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v v CHAPTER 16 Am I In Over My Head? I was at home when the phone rang. A woman introduced herself as Betty King, the secretary of the Texas Senate. She said, “I look forward to meeting you, Senator.” That title still seemed so strange to me. “I’m letting you know that freshmen orientation will be the week after Thanksgiving. The session will start on January 3.” Speaker Clayton called to let me know he was coming home for the weekend and asked if I would like to fly back to Austin with him. “It’ll give us a chance to talk,” he said. “You’ll need to start assembling a staff as soon as possible. I’ll provide any support I can. I suggest you meet with Lieutenant Governor Hobby to let him know what committees you’d like to serve on. Then you’ll want to make some calls to lobbyists and associations to ask for financial support. After the session starts, it will be illegal to ask for any funds.” Asking for money was a side of politics I didn’t care for, but it was necessary to stay in office and get ready for the next race. The more he talked, the more I realized how much I had to learn and do in a few short weeks. He told me not to waste any time. I met with Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby, who presided over the Senate. He invited me into his capitol office, shook my hand, and welcomed me, calling me “Senator.” I asked him to call me Bill. “I still feel uncomfortable when everybody calls me that,” I said. “You’ve earned that title. Respect the position and the title that comes with it. It’s a title you can use for as long as you live, the same as a person who earns a doctorate degree. Respect those many people who earned the title before you, and do everything possible to bring honor to the title.” Am I In Over My Head? • 161 That explanation completely changed my perspective. We discussed committee assignments, and I told him I would like to serve on State Affairs, one of the most influential committees in the Senate. “Everyone applies to serve on State Affairs,” he said, “so giving one of those seats to a freshman will be difficult.” “I just won a Republican’s seat,” I said, hoping that might help my case. “I’ll take your wishes into consideration,” he said. The committee assignments would be announced on the first day of the session. Hobby asked me what specific legislation I intended to focus on. I told him about my desire to establish licensed addiction rehabilitation centers and added that I wanted to work on issues related to agriculture, education, and health care. I also wanted Texas to raise the drinking age from eighteen to nineteen. Hobby was familiar with my story and background. I left his office and was hopeful that I might get the committee assignments I wanted. That afternoon, I began interviewing people to staff my team. I had never in my life interviewed or hired people. In 1981, of the thirty-­ one members of the Senate, eight were freshmen. Our class members became very close. To this day, I stay in touch with several of them. All eight of us drew a number for seniority. That number determined the order in which we’d pick our offices and desks on the Senate floor. My desk was in the second row, next to Senator Ray Farabee from Wichita Falls. Ray was a very successful attorney and one of the most respected members of the Senate. He became my mentor and a close friend. My understanding of the law and its complexities was about the same as every other nonlawyer in Texas. Ray helped me with that a lot, and I learned so much from him. I had to work harder than the lawyers to understand the law and the issues that we were trying to address and change. On the flip side, not being a lawyer allowed me to look at issues from a different perspective. That afternoon I went to my new Senate office, closed the door, and sat in the large leather chair with the Texas seal embossed on the back. I felt inadequate and thought I was in way over my head. I was not as well educated as other members of the Senate, and I...


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