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The Best and Worst Legislators 2009

THE BEST: Representative Senfronia Thompson

Houston

In a lackluster session that produced few worthy achievements, it is fitting to honor as a Best legislator a member who is universally loved and respected, not just for what she does but also for who she is. For nineteen sessions, Mrs. T, as she is known to all, has stood near the dais at the front of the House chamber during debate, acting as a guardian angel of the process, checking amendments as they are proposed to make sure that nobody tries to pull a fast one. The words no member wants to hear are Mrs. T’s disapproving “Now, looky here . . .”

Do not interpret Thompson’s appearance on the Best list as akin to an honorary Oscar awarded to a director who is too old to make films anymore. She was at the top of her game as chair of the committee that schedules uncontested bills for debate. This is a position that is rife with the potential for abuse. Previous chairmen have come to grief over charges of punishing one’s enemies, rewarding one’s friends, and using the position as leverage to win support for one’s own bills. Indeed, a row over just such shenanigans landed Thompson’s predecessor on the Worst list. This session, there wasn’t a peep of protest.

But then, there wouldn’t be. Nobody crosses Mrs. T. One senator, explaining why he had done her bidding, said, “She called me and said, ‘Baby, I need your help,’ and so Baby helped.” Machiavelli said that it is better for a prince to be feared than loved, but he never reckoned that a politician could be both.

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