Monday, April 23, 2007

"The road has been rough for Gov. Rick Perry and House Speaker Tom Craddick, and it may get worse."

Perry, Craddick may have won battles, but lost the war


Harvey Kronberg
News 8 Austin
Copyright 2007

It's pretty obvious to even the casual observer that this legislative session is a disaster for Gov. Rick Perry.
  • Most of his high profile policy initiatives like selling the lottery are dead.
  • His HPV vaccine mandate is toast.
  • Senate confirmation of his key appointees is far from certain.
  • His privatization initiatives of the last four years are scandal ridden and in tatters.
  • Fearing political chicanery, legislators jumped to remove a database on more than a million Texans out of the control of his office.
  • The Legislature is poised to prohibit new contracting for privately run toll roads for a couple of years because they don't trust the people in the room selling public infrastructure in fifty year increments. Should Perry veto the legislation, lawmakers have the votes to override him.

But as bad as it is for him this session, Speaker Tom Craddick may have it worse. Craddick did win a contested speaker election the first week of the session, but he may have lost the war.

The House is in turmoil. Once upon a time, simply being one of Craddick's committee chairmen guaranteed passage of bills. But two weeks ago, six chairmen had their bills defeated. At any given moment, the House seems willing and able to rally against the Craddick's team if they don't like the bill.

In the debate about the TXU merger, Craddick asked that Public Utility Commission staff be made available in a conference room so members could vet amendments in this arcane field of regulatory law. The reasons are murky, but his request was ignored. No PUC staff ever appeared.

Key committees are asserting independence that would have been previously unthinkable. Defying the speaker, the Corrections Committee members demanded a TYC conservatorship. After months of delay, Perry relented.

And chairman Mike Krusee's Transportation Committee is openly hostile to the Texas Department of Transportation.

Despite instruction from above, the once rubber stamp Public Education Committee defied leadership and substantially watered down a mandated Bible study elective for public schools before voting it out of committee.

Perry will try to resume center stage as soon as the Legislature adjourns. But Craddick may not be so lucky. There is much talk on the House floor of withholding pledge cards for his re-election after the session ends.

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