Zero Zero Zero

Charlie Howard, Republican, Sugar Land, 55.

Bless his heart, he’s just in the wrong place. The Legislature is not right for him. His conservative beliefs are too extreme, his suspicions are too easily aroused, his learning curve is too flat. The man isn’t dumb. He’s got an MBA from Harvard. They read books there. But he has no more clue about what it takes to succeed in the Legislature than the youngest schoolchildren in the gallery.

Like an actor who has stumbled into the wrong theater, he delivers lines that don’t fit the play. During a House committee consideration of a bill allowing the University of Texas to obstruct a view of the Capitol with its soon-to-be-enlarged football stadium, Howard noticed that the bill stipulated that the height of the structure could not exceed 666 feet above sea level. Uh-oh. In the Book of Revelation “six hundred threescore and six” is said to represent the mark of the beast. “I just had one question I was a little curious about,” Howard said to a UT witness. “Where did that number come from? That’s kind of a number that has some connotations to it.” Later in the session House Bill 666 came up for debate. Its GOP sponsor substituted a different-numbered Senate version of the bill, a standard parliamentary move to speed passage, and then said, “I have postponed this bill three times so that the Senate bill could come over and Charlie Howard wouldn’t have to vote for a bill numbered 666.”

Howard’s suspicions were raised again by a bill to provide health insurance for children through a nonprofit corporation. Fellow Republicans had come up with changes that the sponsors had agreed to accept. But on the morning of the vote, Howard had a message for the Republican caucus: Wake up! This is what Bill and Hillary want. That kind of argument may work at election time, but it doesn’t impress legislators who have done their homework. During the floor debate, other Republicans praised the bill. Said one: “Every conservative objection has been answered.” Are you listening, Charlie? No. He fought the bill anyway, losing 115–27.

The intricacies of the legislative process were too much for him. He offered an anti-abortion amendment to the state budget bill, intending to get the House to vote on the record. The sponsor agreed to accept the amendment (which was later changed) and went on to the next issue. Puzzled, Howard inquired when the House would vote—overlooking, although he is in his second term, that once an amendment is accepted without objection, it is never voted on. Poor Charlie: He just doesn’t get it.

Tags: POLITICS

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