Dianne Delisi has a peculiar idea about politics: She thinks that you can succeed just by coming up with good ideas, working hard, and being nice. Well, that might work for the president of the PTA back home, but everybody knows that the way to get ahead in the Capitol lies in making powerful friends, raising the flag of your ambition, valuing loyalty over independence, and learning how to manipulate the legislative process to your benefit. The system is particularly cruel to women who are classy and—dare we use a description that’s deadly in politics?—sweet. So here’s to classy, sweet Delisi. Patronized and punished in the Democratic years (she helped Speaker Craddick mount electoral challenges against incumbent D’s), she had a great session, doing things her way.
She came up with good ideas. Delisi solved one of the session’s biggest dilemmas: how to fund the state’s red-ink-stained trauma hospitals when no money was available. A staffer came across a New Jersey plan to assess points against drivers who speed, cause accidents, or get ticketed for DUIs; drivers who accumulate six points must pay large penalties to the state to have their licenses renewed. The rationale is that bad drivers cause trauma injuries, so they should help pay for the treatment. The program will raise $200 million in the first two years after the law takes effect, then $240 million a year after that.
She worked hard. She lobbied colleagues to co-sponsor her bill, signing up more than two thirds of the House in support of it. In the meantime, she had to fend off the governor’s office and later the doctors, both of which cast greedy eyes on that huge pot of new money.
She was nice. When Senator Florence Shapiro, of Plano, likewise discovered the New Jersey plan, she wanted to use the revenue to fund Governor Perry’s traffic-mobility bill. Delisi and Shapiro reached a handshake deal to split the money.
Delisi has become more partisan over the years, which is not surprising: Her son, Ted, is a Republican consultant and her daughter-in-law, Deirdre, works for Perry. But she remains a conservative who cares about education and health care and talks about helping the “kiddos.” Says a Democratic colleague: “She cares. She tries. If all one hundred fifty cared and tried, we’d be in great shape.”