THE WORST: Senator Carlos Truan

Corpus Christi

High maintenance, low performance: if Carlos Truan were an automobile engine, he'd have been relegated to the scrap heap long ago. Unfortunately, he is the dean of the Senate, practiced in the art of longevity—and nothing else. He doesn't do his homework nor does he contribute; he just takes up everybody's time. Sometimes it seems that if he would just go away, or at least forgo his oratorical meanderings, the Senate could wind up its business in half the time. "Carlos Truan" is a two-word rebuttal to the argument that the Texas Legislature needs to meet more often than 140 days every two years.

His specialty is the phantom complaint. He objects that a bill will do X when in fact it does Y. He worried that a bill setting accounting standards for school districts would hurt poor districts. (It would not.) He worried that a bill requiring consumer disclosures on credit life insurance would cause poor people to purchase it. (Not even close.) His questions reveal nothing except how unprepared he is. Once, he began to harrumph that a bill would deny college admission to poor children. Puzzled looks ensued around the chamber. An embarrassed silence filled the air, finally to be broken by Lieutenant Governor Ratliff: "Senator, . . . this is about bats." Truan had launched into a passionate argument about another of the author's bills, which had to do with educational opportunity, while the rest of the Senate was considering bat conservation. If Truan was for a bill, he still complained. After signing on as a co-sponsor of the teacher health insurance bill, he peppered the lead sponsor with hostile questions during floor debate and wondered aloud about national health insurance.

Even the trivialities were beyond his ken. One day he interrupted a committee hearing to introduce a group of young people whom he had just met. Oops. Wrong group. "Let the record reflect that we will not recognize you to introduce phantom constituents," said the chairman. Let the record reflect that we do recognize phantom senators.

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