside to embrace the other side.
Raise your glasses to those who, even against their better judgment, show some love for the Baylor Bears.
A few months back, the Governor nominated a constituent of mine to serve on the Texas A&M System Board of Regents. There’s a tradition that allows a senator to “sign off” (or not) on a gubernatorial appointee living in the senator’s district.
While I’d never met this guy, I’d known of him by reputation for many years (he’s a former chair of the Travis County Republican Party and very involved in a number of civic activities), and I’d always heard really good things about him.
Now, I take this power pretty seriously. This stuff ain’t for the faint-hearted. I must, simply must, use my discretion to achieve good whenever I can.
Knowing I held the nomination of this potential leader of the Aggies in the palm of my hand, I called to tell him I was signing off on his nomination the Wednesday before the Baylor/A&M football game. I told this Aggie my only request was that he wear a Baylor tie in public sometime after the Bears stomped the Aggies that weekend.
Well, to no one’s surprise, Baylor did beat A&M. And life was as it should be. Except I never really had a chance to see my new friend in public.
Until last week, when the Senate Nominations Committee considered the nominees for the A&M regents, and this guy walked into the Senate chamber for his confirmation hearing. He came up to me with his chest puffed out.
His tie was a subtle green and gold (as subtle as those colors get, anyway). And if you looked closely, you could see some bears on it.
I assumed this guy just had naturally great taste. But, no, he was living up to his end of the bargain, and he made that clear when he showed me the little green “BU’s” on it.
Needless to say, he now has my even firmer support to lead the A&M System. He’s one smart Aggie. (And since I’m writing about cooperative spirit, I’ll avoid the instinct to say he’s the smart Aggie.)
Non-partisanship, cooperation, and good feeling, of course, aren’t limited only to collegiate sports. When things are working right, these things define the legislative process. And given how much I’ve written about decisions that, you know, weren’t exactly made with everybody singing Kum Ba Yah (someone should write a new verse to that song about Voter ID), I want to spotlight a couple of decisions that went right.
Last week, I passed a couple of important pieces of legislation out of the Senate that could not have made it without a lot of cooperation from some Republican leaders.
One was a bill of mine that was rolled into the larger school reform bill, S.B. 3, which the Senate approved on Wednesday.
My proposal addresses schools that are on the edge of being closed by the state because of poor test scores. It gives students and parents better educational options and helps state and local officials reform these campuses without necessarily putting them through a wrenching shutdown.
This is a critical issue in Central Texas, where Johnston High School was among the state’s first campuses to face mandatory closure, and where district officials are working hard to improve other schools in similar straits.
Senator Florence Shapiro, who chairs the Senate Education Committee and steered the school reform effort, worked with me throughout this session to make sure S.B. 3 builds on the hard, practical lessons we’ve learned in Central Texas. I believe her bill will protect students and address tough problems without sacrificing the accountability standards that schools need and Texans demand.
Also last week, the Senate passed an important economic development bill I authored that will help Texas build badly needed infrastructure for the state’s film and media production industries. Just as important, however, is the work I did with other senators to ensure that taxpayers will ultimately benefit from this new program.
The bill, S.B. 1929, allows sales tax exemptions for materials used to build and permanently equip facilities where Texans can make movies, design video games, and sustain new media production businesses.
I worked hard to ensure this program would quantifiably benefit citizens. Specifically, it says a project can’t get these incentives unless the Texas Comptroller certifies that the project will have a positive impact on state revenue.
These provisions not only improved the bill – they helped win the support of key Senate Republicans such as Senator Steve Ogden.
Both of these bills provide a welcome reminder of how the legislative process is supposed to work: tough, complicated proposals come up, everybody works together in good faith, we find common ground, the bills get better, and we all vote them out.
The whole thing makes me want to sing Kum Ba Yah. It’s certainly better than Hullabaloo, Caneck, Caneck (whatever that means).