Frank Corte announced his retirement today. He is chair of Defense Affairs and State-Federal Relations, so Straus will be able to bestow a chairmanship. Corte was a fixture on the Ten Worst list in his early years in the Legislature. He was smart-alecky on the mike and less than truthful on at least one occasion. Harryette Ehrhardt, D-Dallas, had a bill to require fire extinguishers in apartment houses. She thought she had a promise from Corte not to fight the bill, but fight it he did. Corte had a smirky immaturity at the microphone, and it was clear that he was dissembling. In those years, the House usually enforced an unwritten code against members who didn’t measure up to the expected standard of conduct by voting against the offender. I remember this clearly because this was the moment that the code became obsolete. The Republicans voted with Corte. It was the first time on a nonideological bill that I had seen the House divide on partisan lines.
In subsequent sessions, Corte chaired the conservative caucus, which included conservative Democrats. These were the years when the caucus had a lot of influence on the floor, and the pink (or sometimes yellow) sheets they distributed to members, attacking a bill, could kill it.
I did not bring this subject up to beat up on Frank Corte. He is a Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves. He missed a session to serve in Iraq. Back in the Legislature, he found his niche on his committee. It wasn’t a major committee, but Corte took it seriously and passed the Texas Military Preparedness Act in 2003. The bill established the Texas Military Preparedness Commission and authorized the Texas Public Finance Authority to issue and sell general obligation bonds to establish a Texas military value revolving loan account. The new commission could provide loans to defense communities to fund projects that will enhance the military value of local military facilities. The idea was to enhance the performance of Texas military bases and, hopefully, in the process, strengthen their missions and make them less likely to be subject to base-closing. He made a contribution. A lot of members have done a lot less.