By Joe Johnson, IOM
May, 2013 – In the early morning hours of April 10, 2013, a cold front with rain and wind was forecast to hit the Best Southwest area between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., and it came exactly as predicted. But never mind the cold, rain and wind – the Best Southwest Partnership’s leaders were on a mission to visit with as many Texas elected leaders as possible to discuss BSW’s Core Initiatives, and to have face-to-face meeting with our state’s leaders. We were excited that our very first meeting that day was at 9:20 a.m. with the Governor of Texas, the Hon. Rick Perry. The “BSW Day at the Capitol” had begun!
After going through security we were greeted by Robin Butler with K & L Gates Law Firm, and Dr. Kevin Fegan, Chairman of the Board of Best Southwest Partnership, who led us to the Governor’s reception area, closed off just for us, where we had a very pleasant private meeting with Governor Perry, lasting about 25 minutes. Of course we were there to discuss our priorities: BSW Core Initiatives Transportation, Education and Health Care, and the resulting favorable Legislation needed. He touched on all those initiatives and added a big one to the list – Water! After a round of picture taking, we headed for a photo session at Lt. Governor David Dewhurst’s office.
Next on the agenda was a trip to the Floor of the House of Representatives for the reading of a Resolution, spearheaded by Representatives Helen Giddings and Yvonne Davis, recognizing the outstanding work done by the 27 year-old Best Southwest Partnership. A similar trip to the floor of the Senate was next on the agenda, where Senator Royce West authored a Resolution which was read and approved by the Senate. Chair Fegan, immediate Past-Chair Mayor Knight, Chair-elect Galliford, past Chair Mayor Franke, and Executive Director Johnson were ushered to the Senate Floor for this honor, while the rest of the BSW group witnessed from the Gallery area.
Without a moment to spare, we were ushered to the office of House Speaker Joe Straus, for more recognition, conversation and photos. And since most us had been up since 4:30 a.m., we were ready for our lunch break in Members Lounge, where we were divided into two groups. Over delicious box lunches, Hon. Steve Mason and Amanda Skinner headed up the first group in a discussion on “Path of a Bill”, aided by our friends Mance Zachery with EFH, and Angela Ross with AT&T. Both of these individuals spend a great part of every week during the Legislative Sessions following bills, and they were invaluable in the discussion. During lunch in Members Lounge, Representative Giddings popped in unexpectedly, and not to be outdone, Senators West and Hancock stopped by to answer questions from the BSW leaders – a decided plus for the day! While this was going on, Health Care Chair Jonathan Davis and his group visited with staff of Rep. Raymond, chair of Health and Human Services Commission. Another group led by Legislative Chair Kenneth Govan visited with staff of Rep. Phillips, chair of House Transportation Committee.
At 1:30 p.m. we moved to the John H. Reagan Building, just behind the Capitol, where we had an appointment with Lizzette Reynolds, Chief Deputy Commissioner, Texas Education Agency. She agreed with most of our Talking Points for Education, with the exception of number of tests, now at 15 or 16, and BSW’s Education leaders were suggesting 3 or 4. She emphatically held up 8 fingers, saying that is what the commissioner will agree to. (The next day the Senate voted to move that number to 6. The final decision awaits a vote.)
Next up in the Reagan Building was Arturo Alonzo, Deputy Commissioner, Business and Finance, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. His message was that we need “Access and Success” for kids seeking higher education. We must make higher education available, hence Access. And after they are enrolled, they need to have Success. Then the discussion centered on the fact that a huge percentage of incoming college or university students – 40 to 60 % – require remedial education of some kind. The Universities and Colleges in the BSW area are all facing similar circumstances.
At 3 p.m. a briefing was set for Phil Wilson, Executive Director of TxDOT, and a 3:30 p.m. scheduled briefing with Maureen Milligan, Deputy Director, Texas Health and Human Services Commission, were both delayed by committee meetings down the hall in the Reagan Building. This was our first time to relax and discuss the various meetings we had experienced with our State Legislative leaders, and we felt proud to have been received so well in Austin as Best Southwest Partnership leaders.
We boarded the motor coach at 4 p.m. for the return trip to the BSW Area as a tired but satisfied group who had accomplished much during our “BSW Day at the Capitol”.
To view Capitol Trip Photos, go to “Best Southwest Partnership” on Facebook
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Joe Johnson, IOM
Best Southwest Partnership