I was very excited to attend TIP’s annual Legislative Day this past Wednesday, and to be completely honest, I had no clue how our legislative process really worked. I took my mandatory 6 hours of government classes in college and was glad to be done with it. I have always been grateful for and exercised my right to vote in both state and federal elections and have respect for the work of our elected officials, but never fully understood the intricacies of how a bill becomes a law. This experience changed that. I had no idea just how important of a role constituents play in the process of our government. Up to this point I thought my voice was silent after I cast my ballot. What else was there to do? I’m here to tell you, there is MUCH more that you can do. After spending a day at our State Capitol meeting with the people who we have elected to make decisions on our behalf, I found time and time again that my words meant something. The policy experts for these elected officials not only sat and listened as we discussed the House and Senate Bills we were there in support of, but showed genuine interest and concern for the safety and well-being of Texans through the use of immunizations.
There is one moment of the day that stands out above all the rest. As I was sitting in a Senator’s office with my fellow vaccine advocates, we began discussing an amendment to Senate Bill 62 which deals with vaccination against bacterial meningitis of entering students at public and private colleges and universities. During that meeting the father of Nicolis Williams, a college student who tragically lost his life to the deadly disease in 2011 was in the room. When he told the Senator’s health advisor his story, her jaw literally dropped. The look of shock and disbelief on her face was evident. She had no idea that meningitis could strike so quickly and have such devastating consequences. What we expected to be a ten minute meeting quickly turned into 30 minutes. This assistant realized not only the importance of this bill, but also the critical need for vaccination to prevent another tragedy. The story and the facts that we shared that day made the consequences of vaccine-preventable disease very real and we made an impact.
I am here to tell you that your voice really does make a difference. Contact your Senators and your Representatives. Let them know that you are not only aware of the issues, but that you want your voice to be heard! I am proud to say that mine was heard and I was able to play a part in helping make our state a safer place to live. I look forward to attending this great event again next year, but I certainly don’t plan to remain silent until that time!