Two sessions ago Troy Fraser made the Worst list because of his propensity for snatching bills from other senators. We noted then that his ambition to handle major legislation exceeded his colleagues’ faith in his competence. Could this raucous kindergartner handle the difficult first-grade requirements: Wait your turn, don’t shove, think before you speak? Alas, the answer is still no.
As chairman of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee, Fraser was the class bully who needed to be given a time-out. Senators sighed with relief when the huge tort-reform bill was assigned to heavyweight Ratliff, but then the homeowners’ insurance-reform bill ended up in Fraser’s purview. He muscled aside Mike Jackson, the bill’s author, to force a one-sided, pro-industry version through committee, only to have eleven Democrats send a letter to Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst threatening to use procedural rules to block the bill altogether. Fraser sulked. The Democrats, he told reporters, “don’t really want insurance reform.” Having questioned their scruples in public, he questioned their intelligence in backroom meetings: “If you understood how competition works …” began one Fraser lecture to a fellow senator. He has yet to figure out that the Senate works through collegiality, not confrontation. His solution to the insurance stalemate was to try to win over a Democrat or two and run over the remainder. The leadership had to point out that it was better to compromise than to risk having the snubbed Democrats harden into a permanent opposition that could ruin the session.
Fraser slid off the learning curve again when he fumbled his explanation of a bill allowing homebuilders to avoid lawsuits from disgruntled buyers through administrative appeals. He had to withdraw it from consideration until other senators who did understand it could help him rewrite it. Heard enough? Let’s let Fraser have the last word. A colleague was arguing against a constitutional amendment that would tie the hands of future Legislatures when Fraser leaped to his feet with a rebuttal: “I don’t want to go home this session and have to explain to my voters, ‘Trust me. I’ll do the right thing.’” It was the most convincing argument he’d made all session.