Having power doesn’t earn you a spot on the Best list. Knowing how to use it wisely does. As the chair of the Appropriations Committee, Jim Pitts could teach a master class on the subject. You can see evidence of his influence in his office on the coveted first floor of the Capitol, which is always overflowing with lawmakers, staffers, and reporters. And you can see it in the all-important budget bills that he passes.
In the end, the drama in the House resulted from a complete lack of drama. Lawmakers had been gearing up for its initial fight of the session over HB 10, a $4.8 billion supplemental appropriation that would, among other things, cover a looming Medicaid shortfall in the current budget cycle. As one lawmaker commented as he moved briskly down the aisle after the House had been called to order, “Is today the first day of real work?”
This list marks the fourth time TEXAS MONTHLY has sought to identify the state’s most powerful players. The first was in 1976, when one of “the secret capitals of Texas” was at Houston’s Lamar Hotel, in Suite 8F, the archetypal smoke-filled room. The power brokers at the time were legendary figures whose era was coming to an end: George R. Brown, the co-founder of Brown & Root; John Connally, the former governor and U.S.
(Editor’s note: Every week, for the remainder of the legislative session, BurkaBlog will be publishing an original column by R.G. Ratcliffe, who was the state political reporter for the Houston Chronicle for twenty years. During those two decades, I’ve known R.G., who resigned from the Chronicle in February to work on a book, to be one of the most trusted voices in the Capitol press corps. I’m thrilled to have him posting here. His columns will offer a deeper take on one of the week’s top stories. –P.B.)
No big surprise: Pitts, Raymond, Otto, McClendon, Zerwas.
Dunnam moved to instruct the conferees to meet publicly, in accordance with House rules. The motion was adopted without objection. I asked Chisum, the previous chair, what he thought the Senate would do. "Pend everything," he said. Too bad. It was high drama when the meetings really were public.
The Senate lineup is missing two of its heavy hitters from previous years, Duncan and Zaffirini. The House does not have a conferee who served on its education subcommittee.
Committee appointments will be the first real test of the Straus speakership. How many of the 149 members can he satisfy? Here are some of the problems he will face:
The long Christmas weekend is about over. Keep an eye on the Ethics Commission tomorrow (Monday) for new filings for speaker. Gattis is a possibility. McCall is a possibility. It was this time last year that he filed.
I talked to one of the ABC's on Saturday. He said that no more names of supporters are going to come out before the January 2 meeting from which a speaker candidate will emerge. Nobody wants to paint a target on his back and subject himself to pressure.