It's a rare pleasure for lawmakers when they can stake out the moral high ground on an issue, with unanimity of purpose. So it was yesterday when the Texas Senate sent a strong message to the snoozing TYC board, voting 30 to zip that it was time to go. A real Band-of-Brothers-moment, except that, in yesterday's version, Henry V was wringing his hands, fretting that a little blood might get shed. According to multiple sources from both political parties, David Dewhurst stalled the vote, trying to convince key lawmakers to accept Rick Perry's demand that a commissioner be installed over this clueless board.
Senators wanted nothing to do with Perry's proposal, which they saw as a step toward a cabinet form of government. They have good reason to be suspicious of a radical change in government structure that would give more power to the governor, especially this governor, who would be a gold medalist if the Olympics had an event for over-reaching.
What was going on under the flawless silver coif? Even at the post-vote press conference, Dewhurst seemed to be apologizing to Perry. When asked if the Senate had sent a message to Perry, Dewhurst insisted that Perry had "good ideas" on the bill that would be examined as the bill moves through the legislative process.
Huh? Who has he been talking to? Certainly not members in his own chamber, where Perry's popularity is at low tide. And judging from the House vote on the HPV vaccine, it doesn't look like lawmakers over there are too scared to stand up to the governor when he has a bad idea.
So what is Dewhurst so worried about? The easy answer is 2010. But I fear Dewhurst's leadership may be deeply flawed by his craving of approval. He needs to understand that Texas politics is like George C. Scott's decription of nuclear war in "Dr. Strangelove:" You're going to get your hair mussed.
An astute senator observed today that every session seems to have a dominant theme: education, a fiscal crisis, etc., etc. This holds true for the 80th Legislature, he noted, even though lawmakers are waging active wars on multiple three-letter fronts: TXU, HPV, TTC, TYC. What overarching theme ties all these together? "Checks and balances," he told me.
It's as if after several legislative sessions of willy-nilly hammering, someone pulled out a plumb line and noticed things are pretty askew around the Capitol. The governor is issuing executive orders on vaccines and coal plants; lawmakers suspect they ceded too much power in recent sessions to TxDOT and the electric utilities. Restoring equilibrium may require a little blood to be shed. For the Senate to accomplish what it can, Dewhurst should join the happy few (or many) in the Senate willing to band together for a good cause. With apologies to the ladies of the Senate, remember what Shakespeare had to say about the guys who missed a good fight: "Gentlemen in England now abed shall think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap..."
- 1 week