Monday, June 04, 2007

"In this country, governance requires the consent of the governed."

Looking back on a tumultuous session


By: Harvey Kronberg
News 8 Austin
Copyright 2007

What a wild session the 80th proved to be. While it will be most remembered for the Memorial Weekend mutiny in the Texas House, neither Gov. Rick Perry nor Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst were immune from angry lawmakers.

Perry began the session in the penalty box with his questionably legal executive orders mandating HPV vaccines as well as fast tracking coal fired electric plants. His Trans-Texas Corridor was in trouble and every day produced another scandal at state agencies under his supervision.

Lawmakers were furious with him. The House even passed a constitutional amendment that would have brought the Legislature back into session to override post sine die vetoes.

Perry wisely went quiet. My sense is that he had fewer press availabilities and public appearances than in any previous session. His staff quietly worked the Legislature and Perry met privately with lawmakers. He may now be no less unpopular than he was last January, but the strategy paid off with quiet but significant legislative success.

Dewhurst faced his own internal rebellion, crossing the line when he publicly questioned the patriotism of one of the Senate's most popular and long serving members, Democrat John Whitmire. The Senate privately rebuked Dewhurst, reminding him that he only lead the Senate with their permission. For the remaining two weeks, senators presided over the chamber while Dewhurst conducted negotiations in the back room on a variety of bills.

And while I will no doubt revisit the Memorial weekend mutiny in the Texas House as both parties try to spin events to their advantage, the take away is that the speaker also serves at the pleasure of his members. I will spare you the technical jargon, but I don't believe the insurgents had the votes to remove Craddick until the very end when he essentially ruled he could only be removed with his own permission.

This tortured reading of the rules prompted his two long serving parliamentarians to resign throwing the House into chaos.

In this country, governance requires the consent of the governed. And that goes double for the Legislature. For 31 senators and a 150-member House to create order out of chaos, they invest authority in their leaders. This year, their leaders paid a price for losing that support.

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