No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main... Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. — John Donne
In the end, Texas legislators are servants. For $600 a month, we are hopeful that our toil and sacrifice will have meaning, will move the needle, will shape the conversation of Texas or, at a minimum, make someone's life just that much better. There is no glory in the ignominious. There are no treasures in the penumbras of arcane statute.
I came to Austin to make a difference and to have a voice in that great conversation of Texas. But as the 85th Legislature drew to a close, I was left with the unshakable feeling that the system is broken.
While some spent valuable political capital on the appropriate provisions for using the restroom, most of us were focused on how to find a way to fund treatment for the little ones of our state who were struggling to swallow and breathe but who were unable to qualify for necessary medical insurance.
While some championed a defense for those who seek to torture and maim our furry family members, the rest of us were trying to find a compassionate way to feed the children in our schools who might not have enough to pay for lunch every day.
While most of us worked tirelessly to provide some much-needed property tax relief for those we represent, some of us failed to recognize that unless we adequately fund our local public schools, the local authorities will continue to increase those very same property taxes.
I am an old-school Ronald Reagan conservative: pragmatic, common-sense, results-oriented and focused on solutions to our complex problems rather than on issues that divide us.
But Reagan was also preeminently concerned about the daily lives of the people he served. Did they have good jobs? Were they safe in their neighborhoods and homes? Were they living the American Dream?
Sometimes I wonder if the august body of the Texas Legislature remains true to the Reagan ethos of servant leadership. Where is the humanity? Where is the compassion for the least among us? Can the blind ideology of libertarianism adequately address the pain and suffering of our fellow Texans? This session, it seems as though some members have chosen fealty to an unseen, nihilistic special interest over the lives of those who they were sent here to represent.
After taking a moment to reflect, I am certain that the good men and women at the Capitol are, like me, tired of politics and interested in coming back next time to help people. We — the overwhelming majority — have had enough foolishness and bluster. We seek, with all of our fellow members, comity of purpose and a dedication to making Texas the best place in the world to raise our families and live our lives.
Going forward, whichever party one belongs to, those who fear election primaries more than they seek to lead should seriously consider taking a different path. Texas and those who lead it should focus on service. Not just service for those who are like us, but those who are different, infirm or unable. Next session, let’s act like Texans and focus our efforts on Texans.
I will not come back to the Capitol to again witness fear, hatred and ignorance. I will only come back if my fellow members commit themselves to our fellow Texans.
Members, the bell tolls for thee.