Facebook > Email > More Pinterest Print Twitter Play

The Best and Worst Legislators 2017

It just wouldn’t be an odd-numbered year without a crazy legislative session—and our picks of the ten lawmakers who made us proud and the ten who made us pull our hair out.

By July 2017Comments

Illustrations by Max-O-Matic | Photographs by Bob Daemmrich, Anna Donlan, and AP

Around the Texas Capitol this year, it wasn’t unusual to hear the 85th Legislature described as the worst anyone could remember. While we wouldn’t go that far, this session had more than its fair share of dispiriting moments. Quite a few of those came courtesy of the bathroom bill and the misleading public-safety rhetoric its supporters used to justify restrictions on where transgender Texans could relieve themselves. The bill died in the House, but the issue hasn’t gone away. Lawmakers also took a simple bill to ensure that Texas cities comply with federal immigration requests and amended it to allow police to inquire about immigration status when they merely detain someone. Democrats argued that the “show me your papers” provision could lead to racial profiling of Latinos, and police chiefs said it would result in an increase in crime. On the other hand, the Legislature did provide a major funding increase—$509 million—to the Child Protective Services department, which desperately needed it.

But otherwise, not much got done. This Legislature passed the fewest bills in years, and while some might argue that’s a good thing, the biggest issue facing Texas—the crumbling school-finance system—went unaddressed. Instead of action, we got grandstanding over school vouchers, property taxes, and, as ever, abortion.

Most bills fell victim to a standoff between the House and Senate. The differences between the chambers have never seemed greater, mostly because the two men leading those chambers represent opposing sides of a divided Republican party. Speaker Joe Straus led a moderate, business-friendly coalition in the House; Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick steered the more right-wing Senate.

In February, we declared Patrick the state’s most influential politician, and much of what happened this session reinforced that view. It’s true that his three prized proposals—on bathrooms, property taxes, and vouchers—all failed to pass. But there’s no denying that Patrick controlled the narrative of the session. He bullied the Senate to bend to his will and deftly used the bully pulpit to dominate news coverage and pressure the House. In the end, his killing of certain must-pass bills forced a special session.

For his part, Straus played skillful defense against Patrick’s agenda, but he too failed to pass his top legislative priority, school-finance reform. He also lost control of his chamber during the sanctuary cities debate, which resulted in the “show me your papers” amendment.

Meanwhile, Greg Abbott was largely a nonpresence at the Capitol. You’d have to go back decades to find a governor who engaged less with lawmakers. Abbott waffled repeatedly on the bathroom bill. He did little to aid the sanctuary cities measure he wanted but then took credit for it during a Facebook Live bill signing at which none of the lawmakers who actually passed it were present. A question often heard around the Capitol: Why did Greg Abbott want to be governor?

In the end, this session featured too much noise and too little done to improve the lives of Texans. All of which made compiling our biennial list of the best and worst legislators especially challenging. How do you judge a session in which so little was accomplished? Well, we talked to journalists, lobbyists, and many of the lawmakers themselves. We weren’t interested in ideology but rather who tried to solve problems and who created them. Politics is not just about conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats. It’s about working cooperatively to make Texas a better place. That has been the standard for the Best and Worst list since its inception in 1973 and remains so four decades later.

The Best

Representative Byron Cook

Republican, Corsicana

Byron Cook sits in perhaps the Legislature’s hottest seat. He chairs the State Affairs Committee, which handles many of the most controversial bills. A moderate, business-friendly Republican, Cook has been a target of right-wing Republicans for years. They were none too thrilled with him this session, either.

Cook opposed the bathroom bill and gave a hearing in his committee to a weaker, compromise version that, like the original, didn’t pass. He also killed a bill that would have outlawed abortion. That preference for moderation is what earned him a spot on the Best list. Well, that and his ability, as the conscience of the House, to sway fellow lawmakers with moving speeches, a rare trait in the era of echo-chamber politics.

Cook’s words helped beat back an amendment to deny state assistance to abused and neglected children whose caregiver is an illegal immigrant, and he turned the House against an amendment to the late-term abortion ban that would have removed a key exemption for cases involving severe fetal abnormalities. Cook failed to persuade fellow Republicans to vote against the “show me your papers” amendment on the sanctuary cities bill, but we can hardly hold that against him. In general, his moderation, level-headedness, and genuineness helped prevent the session from becoming even more divisive than it already was.

Representative Sarah Davis

Republican, Houston

Sarah Davis was seemingly in the middle of everything this session. She was a key budget writer, heading the House panel on health and human services spending. She then helped negotiate the final budget, in which the House secured a few critical concessions from the Senate, including funding to compensate relatives who care for children in the foster care system. Davis also chaired the House investigations committee that looked into the misuse of state funds by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Davis took on several important public-health issues. She worked with Republican senator Joan Huffman to pass legislation to increase screening of new mothers for postpartum depression. She unsuccessfully attempted to pass an amendment to give foster children a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. She also got upended by fellow Republicans in an effort to provide teen mothers birth control without parental consent. Texas leads the nation in the number of mothers under age eighteen who give birth to a second child. But addressing that problem proved too much for social conservatives in the House to stomach.

Davis is one of the few true moderates left in an increasingly strident Legislature. This session she once again proved herself knowledgeable, hardworking, and willing to occasionally break with her party’s ideology to do what’s best for the state. How refreshing is that?

Representative Dan Huberty

Republican, Houston

It’s hard to miss Dan Huberty. He’s one of the peacocks of the House, often dressing in brightly colored pastel suits that stand out in the crowd of black and charcoal threads. In recent sessions, his legislating hasn’t garnered quite as much attention as his attire. In 2011 we named Huberty rookie of the year, describing him as “self-assured, diligent, and willing and able to tackle tough issues.” But in the years that followed, his considerable potential went unrealized. This session, the old Huberty was back, and his reemergence couldn’t have come at a better time.

With the retirement of Jimmie Don Aycock, the Legislature lost its established expert on the infinitely complex way that Texas funds public schools. As chair of the Public Education Committee, Huberty stepped forward to fill the void.

He crafted a plan to increase the state’s share of funding for public schools by $1.6 billion, including additional money for transportation and the education of dyslexic children. The Senate, led by Patrick, scuttled the plan, but Huberty’s efforts were still impressive. School finance is perhaps the single most important issue facing the state—with a funding system in desperate need of reform—and Huberty not only took it on but built enough consensus to pass his bill through the House on a 134–16 vote. Huberty undoubtedly stood out this session and not just because of his suits.

Senator Joan Huffman

Republican, Houston

Joan Huffman has always shown great potential as a legislator. She’s smart, tough, and driven. Her failing had been her intransigence. As a former prosecutor, she seemed unwilling to move beyond representing only the interests of the Harris County district attorney’s office.

She remains an ardent advocate for prosecutors, but this year, in her fifth full session, she embraced a wider perspective, and the result was several impressive victories. The first was an overhaul of Texas’s voter ID law, in which she showed flexibility by agreeing with Democrats on a provision to require that prosecutors prove a person had intentionally lied on a voting affidavit before charging them with a crime.

In another show of bipartisanship, Huffman teamed with Senfronia Thompson to pass a bill increasing penalties for human trafficking and the promotion of prostitution. But her biggest accomplishment was serving as one of the chief negotiators and sponsors of desperately needed legislation to fix Houston’s ailing city pension systems.

We still heard some whispered complaints about Huffman, and she may always be the kind of lock-’em-up, tough-on-crime advocate that’s gone out of fashion even among Republicans. But this session she showed impressive growth as a lawmaker, putting her considerable talents to use passing important legislation for her constituents. We hope it’s a sign of things to come.

Representative Joe Moody

Democrat, El Paso

Joe Moody doesn’t have a long list of high-profile bills to his name. Perhaps his most notable piece of legislation this session—to establish harsher penalties for cruelty to animals—got hijacked in the House by abortion opponents who didn’t want penalties for animal cruelty to be stiffer than those for an illegal abortion (Moody’s original version of the measure eventually reached the governor).

But Moody’s contributions went beyond the bills he sponsored. Time and again, legislators and lobbyists praised Moody, especially for his intelligent and even-handed work as chair of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. Lobbyists told us that even when they lost in Moody’s committee, they felt like they had gotten a fair hearing. During floor debates, Moody helped to ferret out sections of bills that could have unintended consequences. When a scuffle broke out between Latino Democrats and Republican Matt Rinaldi on the session’s final day, Moody helped restore order by going to the back microphone to suggest that the matter be referred to the House investigating committee.

Moody isn’t flashy. His name doesn’t end up in many news stories. But behind the scenes, he’s the kind of sharp, fair-minded legislator who helps hold things together. When the Legislature, sometimes despite itself, actually does improve the lives of Texans, it’s because of members like Joe Moody.

Senator Robert Nichols

Republican, Jacksonville

In a legislative session dominated by talk of bathrooms and immigrants, it was easy to overlook the bill on overweight trucks that Robert Nichols passed. You probably didn’t see many headlines about it. But the measure could lead to billions of dollars in new manufacturing investment along the Texas coast.

At issue was how much weight Texas allows trucks to carry. The most common permit limits trucks to 84,000 pounds of cargo. The restrictions are intended to minimize the damage that trucks inflict on rural roads. The problem is that most shipping containers are typically much heavier. Without a change in state law, new manufacturing plants, particularly chemical plants, would likely be built in states that already allow heavier loads.

Nichols brought together corporations and policy experts last year to find a way to allow overweight trucks but also preserve roads. The result was a bill that will allow for trucks with additional axles and weight but also with antitipping technology and blind-side sensors. These measures will improve safety, Nichols says. And his bill restricts overweight trucks to within thirty miles of the coast and to roads designated for them by the Texas Department of Transportation. One chemical plant has already announced a major expansion on the Texas coast. Fostering compromise to solve a real-world problem is a good way to land on the Best list.

Representative Chris Paddie

Republican, Marshall

In most legislative years, the ride-sharing bill—which supplanted a patchwork of city ordinances with statewide regulation—would have been an afterthought on the Best list. But since hardly any major bills passed this session, we’re left with more minor measures, like the legislation favored by Uber and Lyft and the lawmaker who ably steered it through the process, Chris Paddie.

The two ride-sharing services had pulled out of Austin in 2016 after the voters imposed stringent regulations. As soon as the governor signed Paddie’s bill into law, Uber and Lyft announced a return to Austin, thrilling out-of-town music lovers and techies, not to mention conservative Republicans who enjoy nothing more than knocking around Texas’s most liberal city.

That wasn’t Paddie’s only success. He helped pass a bill requiring the state to give preference to U.S. steel and iron when constructing buildings, roads, and bridges. Paddie also worked to forge a compromise on the session’s most divisive topic, the bathroom bill. His moderate proposal would have limited the measure to public schools and made it voluntary for students who wanted privacy. The Senate rejected it as too weak, but Paddie’s efforts were still admirable.

We wish the leadership hadn’t chosen to largely ignore the state’s major issues. But that isn’t Paddie’s fault. You can only play the hand you’re dealt. And he played it well.

Representative Four Price

Republican, Amarillo

Walter Price IV, better known as Four Price, sometimes gets lost in the shuffle because he makes his work look easy. It’s not. As chair of the Public Health Committee, Price introduced more than a dozen bills to reform how Texas cares for those with mental illness, a historically neglected population. Probably the most significant was House Bill 10, which designated a state ombudsman to oversee access to behavioral health care and push insurance companies to cover treatment for mental health the same as they do physical ailments. It passed the House on a 130–13 vote, and the Senate sent the measure to the governor with only one dissention.

Another piece of his package would require magistrates to hold hearings early in the criminal process to divert some offenders with mental illness or intellectual disabilities from jail to the state mental-health system. He also sponsored a bill requiring school districts to develop tools to identify and help students with mental-health problems.

He did, however, pass a controversial measure to allow the placement of foster children in privately run group homes. Child-welfare advocates spoke against the bill, saying the state should move away from that kind of foster housing. Price countered that he was trying to ease the pressure on a strained system. On the whole, Price was one of the session’s most effective problem solvers.

Representative Matt Schaefer

Republican, Tyler

We know this is a controversial pick. Matt Schaefer is a divisive figure who chairs the Texas Freedom Caucus, a dozen libertarian-leaning Republican bomb throwers who have spent the past two sessions trying, and failing, to create chaos in the House. And some of them still seem more interested in killing bills than passing them (see the Worst list). Until very recently, the Freedom Caucus was isolated and ineffective.

But late in the session, things began to change. The Freedom Caucus hardliners, led by Schaefer, actually began to employ savvy legislative strategy. On the night of a crucial House deadline, they killed dozens of bills. For once, this wasn’t indiscriminate. They intentionally scuttled must-pass legislation, the demise of which gave Dan Patrick leverage to force a vote in the House on the bathroom bill.

Schaefer authored perhaps the session’s most controversial act: he stunned House leadership by attaching the “show me your papers” amendment to the sanctuary cities bill allowing law enforcement officers to ask the people they detain or arrest for proof of citizenship or legal residency.

Schaefer remains unpopular among liberals and even many Republicans, but the Freedom Caucus has become surprisingly effective. As the caucus leader, Schaefer has clearly learned how the game is played at the Capitol, and—for better or worse—he was surprisingly good at it this session.

Representative Senfronia Thompson

Democrat, Houston

Senfronia Thompson, known affectionately in the House as Ms. T, is a force of nature and a living argument against term limits. At 78, she’s the second-most-senior member of the House, having arrived in 1973. In recent years, she’s been one of the state’s fiercest advocates for combatting human trafficking. When members of the Freedom Caucus killed her bill mandating continuing education for cosmetologists to spot and report human trafficking, a righteous Thompson took to the House floor to call them out by name. “Wouldn’t you want somebody to rescue your child? How many of you in here want to help the pimp?” she said. “I don’t want to be a person who helps the pimp. I want to help the victim.”

When a version of the bathroom bill came to the House floor, Thompson delivered a powerful speech against discrimination, observing that when Barbara Jordan joined the Texas Senate, in 1967, she wasn’t allowed to use the members’ bathroom.

Thompson also showed that she can find common ground with Republicans on critical issues. She carried a grand-jury reform bill with Republican senator Dawn Buckingham, of Lakeway. Thompson also worked with GOP senator Bryan Hughes, of Mineola, on legislation to give nonviolent offenders a second chance in life by sealing their criminal records. In a session filled with too many talking points, Thompson delivered a passionate and substantive performance.

The Worst

Representative Briscoe Cain

Republican, Deer Park

We typically exempt freshmen from the Worst list. We usually forgive their trangressions, because they don’t know how the Legislature works. So just know that we tried. We tried really hard to give Briscoe Cain a pass. But he left us little choice.

When we asked Capitol insiders for Worst list suggestions, his name, almost universally, was the first one mentioned. During one floor debate, when a fellow legislator fell ill with a serious intestinal ailment, Cain objected to the usual procedure of granting the lawmaker an excused absence and called for a record vote. He was the only no vote. But one particular moment, during the budget debate on the House floor, best exemplifies Cain’s uninformed and belligerent performance this session. He offered an amendment to defund a state council that promotes palliative care. He called it a “death panel.” Under questioning from his colleagues, it became clear that Cain didn’t know that palliative care is the treatment of terminally ill people for pain and anxiety to ease their passing. He eventually withdrew his amendment, but not before he’d very nearly zeroed out funding for a good program without actually knowing what it does. Thankfully his colleagues saved him from himself in that instance. Unfortunately, there was no one to save the rest of us from Briscoe Cain.

Representative Dawnna Dukes

Democrat, Austin

Two of the swiftest ways for a lawmaker to land on the Worst list is not showing up for work and misleading your constituents. Dawnna Dukes has been guilty of both.

Dukes’s problems began after a 2013 car accident on Interstate 35 in which she was rear-ended. She has said that constant pain from her injuries caused her to miss 84 percent of the House’s votes during the 2015 session. But that was just the start. Two staff members claimed Dukes was paying them with taxpayer money while using them as nannies for her daughter. And local prosecutors began exploring a criminal case. After all that, it was baffling that Dukes decided to run for office again, but she did. During the 2016 campaign, as it became clear she might soon face indictments, Dukes promised that, if she were reelected, she’d resign before taking office.

But she reneged on that promise, and a week after being sworn in to her twelfth term, Dukes was indicted on two misdemeanor charges of misusing public funds for personal gain and thirteen felony counts of tampering with public records. (Dukes has said she’s innocent.) Meanwhile, she continued not showing up; she missed more record votes this session—905 as of May 26—than any other House member. We wish Dukes the best of luck with her health and her criminal case, but her East Austin constituents deserve better representation. Who can ever trust her again?

Representative Gary Elkins

Republican, Houston

Gary Elkins is a walking oxymoron: he is the chair of the Government Transparency and Operations Committee who spent the session killing transparency legislation.

The public’s access to information (or lack thereof) has been a pressing issue following recent state Supreme Court rulings that essentially exempted from disclosure any documents produced by nonprofits and corporations that do business with state or local governments. For the better part of a year, advocates for open government, journalists, and business executives worked on the issue. They came up with ways to keep birth dates for government employees on public records so watchdogs could better track corruption in government hiring. It was mostly for naught, because Elkins bottled up all open-government bills in his committee. Some may think sunshine is the best disinfectant, but Elkins believes, as he told journalists, that it can be bad for business.

So when you wonder whether a business got a sweetheart deal from your local government, think of Gary Elkins. If you wonder why no one discloses how much your city or public university paid for an entertainer or a speaker, think of Gary Elkins. If you wonder why no one can find out what the nonprofit contractors are doing to restore the Alamo, think of Gary Elkins. And if you wonder who the worst legislators from the 2017 session were, most definitely think of Gary Elkins.

Representative Jessica Farrar

Democrat, Houston

You know you’re irrelevant when you resort to filing a satirical bill. That’s probably why it rarely, if ever, happens. We’ve certainly seen bills in the Legislature that read like unintentional satire, but Jessica Farrar’s HB 4260—the so-called Man’s Right to Know Act—was the first time we can remember a Texas lawmaker deliberately filing a bill solely to make a rhetorical point.

Farrar’s legislation would have required that men endure “medically unnecessary” rectal exams and a 24-hour waiting period before they could receive vasectomies, colonoscopies, or Viagra prescriptions. It also proposed a $100 fine for “masturbatory emissions.” There were other provisions, but you get the idea. And the point is well taken. The Legislature has invaded women’s medical decisions by requiring that they receive a sonogram and be given the Woman’s Right to Know pamphlet before they can have an abortion.

Our quarrel is with her methods. Satire is a tool for comedians and outsiders. The whole point of being a legislator is that you work within the system. By engaging in such lampoonery, Farrar admitted her powerlessness to win over her colleagues or use the legislative process to her advantage (of the 41 bills she filed, only one reached the governor’s desk; she did sponsor four Senate bills that passed). If Farrar returns in 2019, we hope she’ll be a more effective advocate for women’s health and leave the satire to Stephen Colbert.

Senator Kelly Hancock

Republican, North Richland Hills

Pulling off an almost impossible feat, Kelly Hancock managed to anger Texas businesses and tea party groups this session with opportunism and vindictiveness.

When the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce came out in opposition to the bathroom bill, Hancock resigned his membership. Then, in a public hearing on the measure, a skeptical Hancock ruthlessly grilled the president of the Texas Association of Business over the group’s estimates of economic damage from the bill, including the possible loss of the 2018 NCAA Final Four in San Antonio. But just four years ago, Hancock passed a bill to give state funding to such tournaments because they “encourage robust economic growth,” as he said at the time. The next day, still steaming from the bathroom bill hearing, Hancock wanted to ban a TAB lobbyist from appearing before his committee and only relented after his staff convinced him that the lobbyist simply wanted to testify about her personal problems with health insurance billing.

Meanwhile, after billionaire investor Warren Buffett had a private meeting with Dan Patrick, Hancock filed emergency legislation to benefit car dealerships in Texas owned by Buffett and passed the bill out of his committee within two days. The bill was killed only after tea party groups opposed the measure as corporate welfare. This session, it seems, Hancock was an equal-opportunity offender.

Senator Lois Kolkhorst

Republican, Brenham

Let’s state this unequivocally: Lois Kolkhorst isn’t on the Worst list because she authored the bathroom bill. It’s a divisive proposal, but plenty of lawmakers file divisive bills without landing on the Worst list. We could even forgive the cover story that Kolkhorst and Dan Patrick concocted: they claimed we needed to keep women safe from men entering their bathrooms, even though state law already addresses that threat. The issue isn’t the bill or its justifications. The problem is how Kolkhorst and Patrick pushed the measure.

Kolkhorst has said she carried the bill, at least in part, as a matter of faith. And in early March, she and Patrick showed exactly what that entailed. They held a press conference to announce a “one million voices” campaign that would educate pastors on the bathroom bill and encourage them to pressure the House to pass it. By joining with evangelical groups in a Christian lobby effort, Kolkhorst and Patrick left little doubt that they were using religion to justify persecuting transgender people. Expressions of faith are all well and good, but public officials have no business provoking a religious crusade.

Kolkhorst is one of the smartest members of the Legislature. While serving in the House, she earned a place on the Best list in 2007, when we wrote that the former collegiate golfer’s “competitive zeal always found the fair way.” Unfortunately, she spent 2017 playing in the rough.

Senator Charles Perry

Republican, Lubbock

Charles Perry authored one of the most controversial measures of the session, the bill to ban sanctuary cities. But that’s not why he made the Worst list. Rather it was his duplicity on several high-profile bills backed by Dan Patrick.

Take his bait and switch on Senate Bill 2, for example. The measure was pitched by Patrick as a property-tax reform, but it would have severely restricted local governments’ ability to raise and spend revenue. The bill was opposed by the mayor of Lubbock, two local county commissioners, and the county judge from San Angelo, all officials in Perry’s district. He was a profile in courage while speaking against the bill on the Senate floor, calling it a “personal assault on their ability to govern on a local level.” Then he voted for it. On the critical role call, the bill passed by a single vote—Perry’s. The measure later died in the House, but that doesn’t excuse his actions.

He also supported the controversial private-school-voucher proposal—another bill close to Patrick’s heart though opposed by the Lubbock school board and most rural Texans—but not before offering an amendment to carve out his and other rural districts from the plan. It was a classic not-in-my-backyard move. We hope next session Perry remembers that he’s elected to represent his constituents and the people of Texas, not do the lieutenant governor’s bidding.

Representative Matt Rinaldi

Republican, Irving

It took until the final hours of the session, but Matt Rinaldi earned himself a spot on the Worst list. There is a legislator—we won’t say which one—who was bumped off the list at the last minute and probably owes Rinaldi a bottle of wine.

The trouble began weeks earlier, when the House added the “show me your papers” amendment to the sanctuary cities bill. Mexican American legislators believe this provision will lead to racial profiling of Hispanics. And on the session’s final day, protesters filled the gallery to object to it.

Rinaldi’s side had won the legislative fight. But instead of understanding that his opponents have a right to express their dissent and comporting himself like a statesman, Rinaldi did, well, the opposite of that. He called Immigration and Customs Enforcement to report that some of the protesters in the gallery were undocumented immigrants. Then he walked over to a group of Latino legislators and taunted them about his call to ICE. This seemed exactly the kind of racial profiling that Hispanic lawmakers had feared. The resulting shoving match was predicable. We won’t try to parse whether Rinaldi had legitimate cause to fear for his safety. But we do know that he escalated the incident when he threatened to put a bullet in the head of Democrat Poncho Nevárez. The Democrats weren’t blameless, but Rinaldi was the instigator. His conduct embarrassed himself, the House, and Texas.

Senator Charles Schwertner

Republican, Georgetown

For the second session in a row, we’re troubled by the bedside manner of Senator Charles Schwertner, who, when he’s not legislating, works as an orthopedic surgeon. In 2015 we named him to the Worst list because he was “mean-spirited and insecure” and ran the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services “like a tyrant.” Not much changed this year.

In a committee hearing early in the session, on a bill to restrict abortions, Schwertner silenced an abortion rights witness by slamming his gavel down so hard that it broke the glass tabletop of his desk. When the bill reached the Senate floor for a final vote, it included a ban on a commonly used second-trimester abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation; federal courts have already overturned similar language in other states. But Schwertner waved away concerns that the bill might be unconstitutional by saying, “That’s why the courts are there.”

And, sure, Schwertner was effective at times, including on a package of foster care reform bills. But he also helped scuttle efforts to fully restore cuts to Medicaid therapy services for disabled children that passed last session and which many lawmakers have harshly criticized. Thanks in part to Schwertner, only a small portion of the funding was revived. A basic tenet of legislating, as in medicine, is first do no harm. It’s a rule that Schwertner apparently needs to relearn.

Representative Jonathan Stickland

Republican, Bedford

No lawmaker causes more eye-rolls than Jonathan Stickland. It often seems as if he’s at war with the world.

Until recently Stickland was seen as the titular head of a dozen lawmakers known in the House for creating chaos. But when they formed the Freedom Caucus earlier this session, Stickland tellingly wasn’t chosen for a leadership post.

He doesn’t hesitate to kill other members’ bills but throws tantrums when they kill his. He’s so disliked by his colleagues that when he attempted to cut spending on feral hog control, a legislator responded by trying to fund the program by taking $900,000 from highway maintenance in Stickland’s district. The measure was initially approved 99–26. Stickland backed down and complained that, “It’s funny until it happens to you.”

Undeterred, he helped kill legislation to fight human trafficking. He also opposed a bill requiring a grace period for students whose school lunch account has run out of money. Stickland said it was a mandate that undercut local control, but he didn’t always favor local control. He backed requirements that schools establish transgender bathroom policies and mandates on when local governments can hold tax-rollback elections.

We don’t begrudge Stickland his ideology. We do, however, mind his bullying and ineffectiveness. And so does just about everyone else.

Rookie of the Year

Representative Ina Minjarez

Democrat, San Antonio

In Major League Baseball, you can still be a rookie if you played fewer than 45 days in the previous season. San Antonio’s Ina Minjarez entered the House in the final month of the 2015 session, so in our view, she still qualifies as a rookie. And in her first full session, she showed she’s got some game.

Minjarez offered more than two dozen substantive amendments to major legislation, including foster care reform bills and the state budget. She didn’t take the microphone often during debates, but when she did, her words had power. In speaking against the “show me your papers” amendment to the sanctuary cities bill, she noted that she had relatives who had fought in Vietnam and one who had been a prisoner of war. “If this amendment passes, we basically shatter all the work that our ancestors and our family members did to ensure that we have the most basic civil rights,” she said.

She also was the House sponsor of David’s Law, named for a San Antonio
student who killed himself after being the target of cyberbullying. The legislation would criminalize cyberbullying of children and require public schools to address it.

It was an impressive performance for a rookie. We look for big things from her next session.

Bull of the Brazos

Representative Rafael Anchia

Democrat, Dallas

We give the Bull of the Brazos Award to a lawmaker who fits neither the Best nor the Worst list but who was one of the outsized personalities of the session.

That description fit no one better than Rafael Anchia. A smart and telegenic lawyer with a dozen years of legislative experience, Anchia had a more prominent role this session as the new chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus. The son of immigrants (his father from Spain, mother from Mexico), he was a forceful leader for the caucus during a legislative session in which anti-immigrant sentiment pervaded the Capitol. Some right-wing House members seemingly arrived for every major floor debate with anti-immigration amendments at the ready. Anchia often responded with an impassioned defense of the rights of Latinos in general and undocumented immigrants in particular.

But Anchia, at times, went too far. He described a white Republican’s amendment on an early session bill—even before the contentious sanctuary cities debate—as “really racist, anti-Hispanic stuff.” That was one of at least two instances in which he essentially called colleagues racist, violating decorum in the House. Anchia’s passion was desperately needed this session, but there were moments when his rhetoric contributed to a poisonous atmosphere.

Related Content

  • westsidebill

    I don’t think there’s much to brag on from EITHER side of aisle. Most all of them are blowhards that accomplish little except for themselves. I’m curious to see how successful these folks would be in real life full-time and not as professional politicians. We already know that that Dannie Goeb wouldn’t be able to hack it.

    • Plowboy87

      Have you ever looked up what a Texas Legislator makes for being a Texas Legislator?

      • Chris M

        Seriously. They are all very successful – even the horrible legislators – which is the only reason they’re able to afford being able to serve for a position that pays $600/mo

        • WUSRPH

          Many of them actually make real financial and personal sacrifices to “serve” in the Legislature. Why they do it ranges from an inflated ego, the desire for some sort of power to in many cases a real desire to try to make the world a better place or some combination of those and other factors. . The increase in their per diem (paid only while they are in session) has reduced the financial losses most suffered in the past but it has not fully covered the gap……but we still hear uninformed people talking about how much they “make” out of being in office and praising the idea of a “citizen legislator” rather than a “professional politician”. From my more than 30 years of working with them I can tell you that very few members “make” anything from being in office. A few (Paxton) may get wealthier while they are in office, but most do not…..and it is the impact on their businesses and, most importantly, on their families that eventually leads most to quit

          • therazorcutsbothways

            you’re right they don’t “make” anything…..because they’re wealthy enough from their regular full-time job to be able to take time off to play politics

          • WUSRPH

            Some indeed are better off than the average Texan…A few are actually “rich”….but the fact that they are so underpaid for the time they have to serve as a legislator almost makes it necessary that you be “well off” in order to be able to serve.
            And, don’t give me that …. about how “its only a part-time job” every two years..I have handled the calendars for several legislators and they put in many hours each week in “the interim” meeting with constituents and handling their problems for which they receive NOTHING.
            Some people complain that the Legislature often only works till Thursday noon and does not come back till noon on Monday…but they fail to understand that is so that the many members who are self-employed lawyers, realtors, insurance salespeople, etc. can go home and work on Friday and Saturday (if not on Sunday, which some do) in order to make enough to continue to be able to serve in the House or Senate.
            If you want a legislature made up of “common people” you are going to have to pay them more… which, I bet, you oppose.

          • therazorcutsbothways

            I wish I was wealthy enough to be on the board of my husbands successful engineering firm just so I can draw a salary….Jane Nelson, anyone?

            Or the lawyer who has a partnership in his firm and can therefore afford to take time off from work because the partnership is extremely profitable?

            Or the doctor who suspends his profitable practice for a few months, only working Fri/Sat (as you put it), because he can afford to take time off? (you’ll also notice that they are generally not General Practitioner docs but those who specialize in other extremely profitable areas)

            and yes, to forestall your “1% of the electorate” point, that still doesn’t disqualify my comments. and independently wealthy also includes those who don’t have jobs but who’s spouses income more than makes for the difference.

            as for paying “common people”, I’ll even agree to pay them $50k/yr PLUS per diem, in agreement for no more than 4 years of elected service. how’s them apples?

          • WUSRPH

            I certainly agree with you on the need to pay a better salary, but I disagree on your term limits idea. In my experience, most legislators cannot find the bathroom in the State budget and in the state operations and programs in one term….and quite a few still are learning after that. It is, after all a more than $100 billion per year operation with hundreds of programs with complex rules and regulations…..

            Many legislators come to Austin with their minds full of myths about hundreds of thousands of lazy no-goods on “welfare”……high-living bureaucrats….and billions of “waste, fraud and corruption”…The intellectually honest ones soon learn that most of that is pure bs…
            Most legislators would only be fully ready to dig into their jobs and really get things done when your four year limit would force them out of office. In the meantime, they would either make bad decisions—based on bad information and “myths”—or be led by agency staff, their own staff and us “experts” or handfed by the lobby….which is not my idea of good government.

          • WUSRPH

            P.S. And don’t forget “best” Joan Huffman living in a mansion in River Oaks on an estimated income of $75,000 per year and not revealing her husbands substantial interest in bars and clubs. Worse, when people started talking about it, she used her power as chair of the committee to put amendments into two ethics bills to make it legal for her to not reveal his wealth—or, more importantly, its source. It took a public outcry and two gubernatorial vetoes to make her comply with the law. But, in general, I think legislators are as honest as any other group and probably more honest.. Having people and the media watching them all the time may have some affect on their behavior.

          • St. Anger

            You forget: get rich from lobbyist payola.

          • WUSRPH

            A small number of legislators become successful lobbyists when they leave office….but most do not….plus, if what you are suggesting is that they get money from lobbyists, that is a crime…..

          • St. Anger

            Evidence: not rich people take office for little pay, somehow emerge wealthy from office holding.

            Cf: rick perry.

          • WUSRPH

            Rick (and to an extend Atty. Gen. Paxton) are interesting cases…..He clearly improved his financial situation during his many years in “public service”, but I still believe that his case is the exception, not the rule.

            Rest assured, as many times as he has been investigated both by the DA and by political opponents, if Perry had done something illegal it would have been uncovered. That does not mean, however, that there are not some things—including a couple of very profitable real estate investments—that some of us would not have approved. Finding a way to be paid as governor while drawing a state retiree pension (and maybe a second one now) is certainly one of those… But, all of it was apparently perfectly legal.

            I do, however, sometimes have questions about the dealings of a few members such as one of the biggest of the Right Radicals who, when he ran for office was salesman for a pest control company, but is now a “consultant” to the oil industry……but, being who he is, I am sure whatever he is doing has also been thoroughly examined by many, including those who backed his last two well-financed opponents.

      • Don Alexander

        They do get pretty sweet retirement benefits, if they qualify.

        • therazorcutsbothways

          the retirement pay for state employees…..

          rank and file
          Years of service (x) Average of highest 36/48/60 months salary (x) 2.3%

          elected self-less serving legislator
          Years of service (x) Average of highest 36/48/60 months of state judge salary (x) 2.3%

          Do the math.

          I may end up working 20 yrs and having a $50k salary when I retire (which I can’t collect until Rule of 80 or age 65)

          Our Dear Leaders however will “self-sacrifice” for 20 years (and also can’t collect until Rule of 80 or age 65)

          Retirement salary
          me: 20 (x) $4,167 (x) 2.3% = monthly retirement pension = $1,916.82

          douchebags: 20 (x) $11,250 (x) 2.3% = monthly retirement pension = $5,175

          Yes, state employees work hard all these years at salaries 20-25% under the market rate with no guaranteed pay raises or even COLA raises, and yet, SOMEHOW, the independently wealthy legislators (of both parties, largely made up of rich businessman and LAWYERS) get a bigger # at the end.

          Anyone not have a problem with this picture?

          • WUSRPH

            As a retired state employee I share you feeling about the difference between the retirement benefits paid to state employees and to the “elected class” in the system…However, you fail to note that a much smaller percentage of legislators eventually qualify for these benefits. They have to serve at least eight years (4 terms in the House) and cannot begin collecting until they are 60. A majority of legislators used to serve for more years but the pressures of the office, poor pay and the demands of family and business have made that less likely today. If you look at this article you will get a better picture of the situation:


            As you will notice, it estimates that only about 30% of those who have served in the legislature since this pension system was adopted in 1975 have qualified for the pension..
            I agree that it is too generous of a system—especially compared to what the state employees receive, but it is hardly as outrageous as you suggest..

          • therazorcutsbothways

            oh yes, I remember when that Politifact came out in 2013, and while the particular legislator admitted his “half of 1 percent” claim did not come out as intended, the fact remains that it was still rated as False.

            “…We estimate that 39 percent of actual potential beneficiaries have
            served 10 years or more, meaning they could have qualified for the
            pension……” 39% is still 39% too much.

            what would be much more reasonable is for them to take the average salary of the rank-and-file, chopping off the top 20% so the numbers aren’t skewed by certain high salaries.

            When the only people who can afford to become elected are the working-wealthy, instead of a regular cross-section of society, then you get the type of politician who only looks out for himself.

  • Texas Politico

    Hey R.G., you started this piece off by saying that you, ” Weren’t interested in ideology but rather who tried to solve problems and who created them. That politics is about working cooperatively to make Texas a better place and that has been the standard for the Best and Worst list since its inception in 1973 and remains so four decades later.” With that in mind, please explain what Matt Schaefer did to make Texas a better place. What problems did he solve? Simply being effective at killing bills, does not make a member a “Best” member.

    • r.g. ratcliffe

      A bit of an anomaly, I’ll admit, but it came down to the fact that the Freedom Caucus moved the House in the final month, and like it or not, Schaefer’s “show me your papers” amendment will be the focus of talk and court hearings for months to come. To some degree, it came down to him being the captain of the team as chairman of the caucus.

      • Texas Politico

        I agree the Freedom Caucus had an impact in the Texas House and you are absolutely correct that Schaefer’s “show me your papers” amendment will be settled in the courts. Now, whether or not the Freedom Caucus had a positive or negative impact on the House will probably primarily depend on if you agree or disagree with what the Freedom Caucus was trying to accomplish. In my opinion, being the captain of that caucus doesn’t merit being on the Ten Best List. My questions still remain. What did he do to make Texas a better place? What problems did he try and solve? This difference aside, good job on this list. Thank you, and for that matter, I want to thank all of the Texas Capitol reporters for doing great work this session of keeping the Texas public informed on the happenings under the pink dome.

        • St. Anger

          Translation: if you are a fascist, you will agree with that “show me your papers” makes for good legislating.

          • don76550

            If you are a traitor and a proponent of an illegal invasion of our country then you will oppose “show me your papers.” Maybe if Kate Steinle’s murderer would have had to show his papers, she would still be alive.

        • WUSRPH

          I question whether the “show me your papers” section of SB 4 is the part most likely to be voided by the courts. After all, the SCOTUS let similar language stand in the Arizona law. In my view, the section most likely to go down—and very quickly–is the provision that makes it a crime for a public official/police chief etc. to even “advocate” not enforcing the immigration detainers, etc. Last time I checked “advocating” without action to back it up was protected by the 1st Amendment… I would hope that even a Texas court judge—facing probably retaliation from Abbott and company if he rules “wrong”—would protect that right…But we will see.

        • don76550

          I applaud the freedom caucus for their efforts to make Texas a better place.

      • Alfred Stanley

        “Regardless of the compliments tourists give him for running the trains on time, the rule of Mussolini is the greatest outrage carried on against liberty”—Reinhold Niebuhr, 1931

        • don76550

          Didn’t realize Mussolini was running for any office in Texas. Which one would that be?

          • Alfred Stanley

            Texas Politico asked what Rep. Schaefer did to make Texas a better place, the professed criterion for meriting a place on the best list. R.G. Ratcliffe did not reply that Schaefer did what was best for Texas but that Schaefer earned his spot by being effective because he “moved the House.” I countered with an example of someone noted historically for being effective but not for doing what’s best for the people he governed. In other words, being effective is not necessarily the same as doing what’s best. How is being effective at getting something to move the equivalent of doing what’s best for Texas? Ratcliffe ducked the question.

    • Donnajmckee

      Gooogle is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours & have longer with friends and family! !dx187c:
      On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. Follow this link for more information
      ➽➽;➽➽ http://GooogleFinancialCashJobs717NetworkPartnerGetPaid$97/Hour ★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫::::::!dx187c:….,….

    • Kathleenwgreenwald

      jackiejjordan Google.Com is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours & have longer with friends and family! !dv192f:
      On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. Follow this link for more information
      ➽➽;➽➽ http://GooogleFinancialCashJobs472ShopLittleGetPaid$97/Hour ★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫★★★✫::::::!dv192f:….,……

    • don76550

      The sanctuary cities bill was badly needed legislation to protect Texas from an illegal invasion of our country and I applaud Matt Schaefer for supporting it. Those who support sanctuary cities in my opinion are traitors to our country.

  • Laura Pickett Calfee

    RG, I think you’d have to go back to Brisco to find a governor similarly disengaged

    • WUSRPH

      But Briscoe had some competent aides, such as Mark White, who could cover his lack of interest and/or ability to interact with the legislature. From what I have seen Abbott does not have that level of support from his staff.

      • I don’t know, Daniel Hodge changes a mean Depends, and that’s not a political skill you can just pick up on the street …

      • AlmostNormalTexan

        There was a very good article on Briscoe’s governorship from way back when (http://www.texasmonthly.com/politics/why-does-dolph-briscoe-want-to-be-governor/) that suggested part of his problem was that, at least at first, he *didn’t* have competent aides, instead filling his staff with “outsiders” who had no idea what they were supposed to do.

        Abbott still hasn’t figured out “the vision thing.” He has no broad agenda for what he wants to do. It’s all purely negative and reactive – “Make sure Texas doesn’t become another California.” Well, it’s not going to. We don’t need Greg Abbott to ensure that. Other Republican governors run on cutting taxes and regulations – Texas already had low taxes and minimal regulations before Abbott. By and large he’s the governor of the status quo, of leaving the car in neutral and batting away anyone who tries to take the keys away. He’ll get reelected next year, no doubt. But he’s going to be the first Texas governor in a while who is likely never going to appear on any presidential shortlists.

  • Chris Bellomy

    Does an accusation of racism violate decorum when so many members clearly want to be accused? We’re kidding ourselves if we think that racism doesn’t sell in much of this state. Otherwise legislators wouldn’t use it to pander for votes. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    • MartinAustinTX

      Wholly unjustified cries of “racism” sells too. Unfortunately, loose talk makes it meaningless and harms the real victims.

      • St. Anger

        Good luck finding an example of a non racist getting called racist.

        The reverse is far more likely.

      • peteywheats

        We need more loose talk, we need to let the KKKGOP know that we, like the courts, see the racist intent of their redistricting and their ongoing assault on black and hispanic families.

    • don76550

      The communist left’s definition of “racism” means anybody who disagrees with them on any issue. The left has no coherent defense of their extremist values.

  • VB123

    Glad to see several members landed exactly where they should with a few exceptions (Schaefer?!). A few questions – How does Perry get knocked for ‘not representing his district’ while offering an amendment to the benefit of his district? Also, how does one member get put on the best list for sponsoring the same bills or signing off on the same budget decisions while the member in the other chamber gets on the worst list?

  • St. Anger

    Paddie gets put on the BEST list for just another bill that undercut Austin’s popular sovereignty?

    Screw you too, TM.

    • Elsiepbonilla

      my classmate’s half-sister makes $72 every hour on the internet. She has been without a job for eight months but last month her payment was $16159 just working on the internet for a few hours.Here’s the site to read more……++++++++++++++++++++

  • Matthew Roberts

    Thank you Ratcliffe for letting me and “most rural Texans” know who to vote for in our districts by putting the BEST candidates in your Worst list. By the way, when your wife (or whatever) sees a man that looks like Robert DeNiro in a dress standing next to her in the “Ladies” restroom, don’t come whining after she slaps you upside your head for putting her in potential danger and allowing a MAN who SAYS he is a woman because he feels like that on that particular Tuesday afternoon.

    • therazorcutsbothways

      YEAH! this bill should have passed because this problem has happened……..when?

      • WUSRPH

        It probably happens in Dan Patrick’s mind hundreds of times per day.

    • Patty Tillman

      Matthew, please give an example of when a transgender person was arrested for a sex crime in a public restroom in the United States. I’ll wait.

      • don76550

        It has occurred in Target stores.

        • Patty Tillman

          Don, the one incident you’re referring to happened in a women’s changing area in Idaho, not a bathroom. The man had on a dress and wig and took pictures of a young lady while she tried on swimwear. Confronted by police and asked why he did it, he said the same reason all men want naked pics of women. That explanation right there disqualifies him from being a transgender. He’s a tranvestite. Big difference.

          • don76550

            Wrong. They have occured in Texas as well.

          • Patty Tillman

            I believe you are the one who is wrong, as the only info I can find are where transgender people are the ones being attacked, not the attackers. You’ll need to post the link to your story.

    • WestTexan70

      Stop making us rural Texans sound like scared little children. Grow up.

    • gnipgnop

      I’d rather deal with “Robert DeNiro in a dress standing next to me in a ladies restroom” than deal with one more guy like you disguising your condescending anger and bigotry as protection of my delicate sensitivities. We haven’t asked for your help and we’ll thank you to keep us out of your own misogynistic agendas, that really are suspect, at best. Shocking though it may be to you, we’re perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves.

    • don76550

      Agree. Anybody Texas Monthly endorses is someone I will vote against.

  • Dano

    Texas Monthly is such a worthless rag. Not even good for toilet paper. They love abortion so much I think it’s time to abort this waste of ink. Stickland and Rinaldi are terrific legislators. Oh and “transgender” is not a real thing you clowns.

    • Vik Verma

      Actually, this is a worthless comment

      • José

        You know those guys who crash a party, bother the invited guests, and complain about the food?
        Yeah, like that.

    • Patty Tillman

      You’re an idiot of the highest magnitude. I feel sorry for your kid.

    • Vik Verma

      R.G. gave you Schaffer. You should be happy with that because it wasn’t deserved

    • don76550

      You may make campaign contributions to Matt Rinaldi at PO box 631721, Irving, Tx 75063. We need to keep this excellent legislator in the house.

  • microace

    This is exactly why I quit reading your magazine years ago, you have your finger on the pulse of the city of Austin and have no clue what the rest of Texas is even about. Byron Cook, on the Best list and Jonathon Stickland on the worst…yeah Jonathon killed bills, useless, stupid bills that were a waste of time and money that Cook let through the Calendar’s Committee yet held up major legislation that was on the Governor’s and Lt. Governors list of things to be addressed this session.

    • therazorcutsbothways

      and yet you’re reading it ……..now?

      • microace

        You evidently cannot comprehend English, I said I quit reading their magazine….the only reason I read this was because it was a post by Jonathon Stickland on facebook saying how proud he was to make the bottom of the list….if you don’t have anything better to do than troll website comments I feel really sorry for you it must be a sad lonely life.

        • therazorcutsbothways

          and yet you have felt compelled to read and comment on TM articles 6 months ago, 1 year ago, 2 years ago, and 3 years ago, regardless of when you actually stopped reading their magazine? I applaud you, sir, for having the audacity to call me a troll and saying I have a sad lonely life! Oh Bravo!!!

        • WUSRPH

          That is exactly what I said Stickland would say, but I did not think he was fast enough on his feet (literally or figuratively) to get his response out that soon and play it as an honor for a conservative (or, in his case, a right radical) to be labeled as a “worst”…

          It kind of reminds me of the time back in the early 70s when the “winner” of the Texas House’s “freshman of the year” award completely turned its meaning around and made it something to be desired. You see, up till then, the award was a semi-in-house joke given to the freshman who the rest of the house rated as being the worse member of the new class of legislators. In fact, it was once awarded to a member during both his first and second terms.

          This time, however, the “winner” of this less than distinguished award turned the tables on his colleagues and immediately started thanking everyone for the great honor and publicizing that he had received it. After all, his constituents didn’t know it was not such an honor…The result is that.ever since then the award has gone to the member who is genuinely thought to have been the best of the new crop.

    • WUSRPH

      Just because they are on the governor or even the Lt. Gov’s lists of issues does not mean they should be passed. Some of their ideas might not be that good…and most of them need some changes to make sure they will work..

      In a three-branch of system of government it is the legislatures’ responsibility to make judgements about their proposals and to decide which will be good for Texas…The Legislature is not now and should never be a rubber stamp for the governor or even for the lt. governor.

    • WUSRPH

      You might also want to check your list of committee chairs…Cook is chair of State Affairs, not Calendars….


    A serious question for the author….I see that you mentioned them in various places—not always favorably—but why no separate write-up on Abbott and Patrick or even the Comptroller? I know they are not technically part of the legislature, but their actions (or inactions ala Abbott) can and do have a major impact on what happens. We can piece together your review of Abbott and Patrick by cutting-and-pasting various paragraphs in the article, but it would have been nice to have them all put together in the piece. Will they be in the print edition?

    (You apparently did not include the old category of “furniture”…Maybe you can revive that one for Abbott.)

    I mentioned the Comptroller because I was one of many who had real concerns about his ability to do the job. I felt a little better when he hired a few Bullock-exs for top posts….and I must admit that overall he appears to have done a fairly good job….Certainly above that of any of his past three predecessors.

  • Hoobuck

    I have two issues with his article, both of which concern Matt Schaefer. To say that he and his Freedom Caucus are Libertarian leaning republicans is an insult to Libertarians everywhere. If you check the definition for a Libertarian, you will find that they are for LESS government regulation, not more, among other things. The last thing that his Freedom Caucus is actually for is Freedom. For that group to be aptly named, they would be the Control Caucus.
    That brings me to my 2nd point. I have the unfortunate circumstance of living in Schaefer’s district as a Libertarian. There is no way on God’s green Earth using any kind of moderately intelligent thought process, that he could be considered one of the ten best. You basically said it yourself in your comments on him. His scorched Earth policy on bills to force the vote on the bathroom bill led to less Freedom, not more.
    The one thing that I will agree with you on is the fact that he is unpopular, not only with Liberals and some Republicans, but also with Moderates and Libertarians. Unfortunately, for those of us not on the extreme conservative right here in East Texas, Schaefer will win any election that he chooses to be a part of. Another reason for term limits for all politicians, but then, that is a different story.

    • WUSRPH

      You are right about the alleged Freedom Caucus not being Libertarians….The problem is that the part of their ideology is anti-government and, on the surface, sounds to some like Libertarianism. They call themselves “conservatives” but they have little or nothing in common with the traditional definition of a conservative…….The result is that many of us are struggling with the problem of finding a short-hand term to describe them….The best I have been able to come up with is “Rightwing Radical”……

      • Hoobuck

        I have to agree that “Rightwing Radical” is a pretty valid term for Schaefer.

    • don76550

      I applaud Schaefer and wish him well in his reelection


    Did you see that Dr. Hotze, fighter of all sexual variations and Dan Patrick’s good buddy, is calling for the House to throw Straus out of the speaker’s chair during the special session?

    I guess that means he has given up hope that Patrick can get an amendment into the Medical Board bill that makes them agree to his position on giving doctor’s the right to try any kind of treatment they desire whether it be approved, unapproved, or quack.

    There are ways to oust a speaker—-made easier after the House, in effect, ousted Tom Craddick and elected Straus, but I doubt Hotze can find 78 ,members willing to vote his way. Of course, first he has to have a candidate and no name has yet surfaced.

    • don76550

      We are gradually defeating Straus’ henchmen in primary elections.

  • Shawn Kellim

    Yes Byron Cook deserves the chief seats and the glory of men. I pray he repents before God loses His patience and sends Cook to eternal torment.

    Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!
    Isaiah 10:1‭-‬2 ESV

    • St. Anger

      In English please?

    • pwt7925

      Sounds like you’re talking about Dan Patrick.

  • Well, What Next?

    Dan Patrick still stinks! Just like when he was one of the trashiest sportscasters in long-ago Houston. It’s only a matter of time until he trips on his underwear and is shown the door.

    • don76550

      He is only the best Lt Gov Texas ever had, and he will have my vote again, as well as my campaign contributions.

  • Jenny Robertson Johnson

    “Farrah admitted her powerlessness to win over colleagues. ” She is powerless . I’m powerless. My senator and representative are democrats, and they are relatively powerless to affect these abortion bills. We are pretty gerrymandered, and many districts are safe. Campaigning at election time is important, but it matters less in safe districts. Protest and lampoonery are all we’ve got. Meanwhile the maternal death rate soars, and our school funding system needs to be fixed( unless you favor the demolition of public schools). The leg is concentrating on forms of punishment concerning sexual behavior. And these fetal remains that are so important now, why are we hearing about this now and not in the past 35 years since abortion became legal? While the state spends my money to defend unconstitutional laws, I think you judgement of Farrar exposes the narrow life experiences of those who were consulted on the best worst list.

    • WUSRPH

      The more Democrats there are like Farrah who feel they have no power—and thus nothing to loose—-the more the likelihood that Speaker Straus could find himself being attacked from two directions at once—-from the right by the so-called Freedom Caucus and by the House Democrats from the left. I’ve talked about this possibility in the past, but, Farrah’s comments, give it special strength. Straus has elected with Democratic support (for which the Empower Texas types have never forgiven him) and some Democrats still feel a commitment to him. Some, in fact, continue to enjoy positions of power—including committee chairmanships (another fact that drives Straus’ GOP opponents nearly crazy)….but those “Straus Democrats” could become a minority of the Democratic caucus, especially as more of its members are too new in office to share the memories of Tom Craddick’s speakership and why it gave them reasons to work with Straus. The Democrats showed what they could do in opposition to a Speaker when Craddick was Speaker…before the days of the Freedom Caucus…when they repeatedly paralyzed the House. I’d hate to think what conditions could deteriorate to if both the Democrats and the FC take after Straus.

  • Cynthia Astle

    Call the Fashion Police! Dan Huberty’s suits can’t be both “brightly colored” and “pastel” at the same time! “Pastel” by definition is a color that has been lessened by the addition of white. Get thee to a color wheel!

  • AlmostNormalTexan

    When Paul Burka was in charge of this, there was always a list of “Furniture” (legislators who were such inconsequential backbenchers that they might as well have been the chairs and desks they sit at).

    • WUSRPH

      Anyone in particular you would like to nominate for that honor?

  • don76550

    As usual your bogus best and worst list reflects the reprehensible values of the extreme left. I will be making campaign contributions to Reps Strickland and Rinaldi, whom I consider to be among the best. As for Byron Cook, he is reprehensible. He almost lost a primary last time, but barely won when all of a sudden ballots were “found.” Voter fraud anyone? He will be challenged again by Thomas McNutt. Contributions to him can be made to Thomas McNutt for state rep, 1309 Ficklin Ave, Corsicana, Tx 75110. Cook is a disgrace to the Republican party. Other RINO henchmen of Joe Straus are also facing primary challenges, and hopefully these will prevail. One of those being challenged is JD Sheffield of dist 59, who proposed taxing residents of nursing homes for merely being in that nursing home. That is despicable. He is being challenged by Chris Evans for state rep, 615 CR 358, Dublin, Tx 76446. He is a true conservative, unlike Sheffield who votes like a democrat and tries to cover that fact up in his district.

  • A Toomim

    Totally disagree about Jessica Farrar. The very reason you gave for putting her on your worst list is why she made my best list, again.

    Every session since Republicans took over the #TXLege, the attacks on women’s reproductive rights have gotten worse. This year was the fetal burial bill.

    Despite thousands of women showing up to fight this in 2013, the attacks have only gotten worse. It was time men like you and the other Republicans attacking our healthcare got a taste of your own medicine.

    Was HB 4260 really any more ridiculous than:
    Requiring doctors to lie to women about cancer
    Requiring medically unnecessary and invasive sonograms
    Requiring the option of burial or cremation for a miscarriage
    Requiring a pill be taken at surgical center

    Women are angry for a reason. You clearly weren’t hearing us no matter how loud we yelled.

    I am eternally grateful to Rep. Jessica Farrar for the fierce battle she’s waged.

    Rep. Jessica Farrar is The Best of the Lege!

  • peteywheats

    When you call a racist party a racist party, that’s telling the truth. The GOP is top to bottom, a racist party. GOP people may net “feel” like racists, but they are, because they belong to a racist party that creates racist laws and has the full support of every racist group in the country. The GOP are all racists.

  • SheridanLGrant

    “Anchia’s… rhetoric contributed to a poisonous atmosphere.” No, the bathroom bill contributed to a poisonous atmosphere. Racist legislation contributed to a poisonous atmosphere. In this day and age, when calling it like it is is more important than ever (especially for news media), TM pedantically chides Anchia for doing just that. Sad!