Your justification for including me on the Ten Worst list was primarily based on your false assertion that I was to blame for the demise of a judicial pay raise bill [“ The Best and Worst Legislators of 2005,” July 2005]. In fact, I voted “present not voting” on the original version of the bill that passed the House and was sent to the Senate. The reason I did not vote up or down on the House-approved version of the bill is because my sister is a state district judge.
When the bill thereafter returned from the Senate, it had been loaded with additional subjects that rendered the bill legally flawed due to violations of a state constitutional prohibition against mixing disparate issues into one bill. I informed my House colleagues in a personal-privilege speech of the constitutional issues as well as of other concerns about the propriety of the Senate’s actions surrounding the bill.
Contrary to your article’s assertion, I did not kill the bill. I never even had the opportunity to do so because the subsequent amended version did not ever come up for consideration on the House floor. That bill died at the session’s end because a senator threatened to filibuster if it didn’t include the other nongermane subjects.
Representative Terry Keel
Editor’s note: The reason that the judicial pay raise bill did not come up for consideration on the House floor is that Mr. Keel gave a speech to the House in which he said, “I will call a constitutional point of order in the House should SB 368 be brought up on this floor for concurrence with the Senate amendments, and I believe the point I have in mind will be sustained.” Mr. Keel’s announced intention to employ a parliamentary maneuver guaranteed to kill the bill made any further attempt to pass it futile.
As an active participant in Texas and national school reform, mostly with the late lieutenant governor Bob Bullock and Governor (and now president) George Bush, I have watched and worked with Representative Kent Grusendorf for many years. In the recent regular session alone, he pushed for more funding for public education. He pushed for needed reform in the areas of greater financial and academic accountability. He pushed for higher standards for our students. He deserves credit for his work. In my view, your negative rating of him is unwarranted.
I am sure your issue ranking the The Best and Worst Legislators is a popular issue, especially with Austin-centric readers. Ranking is an American habit, and I generally applaud and accept it. However, when giving negative rankings to individuals, I believe a high standard should prevail, and there is one such ranking in 2005 to which I object strongly.
Your inclusion of Kent Grusendorf on the Worst list is unfair, in my opinion. Kent Grusendorf has for two decades been an educational reformer, at times alone in the House of Representatives, proposing common-sense politics that have now become mainstream but which have always been strongly resisted by the education establishment, or the “Glob.”
The failure in leadership in public education in 2005 firmly rests with that education establishment. It has taken an arrogant and hostile position on any proposal to improve the system and has openly decided to rely on the courts to get the only thing it wants—more money. Representative Grusendorf was charged with negotiating with the Glob and found it totally uncooperative, especially after its win in district court. For you to hold the chairman of the House Public Education Committee responsible is unfair and not correct.
In the Texas Senate, there were also some attempts to negotiate with the Glob. Reform proposals produced were similar to the House’s. Many members of your Best list of legislators voted for these reforms.
These radical reforms included merit pay for teachers, fiscal accountability for districts, higher academic standards, and dealing, finally, with schools that are abject failures year after year. Now these are really radical reforms! The educators strongly resist all of them. The failure rests with the Glob. Put them on your Worst list. Criticize their representatives in the Legislature.
As a side point, the reference to reforms having derived from “an ideological think tank in California” is a disappointment. Perhaps there are nonideological think tanks somewhere, and I know that people in Austin are too sophisticated to accept ideas from California or from a distinguished group of national experts. However, the important point is the reality that many of the reforms originated in the business community of Texas and are strongly endorsed by a significant part of that community. The fact that the Glob opposes these responsible efforts to improve our schools is disgraceful—and surely not a failure on the part of Kent Grusendorf.
The financial problems facing current policymakers are the result of cumulative actions taken by the courts or not taken by elected leaders over many years. It is clearly a very difficult situation to resolve, and similar problems all over America indicate that more than one individual is responsible. The common ingredient nationally is the education establishment.
If Texas school districts were ranked annually for financial performance in a timely, transparent manner, which is one of the proposed reforms, billions of dollars could be reallocated to best practices—you could have another edition of popular rankings every year—and Texans would have far better schools for their money.
Former chairman of the Board of Regents, University of Texas System
As president of the Texas Association of Business and as a former member of the Texas Legislature, I have a great deal of respect for your magazine. Those of us who follow the legislative process look forward to your reporting of the Ten Best and Ten Worst Legislators; however, I must take issue with your including Representative Kent Grusendorf on your list of the Ten Worst for the Seventy-ninth session.
Your article criticizes Grusendorf for not giving educators input into crafting his bill. His committee listened to countless hours of testimony from