restricted access Chapter 17. My First Session
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v v CHAPTER 17 My First Session B ack in the Thirty-­ First District, I had the same van overhauled that I had been driving since I was the district director for Speaker Clayton. I had the signs repainted on my mobile office and hired a driver to travel throughout my very large district. My job was to serve the people. In Austin, I was continually amazed at the depth of the discussions and debates and the intelligence of my colleagues. Many of the issues were repeatedly debated in each session, including education, finance, parks and wildlife, highways, health care, and agriculture. I worked hard, studied, and researched so that I could appear equally versed and intelligent. For the most part, I was debating against my lawyer colleagues . My staff and I started very early each day, and they did a great job of bringing me up to speed on the issues for that day. Senate Bill 306 was gaining momentum. The press was interested, and every story noted that Senator Mengden had previously filed the same bill. Senator Mengden’s nickname was “Mad Dog.” He was large, loud, and had a short fuse, especially when he was opposed. His previously filed bill and my proposed bill were identical—­ we both were proposing to increase the legal drinking age from eighteen to nineteen. Mengden had filed his bill the previous session but was unable to get enough votes to pass it. Senator Mengden approached me on the Senate floor and told me I needed to drop my bill and cosponsor his. I didn’t like his suggestion or his attitude, so I proposed that he drop his bill and cosponsor mine. He pointed out I was a freshman and that I didn’t even know how to 174 • The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch present a bill. He was right. “But,” I replied, “each member has to have a first time and a first bill.” On the day of the committee hearing, when the two of us were to present our bills to the Committee on State Affairs, representatives from TV stations across Texas were present. Senator Farabee, who chaired the committee, sat at the head of the long table for committee members in the Senate chamber. Staffers flanked him on both sides. The presenting senator, introducing his bill, sat at the other end of the table. Both Senator Mengden and I were to introduce our respective bills, which were the same. Any member for or against the bill would then state support or opposition. I was asked to present first in the allotted thirty minutes. I was as nervous as a turkey in November. SB 306 was my very first bill, and I did not want to see it canned just because I was a freshman with no experience . “Drunk driving is the number one killer of kids between eighteen and nineteen years old,” I said. I had two sets of parents there to testify. Each had lost a child in a drunk-­ driving accident. In each case the driver was eighteen years old and drunk. Their testimony was powerful. My A mobile office: a way to bring government to the people. Courtesy of the Sarpalius family. My First Session • 175 goal was to make this an emotional issue so the members would have difficulty voting against it. I made my closing remarks, feeling that I had accomplished that goal. Senator Farabee then called Senator Mengden to present his bill. Mengden told the committee that he did not have to explain his bill because he had explained it before. He then said he had been working on this issue for years, and since I had refused to cosponsor his bill, he expected the committee to pass his bill instead of a freshman member’s bill. Both of our bills were passed out of committee. Mengden was furious. The next day, my bill and Senator Mengden’s bill were both on the intent calendar. Each member could request up to five bills that a member intended to bring up for a vote to be put on the intent calendar. The issue at hand was which of us Lieutenant Governor Hobby would recognize on the floor to carry the bill. This was highly irregular. The responsibility typically fell to the committee to make these decisions. I was pretty sure I had Senator Farabee’s support, since he knew how much this issue meant to me. But Mengden had been in the...


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