Reporting from the Texas Legislature, with investigation and analysis of the state's economy, public policy, education, and more. 

THE WORST: Representative Joe Pickett

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.

THE WORST: Senator Jane Nelson

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.

THE WORST: Senator Joan Huffman

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.

THE WORST: Senator Donna Campbell

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. 

THE BEST: Representative Sylvester Turner

The Legislature will miss Sylvester Turner. Often called “the conscience of the House,” he’s retiring after 26 years to run for mayor of Houston. He was typically at the center of the action, defending vulnerable Texans with oratory that stirred the soul.

Turner has twice appeared on the Best list and once on the Worst. Two years ago, we named him Bull of the Brazos. This session, however, he was once again one of the Legislature’s best.

THE BEST: Representative John Otto

John Otto didn’t show off much this session. He wasn’t often seen at the front microphone, yet few did better work on behalf of the state. As a first-time chair of the Appropriations Committee, he tackled the biggest job of the session: passing a budget. That’s never an easy task in Texas, which has one of the lowest per capita spending rates in the country and plenty of real needs. And this time around, it was harder than it should have been.


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