The dean of the Capitol press corps, senior executive editor Paul Burka joined the staff of Texas Monthly one year after the magazine’s founding, in 1973. For nearly forty years he has led the magazine’s political coverage and spearheaded its storied roundup of the Best and Worst Legislators each biennium. A lifelong Texan, he was born in Galveston, graduated from Rice University with a B.A. in history, and received a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law.
Burka is a member of the State Bar of Texas and spent five years as an attorney with the Texas Legislature, where he served as counsel to the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
Burka won a National Magazine Award for reporting excellence in 1985 and the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award. He is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and teaches at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also a frequent guest discussing politics on national news programs on MSNBC, Fox, NBC, and CNN.
For the Eighty-second Legislature (our twentieth at the Capitol), everything old was new again: the state faced a budget deficit; the governor harbored presidential ambitions; the members of the Best list were hard to find; and the names on the Worst list picked themselves.
It was a new era at the Capitol, with a new Speaker and a new mood of peace, love, and bipartisanship in the war-torn House. But the eighty-first legislative session turned out to be a lot like the eighty that came before it—some heroes, some villains, and enough hot air to last until 2011.
The eightieth session began with a Speaker’s race, ended with a Speaker’s race, and was consumed in between by the usual mix of nuanced issues and nasty politics. Along the way, a handful of lawmakers put the common good ahead of all else. And a handful of lawmakers didn’t.
For the past four years, a group of passionate reformers has been steadily trying to remake how higher education works in Texas—over the screams and howls of many professors and school presidents. Last year the battle came to UT. And the bombs are still flying.
When Rick Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history loses his first campaign ever, what happens to him? More importantly, what happens to us?
Texas A&M’s announcement that it was bolting the Big 12 for the SEC signaled the end of a passionate rivalry with the University of Texas that has defined the two schools for more than a century. But what does the end of Aggies versus Longhorns mean for the rest of us?
As we head into the most critical legislative session in decades—maybe ever—the question is not just, Who are the people with the most clout at the Capitol? It’s also, What do they want?
Texas is facing an unprecedented deficit in the next legislative session, so to help our poor, overworked elected officials, I went ahead and balanced the budget for them. And good Lord! It wasn’t pretty.
He’s the greatest player in the world—maybe the greatest player ever— of a card game that fewer and fewer people know how to play. But Bob Hamman doesn’t care. He’s too busy probing my mind.
A year ago Rick Perry’s political future seemed to be in peril. Now he’s looking past the 2010 elections—and all the way to the White House. Think I’m kidding? How about a cup of tea?
How a nobody became the somebody nearly everybody wanted to replace Speaker Tom Craddick.
The looming clash between Republican gubernatorial candidates Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison may not be as fearsome as the storied Ali-Frazier bout, but it’s the heavyweight showdown every Texas political junkie has been waiting for.
How it works, what it means, and why Tom Craddick may not end up holding the gavel this time around.