Dear Arlene,
Another session, another letter. Two years ago we wrote to warn you that we were about to ruin your standing with your conservative pals by naming you to the Best list. But you can’t blame us this year. It’s your own fault. Your Republican colleagues were having the time of their lives—gleefully anticipating closing that $9.9 billion budget shortfall by tossing 25,000 people out of nursing homes and by zapping home health aides for 80,000 elderly and disabled folks who can’t bathe or groom themselves—when you ended the party by announcing that you had arranged for $2.75 billion more in human services spending. That was one of the turning points of the session, the kind of stand-up-and-be-counted action that will get you on the Best list every time. There’s even a rumor that you asked Governor Perry to raise the cigarette [expletive deleted] for even more relief.

Not that anyone ought to doubt your conservative credentials: The giant human-services reorganization bill you passed will go a long way toward achieving your goal of changing the culture of government aid to the poor by making recipients demonstrate personal responsibility (such as getting a job). The feds say Texas has to make this change or lose federal funds. Your bill does make it harder to get some services, but it also tries to save money through efficiency. Making drug companies pay rebates to the state for having their medicines put on a preferred list is a great idea.

You’ve come so far from the days when your critics referred to you as Woolly Mammoth, playing on your name and what they considered to be your prehistoric politics. Now a group of female colleagues call you Ice because of the way you keep your cool in debate. Your wardrobe buttresses your image: only solid colors, always a jacket for a shield, everything underscoring the solidity of your arguments—especially that formidable helmet of hair.

Please permit us one suggestion: Since your bill providing for “Choose Life” license plates went down, you might reconsider whether a lawmaker of your stature should politicize something so trivial. It’s bad enough to have to share Interstate 35 with UT and Aggie cars chasing each other down the road; do we have to fight Roe v.Wade at 75 miles per hour?