Texas Tech's gain is the Legislature's loss.
Robert Duncan, master of the Texas Senate, considers a new line of work.
Looks like San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro may be heading to Washington, and Texas Senator Robert Duncan is bound for Texas Tech. What does that mean for local politics?
On Monday, Donna Campbell's resolution to add an amendment to the Texas constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion lead to a discussion about abortion rights, the Westboro Baptist Church, and goat slaughter.
After Governor Perry blamed Senator Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, for the failure of the sanctuary cities bill, the Senate Republican caucus issued a statement of solidarity dated June 28 (yesterday). The text of the statement follows: On Saturday, June 25, the Senate Republican Caucus convened to discuss the issue of possibly…
The 20th edition of the “Best & Worst Legislators” story is complete. Yesterday we posted, on Twitter and on this blog, the names of the ten Best, the ten Worst, the Bull of the Brazos, and the Rookie of the Year. Today the write-ups for all of these 22 members are available online. The full story, including honorable and dishonorable mentions, furniture, and the very special features that mark the 20th edition of the story will be available in the magazine, which will begin reaching subscribers this weekend, and on our website next week. I have been involved in nineteen of the twenty previous articles, and I cannot recall a more difficult year when it came to selecting the members on both lists. This was a session without heroes. All the usual jokes about naming 5 Bests and 15 Worsts were on point, for a change. The budget dominated everything, with the result that there were few major bills. I count three: Truitt’s effort to regulate payday loans; Ritter’s attempt to get funding for the state water plan (one of several occasions on which Perry could have exercised leadership for the state’s future but did not); and Keffer’s bill regulating hydraulic fracturing in shale formations. The rest was noise. Particularly cacophonous was the governor’s “emergency” agenda, which consisted of nothing but red meat for Republicans. Republicans got to vote on abortion, immigration, voter fraud, tort reform, and, shades of the fifties, state’s rights. Democrats got to vote no a lot. Even the major Sunset bills didn’t seem to generate any interest. You could look out across the House floor during any debate and see few members engaged. The House Republican caucus was a curious organism. Its members preferred to vote as a block, as if they lived in fear that their age-old enemies, the Democrats, might perhaps be resuscitated to offer a scintilla of opposition. The group-think voting was reminiscent of the refrain sung by the “Monarch of the Sea” in Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore: “I grew so rich that I was sent/by a pocket borough into Parliament/I always voted at my party’s call/and never thought of thinking for myself at all.” The anemic Democratic caucus, meanwhile, mustered up occasional resistance, mostly with parliamentary maneuvers, but the D’s were so outnumbered, and so demoralized by their election rout, that they never seemed to have a leader or a plan. Not that it would have made any difference.
This post has been revised since its initial publication. 1. The Tom Schieffer candidacy. Patricia Kilday Hart and I interviewed Tom Schieffer about his race for the Democratic nomination governor. Interestingly, Schieffer asked to go off the record before the interview to discuss the events that led to his being named one of the Ten Worst legislators in 1975. That was my first year to participate in the writing of the story, along with my then-colleague, Griffin Smith. The writeup was one of the toughest that we have ever written. It was full of anonymous quotes, which we seldom use today. Nowadays, the writeups are largely based on the public record. Schieffer was involved in one of the session's biggest fights, an effort to authorize Texas's first presidential primary in order to aid U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen's bid for the Democratic nomination for president in 1976. The Texas Democratic party in that era was split into liberal and conservative wings, and Schieffer was a conservative Democrat. The liberals were fighting him hard all the way, including my former mentor, Babe Schwartz, and I am sure that that influenced the writeup. The ink was hardly dry on the issue before I began to have second thoughts about whether Schieffer really deserved being on the Worst list. The bill did pass, and Texas did have its first primary--not that it helped Bentsen, who was overwhelmed in his home state by Jimmy Carter. Schieffer has gone on to have a successful career as an oil and gas operator, as president of the Texas Rangers baseball team, and as ambassador to Australia and Japan in the George W. Bush administration. He should be considered a legitimate candidate for governor. The Ten Worst article was 34 years ago. There are lot of obstacles in the path of a Schieffer candidacy, but that article shouldn't be one of them. The main obstacles, of course, are Schieffer's association with Bush and his well motivated, but ultimately self-defeating, unwillingness to distance himself from his friend and former Rangers' business partner; his reluctance as a candidate, including the question of whether he will put his own money into the campaign; and--how do I put this?--a question of whether he has a feel for contemporary Texas politics. I had the feeling, talking to him, that he has one foot in the present and one foot in the seventies, when conservative Democrats ran the state. He still talks about Lloyd Bentsen and John Connally. Connally and Bentsen and Hobby were giants in their day, and they ran things a heck of a lot better than the Republicans have, but Schieffer so far seems like he is just putting his toes in the water. He needs to jump in. 2. The transportation stimulus package. Transportation is one area where the stimulus package can produce real jobs and have real economic benefits. So why is the amount so small--just $2.5 billion overall, and $1.2 billion in the first installment? One of the reasons is that Obama wants to invest in high-speed rail rather than roads. I think this is a mistake. I'd like to see more of the money go to highways and less to high-speed rail. High-speed rail requires total grade separation. For rural Texas, it will make the Trans-Texas Corridor battle look like a walk in the park. I ran some numbers back in the early nineties, when the idea of a bullet train was first floated, and to break even on the project's then $6 billion cost, trains had to run 97% full between Houston and Dallas 24 hours a day. Like it or not, the most efficient method of getting people from point A to point B is one lane of freeway. In an hour, it carries six times the number of people as rail, and the cost is approximately the same. Politically, the most important aspect of the transportation funding battle was the continuing hostility between TxDOT and the Legislature. TxDOT froze lawmakers out of the discussion of which projects should be funded, with the result that 70% of the money will go to toll roads. Legislators did not cover themselves with glory either, as some took the opportunity to lobby for projects in their districts. The level of mistrust of TxDOT is as high as it has ever been--thanks to Commissioner Ted Houghton, who decided to do a little bomb-throwing of his own at the March 5 meeting of the Texas Highway Commission, calling one of the witnesses and the organization he represents "idiots." Senator Hegar fired off a letter to Houghton, which included the following observations:
There is a lot to say about the state of the judiciary; unfortunately, Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson did not say it. His remarks to the Legislature were mainly feel-good comments about task forces that the Court has formed and a plea for merit selection of judges, echoing previous calls for…
Dallas billionaire Robert Rowling, chairman of the UTIMCO board, today abruptly resigned while under heavy fire from members of the Senate Finance Committee about $2.3 million in bonuses paid to fund managers for the University of Texas System and Texas A&M System’s endowment, which has declined 27 percent this year.
I know I really shouldn’t pass along gossip, really I shouldn’t, and I wouldn’t do it if I were still a serious journalist instead of just a blogger, really I wouldn’t do it, honest, but a lobbyist just called to say that at a hearing Duncan is having at the…