By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun
Byron Cook is already gearing up for the Texas legislative session, which begins in January and will go through May, he told the Noon Lion’s Club Tuesday at the group’s regular meeting in the Optimist Room at the YMCA.
Cook, who chairs the powerful state affairs committee, predicted a special session in the summer of 2013, regarding school finance. He also looks forward to some action on electricity supplies and water supplies, issues that will affect Texans now and in the future, as well as the state’s ability to grow economically.
Cook said he’d recently spoken to a University of Texas professor who had told him about tree rings showing that in the 1600s in South Texas there was a 50-year drought. The state couldn’t handle that today with the population it has now, Cook said.
Laying the groundwork for future water supplies, ensuring a steady electricity supply, and working on education will all be part of the upcoming session, he said.
He predicted that school vouchers would be a major battle in the spring in Austin, although he said that rural schools like those found in Navarro County, are doing well.
“My attitude towards (vouchers) is that rural schools are doing a great job,” he said. “Our kids who graduate in the top 10 percent are going off to university and out-performing their peers. We’re doing something right.”
“I’d much prefer for them to zero in on urban schools that are consistently failing,” Cook said. “The other thing about vouchers they haven’t figured out is, our schools have to take anybody who shows up at the door. The folks who are proponents of vouchers need to be prepared they have to take anybody who shows up at the door.”
Cook pointed out that the education system as it is does two things he’d like to see more balanced — the emphasis on college-only career paths, and emphasis on testing, both of which he believes have gone too far.
“We need electricians, we need plumbers, we need welders, and a lot of these high skills,” he said. “We’ve almost devalued that, so that kids who don’t go to college don’t feel good about themselves. We say ‘college or else,’ and I think that’s the wrong approach. I think we’ve got to be more balanced in how we deal with that.”
Cook said he intends to re-introduce the legislation to ban texting while driving. The bill was passed in the 2011 session, but vetoed by the governor. Holding up his cell phone, Cook called it a “deadly device,” and said “There are times we have to have laws to protect people.”
The 10-year legislator will begin his sixth term in the Texas House of Representatives in January.
“I’m excited about this session,” he said. “Our task it to take on things that are going to be important not only today but in 20 to 30 years.”
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