Freshmen are usually exempt from the Worst list, because we prefer to forgive rookies their mistakes. But every rule has an exception: we felt no reservation making one for Molly White.
Reporting from the Texas Legislature, with investigation and analysis of the state's economy, public policy, education, and more.
No legislator caused more controversy this session than Jonathan Stickland or elicited more criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike. The most common charges against him had less to do with Stickland than with the blustering tea party politics he has come to represent; critics exaggerated his influence while ignoring him as an individual. And so his genuinely indefensible role in the session’s most disturbing saga—the debate over open carry—has been almost entirely overlooked.
Physician, heal thyself. Seriously, someone needs to tell Charles Schwertner, an orthopedic surgeon by training, to bring back the man we knew from 2013. In his freshman session in the Senate, he showed great promise; his intelligence and integrity were an asset to the chamber, which we happily noted. This year he came off as mean-spirited and insecure. What a difference an election cycle makes.
Most of the Republicans elected in the tea party wave of 2012 have evolved since their freshman session. And then there’s Matt Schaefer. In theory, he represents Tyler, but any claims to that effect are hard to reconcile with his record. None of the bills he authored this year made it to the House floor. He was one of nineteen Republicans who voted for Scott Turner as speaker, and one of only five who voted against the House’s budget when it came to the floor.
Joe Pickett accomplished the near impossible this session: he made people feel sorry for Representative Jonathan Stickland. The trouble started when Stickland, the bomb thrower from Bedford, knocked one of Pickett’s bills off a calendar. Later that day, Pickett had a chance for payback: his Transportation Committee was set to hear a Stickland bill.
To be fair, Jane Nelson spent the session in a thankless position. As chair of the Senate Finance Committee, she was trapped under the leadership of a new lieutenant governor with “bold” ideas and serious boundary issues. It was Dan Patrick, not Nelson, who came up with the idea that Texas’s Republican leaders could spend billions of dollars on property tax relief and preserve their “conservative” credentials by refusing to label it as spending.
Judicial temperament usually includes a willingness to consider all sides of an argument, a trait Joan Huffman, a former judge, rarely displayed this session. Intransigence earned Huffman a spot on the Worst list in 2013, and intransigence—along with a bit of self-dealing—has landed her there again.
It was hard to tell if Harold Dutton was acting out of hubris, incompetence, or some churlish mix of both. Whatever the cause, he very nearly scuttled one of his priority bills of the session: grand jury reform.
Let’s start with the positive for Donna Campbell. She was assigned to carry one of Greg Abbott’s priority initiatives: enhanced funding for pre-K programs. She handled that ably enough, ushering it to passage, and so the fact that she’s landed on the Worst list is an indication of just how dreadfully Campbell performed on nearly everything else.
Cecil Bell Jr. has become known around the Capitol for two things: wearing a cowboy hat and—in his second session at least—filing bills to prevent gay marriage in Texas. We’d love to see more of those hats on the floor; they bring much-needed flair to the House. But we’d love to see less of his legislation.