May 29, 2007
While this is my first session as a member of the legislature, I’ve watched it for years.
Every session takes on a personality and becomes known for something, usually as a result of some defining event. One session may become the “redistricting session.” Another will be called the “education session” or the “budget deficit session.”
For me, this session will always be remembered as the session of “the great pain in the neck.” That’s not a jab at some member. I mean it literally.
Last Wednesday, I woke up with a wicked crick in my neck. I can’t seem to shake it. I’ve tried everything.
Here’s the real irritant, both physically and philosophically: I can’t turn to the left. All of my vision is to the right. Maybe that’s just what happens after six months in this building.
Of course, I’m not the only one who will remember this as a session of pain. Or of chaos. The violent politics in the House of Representatives are disturbing. The cynics will say it’s just the way politics is. Sadly, this will create more cynics.
I’m not going to get into the swamp of procedural details that have defined this fight. I’ll simply say this: the Senate has proven to be a place where legislators generally can set aside partisanship and work together to accomplish the people’s business, even if they don’t agree with everything that happens here.
The House, meanwhile, has been torn apart, and for what – children’s health or taxes or education? No, it’s been torn apart by raw power, and for rawpower. It’s a shocking, baffling, and tragic display.
Anyway, yesterday was technically the last day of my first session, which a couple of newspapers have written about. And while yesterday was “sine die,” in a way, the session pretty much wrapped up at about 2:15 in the morning on Thursday.
Midnight of that night was, by Senate rules, our deadline for passing bills – after that, we’re only supposed to fix them. But when midnight rolled around, there was still a ton of work on the calendar, and some of it was stuff I really wanted to see pass. So I moved that the Senate push the finish line back to 1. Then I moved to push it back to 2. And then we got to 2 o’clock in the morning, when even the heartiest of revelers were headed home from Sixth Street, and we kept legislating. We finally quit about 2:15.
The night before, we’d been on the floor until after 1:00. I was exhausted. Everyone was. I knew it was over when Senator Kim Brimer, the tough, funny veteran from Fort Worth who talks and moves with the momentum of a bulldozer, told the Lieutenant Governor that he was ready to go home. When Brimer’s done, we’re all done.
But through that fog, I also felt a great deal of satisfaction.
Perhaps the most satisfying thing is the number of relationships – friendships – that I now have with senators. That’s really been a great thing. More than once, this group has been described using the term “family.” I see that and understand it. It’s a small group of folks. You may not need the vote of someone today, but you will tomorrow. So you’d better be willing to put fights behind you.
Plus, regardless of ideology and points of view, this is a group that has a lot in common. Otherwise, we wouldn’t all be in this place.
I’ve had fun getting to know these folks. I like them and have enjoyed the time together – including the work, laughter, and effort to find common ground on a variety of issues.
There’s also satisfaction in the fact that, from what amounts to a post-election standing start – we didn’t even have an office when the session began – I am proud to have authored bills that will protect Texans’ health, improve their air and water, and lay the foundation for energy and higher education policies that will hopefully become the roots of Texas’ prosperity for generations.
And, perhaps most importantly, legislators all came together and brought that rare and essential quality – hope – to millions of people in and beyond Texas who are battling cancer. This massive, inspiring, and historic investment into finding a cure for that beast may well be the greatest legacy that any of us in this building leaves behind.
I also had a number of very good bills, which would have made a difference for millions of Texans, that perished when that clock ran out at 2:15 on Thursday. Those bills will provide a roadmap for the next year and a half as we prepare for the next legislative session. But for now, at the end of my first one, and as tired as I feel (and look, probably), I’m satisfied about the work we have done, excited about all that’s to come, and enormously grateful for the opportunity and support you’ve given me.
Thank you, very much. Now let’s get back to work.