A License to Be Bad

Frank Corte, Republican, San Antonio, 37.

The best that can be said about him is that he could have been worse—and was, just last session. Faults ranging from pettiness to mendacity, which landed him on the Worst list in 1995 (when we described him as “one of the more dismal products of democracy to reach the Legislature in many a year”) have been corrected. Unfortunately, they have been replaced by others.

Corte took over as the chairman of the Conservative Coalition this year, a position that gave him, as one wag put it, “a license to be bad.” He spent the session chasing phantoms, trying to figure out what liberals might be trying to achieve with language cleverly disguised to appear innocuous. He was like the narrator in the old doggerel: “As I was going up the stair / I met a man who wasn’t there. / He wasn’t there again today. / I wish, I wish he’d stay away.”

Was a proposal to allow highly skilled nurses at school-based clinics to write prescriptions after obtaining parental permission a subterfuge to dispense birth control? “I don’t think you understand what happens in the real world,” a supporter of the bill said during debate. “And the number one problem, Mr. Corte, is not anything that happens below the belly button. It’s head lice.” He objected to uniform language in state agency bills calling for executive directors to follow federal guidelines; the baffled sponsor of one such bill, Best-list legislator Allen Hightower, allowed, “I don’t see the booger bear in this piece of legislation that perhaps others today do.” After Corte persisted and persisted, Democrats agreed to replace “guidelines” with the phrase, “laws, rules, and regulations, and instructions promulgated directly from those laws, rules, and regulations.” Get it?

Sometimes Corte’s rigid ideology got him in trouble with members of his own party. When he put out a flyer warning that a bill to require HMOs to pay for extended mastectomy treatment violated conservative principles, a woman Republican told him to lay off. Corte did! See, he is improving. Another couple of sessions and he might make it off the Worst list.

Tags: POLITICS

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