Rookies of the Year
Rafael Anchia (D, Dallas) The Tulane-educated lawyer had big shoes to fill as the successor to perennial Best Legislator Steve Wolens and got off to a promising start as a force in floor debate. His finest moment came during the fight over school vouchers, when he criticized the proposal’s sponsor, Kent Grusendorf, of Arlington, for forcing vouchers on urban school districts while exempting his own suburban district. “Let’s say both you and I had bad backs,” Anchía said, “and I have an elixir that says, ‘This will cure your back.’ I’m going to have you drink the elixir without even trying it [myself], because I’d prefer you to have the risk rather than me.” When the House got through voting, the risk was all Grusendorf’s.
John Otto (R, Dayton) Just when it seemed that the leadership’s tax bill was headed for certain defeat in the House, because neither Republicans nor Democrats understood what it did, Otto saved the day with his lucid explanations and cool demeanor. When the longtime certified public accountant began fielding questions, an influential Democrat, Vilma Luna, of Corpus Christi, challenged him: “Excuse me. Are you telling me that a freshman member of the House is going to explain this to me?” But when Otto was through, an impressed Luna said, “You didn’t do so bad as a freshman.” No rookie in recent years has had such an impact on a session.