It began with the Capitol almost burning down. It ended with Governor Mark White burning up over teacher salaries. But in between, the 68 th Legislature was anything but fiery.
The predominant emotion during the 1983 session was anxiety—something new to Texas politics. In recent years the Legislature has had lots of money to spend, low turnover, and little pressure from the public. Suddenly the rules changed. The good old days of multibillion-dollar surpluses were replaced by a budget crunch. Almost a third of the House and Senate was new, the most radical turnover since Sharpstown. And as is always the case when times are hard, people wanted government to do something.
The budget crunch seemed to take the fun out of the Legislature; there wasn’t even any room to logroll. The session plodded along dispiritedly. Mark White couldn’t decide whether he wanted a tax increase. Then he couldn’t decide what kind of increase he wanted if he wanted one. Early on, the Senate bogged down in a battle over Bill Clements’ holdover appointments and couldn’t get unstuck; the