Spin, Spin, Spin—Kevin Bailey
Democrat, Houston, 48. A lot of lawmakers would give up their cherished parking spaces to have what Kevin Bailey has going for him: fire in the belly, cleverness, a loyal following, a knack for phrasing a political point, and a booming voice to deliver it. What a waste of talent. All he does with his manifold assets is play the game of partisan politics; his legislative program is to get his derogatory quotes about Republicans—particularly about George W. Bush—in the newspapers. Here’s a sample:
On Bush’s plan to suspend the oil severance tax on marginal wells: “The reality is that we lead the nation in uninsured children. That is at least as important an emergency as what the oil industry is facing.” (Actually, the oil-tax cut did not affect in any way the children’s health insurance program, which was funded from a different pot of money.)
On why Bush was backing the oil-tax cut: “Clearly, he’s doing what he’s got to do to curry favor with those who will influence the nomination for president.” (Clearly, the fact that Bush has been in the oil business is enough to curry favor.)
On Bush’s proposal to transfer $400 million—half of the surplus in a state worker’s compensation fund—to the state’s general fund, where it could be used for property-tax relief: “[It] sounds like the same scam that was run on Social Security in Congress.” (Nonsense. The Social Security fund is going broke. The worker’s compensation fund has twice as much money as it needs.)
On Bush’s absenteeism from the session: “I don’t know if I’d say he’s been missing in action, but it’s been pretty close to that.” (The last person to know how much the governor has been buttonholing legislators would be Kevin Bailey.)
This is Washington-style political dialogue—oversimplification and spin, everything designed to attack your opponent and not your opponent’s policies. It has nothing to do with getting things done in the Texas Legislature.
Late in the session, however, Bailey actually put his talent to use in a positive way. He tacked onto the electricity deregulation bill a pro-consumer amendment that shifted about $1 billion in electric costs from residential to large business customers; when they protested, he agreed to work out a compromise. Good work, Kevin! Scratch that man off the Worst list. But when he actually put the change in the bill, he got greedy, didn’t stick to the agreement, got caught, and backed down. Bad work, Kevin. Back on the list.