Republican, Sugar Land, 57. During the fourteen sessions that we have been choosing the Best and the Worst Legislators, many a lawmaker has tried to lobby himself onto the Best list. A few have tried to lobby themselves off the Worst list. But never, before Charlie Howard came along, had anyone tried to lobby himself onto the Worst list. “I want you to take a better picture of me this year,” he said, alluding to the photo that accompanied his Ten Worst write-up in 1997. At the time, he was on the bubble—certainly no better than the eleventh-worst legislator but arguably no worse. The competition was fierce this year. But if Charlie Howard wants to be a Worst, who are we to deny him?
Not that there is any shortage of evidence regarding his deficiencies, which all come down to the same thing: Charlie just doesn’t get it.
Exhibit A: During the debate over whether to increase penalties for hate crimes—acts of violence committed because of race, religion, or sexual preference—Howard proposed adding a new type of victim: the student athlete. “Is it your intent to make a farce of House Bill 938?” asked one member. A fellow Republican, proposing a spur-of-the-moment substitute, explained, “When I saw the language that said ‘student athlete,’ I just thought that if we passed that…it’s gonna look funny.” Howard gave up without a vote.
Exhibit B: Howard fought against an innocuous bill that required schools to follow state curriculum guidelines for electives. He was sure that it would lead to TAAS tests for electives. Public Education Committee chairman Paul Sadler was sure it would not: “Mr. Howard, unfortunately you’re just very, very wrong, and there’s nothing else I can say.…That’s not part of this bill, and your efforts to try to scare this body into [believing it is] won’t work.”
Exhibit C: Opposing a bill that increased lottery prizes with the intent of providing more money for education, Howard asked: Isn’t the real purpose of this bill to encourage more gambling?
Howard describes himself as a conservative—“That’s why I’m going to be on your list,” he said—but it is more accurate to think of him as having dropped off the right side of the political spectrum. Of the 72 Republicans in the House, he is one of three who declined to sign a letter endorsing George W. Bush for president. He threatened to recruit a GOP primary opponent for a colleague he believed had voted wrong on an abortion amendment. He told the House Republican Caucus that a children’s health insurance program developed by Congressional Republicans led down the slippery slope of socialism. Even in his own party, he just doesn’t get it.
P.S.: Hope you like the picture this time, Charlie.