Republican, Horseshoe Bay, 49. For the first two months of its 140-day session, the Texas Legislature does little but pass resolutions honoring visitors like the Kilgore Rangerettes and eat barbecue on the Capitol lawn with various chambers of commerce. There are few opportunities for a lawmaker to stand out in those slow-moving early days, yet Troy Fraser managed to do it in the wrong way by engaging in the lowest form of legislative thievery: bill rustling.
Senators are supposed to stake out areas of expertise slowly and methodically, sponsoring important legislation only after first laboring in the background and learning the issues. But Fraser couldn’t wait. “I just want something big,” he told a colleague, and apparently it didn’t matter that veteran colleagues long ago had branded as their own the issues he set his sights on. From David Sibley, Fraser tried to steal the telephone competition bill; when Sibley scheduled a press conference to unveil his bill, Fraser beat him to the punch by calling an earlier press conference and filing his own version. From Teel Bivins, Fraser snatched a bill reforming class-action lawsuits. From Robert Duncan, he pilfered Y2K liability legislation. In due course the bills were returned to their rightful owners, but not before a new phrase was added to the legislative lexicon: “Frasered, vi, vt. To have the product of years of hard work swiped by a certain sophomore senator.”
As a friend of Rick Perry’s since childhood, Fraser received plum committee assignments, including a subcommittee chairmanship, and was part of the lieutenant governor’s inner circle. But while Perry could confer status, he could not confer respect, which has to be earned. And nothing is less likely to earn respect than impatience, the Senate’s eighth deadly sin. The good news is that in the second half of the session, Fraser settled down. Having lowered expectations to a subterranean level, he found it easy to exceed them. He had to learn the hard way, but apparently he learned: Don’t try to be a wizard at legislating when you’re not. At least he can answer as the Wizard of Oz did when Dorothy said, “Oh, you’re a very bad man”: “Oh, no, my dear. I’m a very good man. I’m just a very bad wizard.”