Advocating for children who have developmental delays and disabilities is a passion and life calling for me. It’s an honor to provide Texas with special needs the quality therapy services they deserve to thrive. I’ve learned so much about policies and politics with the work we have done advocating for children at our Texas State Capitol. Of course, there is much more to learn and so many opportunities for growth and development. That’s why I jumped at the chance to advocate on a wider scale at our nation’s Capitol.
Last week, I joined the Texas Association of Home Care and Hospice (TAHCH) on a trip to advocate for home care & hospice policies, patients, employees, and the industry as a whole. I joined twenty-five other CEOs, administrators, and dedicated citizens on this DC adventure. It was my second time to travel to Washington for this purpose, and it was even more exciting than the first. There is nothing like hearing the sounds of your footsteps as you walk through the great halls of our nation’s Capitol. As you journey down the halls of Congress, you can look up at the plaques on the doors and see names you regularly hear on the nightly news.
Our goal was to meet with as many Texas congressman as possible, and we did! We divided and conquered, and shared our concerns with thirty-four congressmen from our great state. My group had a successful meeting with US Congressman Michael Burgess, MD, serving the 26th District of Texas. The committee is the oldest legislative standing committee in the US House of Representatives, and is also considered to be one of the most powerful. Its jurisdiction stretches well beyond its name. The committee presides over all matters relating to telecommunications, consumer protection, food and drug safety, air quality, environmental health, energy supply and delivery, interstate and foreign commerce, and most importantly, our public health needs. There’s nothing better than speaking with the powers that be, and having them legitimately lend you their ear.
I also met with Mack Thornberry, US Congressman, who serves the people of the 13th district of Texas (Texas panhandle from Amarillo down to Wichita Falls). He is currently the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. He is the first Texan to hold this position. Our smaller group also met with a senior staffer of Eddie Berniece Johnson, Representative from the 30th Congressional District, which encompasses a maor part of Dallas. I happen to be one of her constituents! Over her long career, she has gained a reputation for being a pioneer. When Congresswoman Johnson was elected to the Texas State Senate in 1986, she became the first female and first African-American from North Texas to hold the office. She was also the first nurse ever elected to the Texas State House, and was later the first nurse elected to the Texas State Senate. She was then elected to the United State Congress. In 2010, Congresswoman Johnson was elected as the first female and African-American ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. We have high hopes she’ll be a pioneer for our cause as well.
Last, but not least, we were all set to meet Pete Sessions from District 32 (Dallas, Richardson, and Rowlett). Congressman Sessions serves as the Chairman of the House Rules Committee. This committee assists in the scheduling of legislation for floor consideration. Their responsibilities include oversight of the rules of the House, the House’s internal organization, the congressional budget process, the ethics process, and relations between Congress and the Executive and Judicial Branches. Additionally, Congressman Sessions serves on the Rules Subcommittee on Legislative and Budges Process. As we waited to see him, he got called to the Floor. Though we didn’t end up meeting with him, we did get to see him in action, and it was exciting. We were also able to share our agenda with his staff. Overall, it was a successful trip.
With the Federal Government so big and so far away, it can be easy to feel like we can’t make a difference. Because of the career path you’ve chosen, I’m willing to bet that you have a personal stake in advancing the quality of lives for those with special needs. Because of our elected officials’ choice of careers, they are required to divide their attention on what matters to Americans. And your opinions matter! Our role is to stand, be heard, and make sure our cause is not neglected. A call to your congressman’s office – or even an old-fashioned letter – are ways that your voice can be heard. Of course, this is an election year, and that provides us with our greatest power… our vote. While Washington, D.C. is far away, we can make certain they hear us all the way from Texas. And if they don’t, it’s a guarantee I’ll be at their doorstep again next year.