Wednesday, March 21, 2007

WILL HISTORY SHOW THAT GARY ELKINS AND BILLY CLYDE ARE THE TRUE FOUNDING FATHERS?

Wednesday’s floor debate will represent the biggest Constitutional shift in executive vs. legislative powers since four-year terms were established 35 years ago.

People, HJR 59 (http://www.telicon.com/htbin/web_dtext.com?TX80RHJR0059.FIL) is serious stuff. If you threw pre-teen slut medicine, sexy cheerleading, strip-bar taxes and selling the lottery to cure cancer all in a blender, you’d create a potion far milder than the tonic that Billy Clyde’s friend Representative Gary Elkins is proposing – and presumably will send to the voters.

For the handful of Hot Tub readers who have been living on Neptune ... the proposed Constitutional Amendment would allow the Legislature to call its own self into special session for 72 hours for what amounts to a veto-override session. If the Honorable John T. Montford thought the Sunset Review process was “pet food for lobbyists,” HJR 59 must be considered a three-day Lexus session for paid advocates. Not to mention a big giant-ass slap at the Governor.

The only time Billy Clyde recalls a veto override attempt was in the late eighties on a school finance deal. The House Research Organization, which produces better historical data than BC’s faulty brain, says it hasn’t happened since 1979. Whatever. It not exactly like getting your truck washed or grabbing a Big Gulp. I place it in the “big deal” category.

Your main man Billy Clyde is interested in this measure on a number of levels. He considers himself somewhat of a Constitutional Scholar and semi-expert on separation-of-powers issues. He’s also sneaked a number of really crappy bills through the Legislature that got vetoed. Let’s put it this way: the average lobbyist’s session last 140 days; mine lasts 160, if you get my drift.

Most of the stuff that I cared about and Governors vetoed were, to be fair, questionable on a pure public policy basis. Governor Bush vetoed two early in the session – and I BEGGED Laney and Bullock to recognize the authors for a motion to override – but they blew me off. And they were my friends. If you think back, Governor Perry vetoed something like 70 bills in his first session, which he didn’t attend of participate in.

I’ve been very healthy this session. But normally, everyone gets sick at least once. When you work from 6 am to past midnight, eat poorly, don’t get any exercise, are overwhelmed with stress, sleep with near-strangers who claim that what look like genital warts are just “blemishes,” etc. – it’s gonna catch up with you and you need a nap.

That happened to me when Bush was Governor and I just went home and got in bed in the middle of the afternoon. A client, who shall remain nameless (Eric Craven) called me and said that the deadline for signing or vetoing a bill was RIGHT NOW and I needed to go see the Governor or at least Allbaugh and make sure everything was cool. So I got up, stood in the shower, put my suit back on and went to the Governor’s Office, where I was told that Bush wouldn’t see me. Neither would Allbaugh. But Teral Smith was kind enough to invite me in to announce that Bush was gonna veto the bill. Billy Clyde has zero recollection of what the bill did but is sure it was critically important to electric co-op managers.

Billy Clyde had not intended of talking about co-op managers or genital warts, so let’s re-focus on macro Constitutional Issues.

Two clear themes have emerged this session. One, let’s go to dinner early. Two, legislators have fought to assert legislative authority and are reluctant to grant any new powers to the executive branch. The first trend is good, and the second trend is downright healthy from a public policy perspective. The Executive and Legislative branch are SUPPOSED to tussle.

Over the past few sessions, an ex post facto strategy has developed whereby people don’t participate in the process and sue after the fact to strike down an act. I don’t like that. There’s also a lot of “reading legislative intent” into the record, that agencies – though not courts – for some reason take seriously. Statements of legislative intent have slightly more authority than a kindergartener’s drawing that you stick on the refrigerator but less authority than an Executive Order – whatever that means – or an Attorney General’s Opinion, which judges often use as toilet paper.

Here’s a quick and dirty summary of the pros-and-cons of HJR 59:

PRO: The Governor can let the clock run out, veto a bill that had overwhelming legislative support, and there’s not a damn thing House and Senate members can do about it.

CON: The Governor gets blamed for everything that goes wrong – even though he doesn’t get much say in the process. At least let him veto the really horrible stuff without having to do battle with the Legislature once again.

Of course, one of the beauties of a proposed Constitutional Amendment is that, when adopted by at least two thirds of each chamber, it gets filed with the Secretary of State and is placed on the ballot. The absolute most a Governor can do is hang out with the masses at polling joint, vote against it and affix one of those “I VOTED” stickers on his lapel.

Billy Clyde freely admits that his mind works in an odd fashion. Instead of looking at the prospective “good” outcomes or “bad” outcomes, he often crafts strange chaotic scenarios that might result from a piece of legislation. Because – let’s face it – when it happens every single session, on multiple occasions, over and over and over again ... that’s not paranoia or idle speculation. It’s fact.

Will these special veto override sessions become, basically, a second bite of the apple? Will big money – no, not the $1,000 PAC checks but the REAL dough – play a role in what gets taken up and what doesn’t? Will a main gubernatorial strategy be to build a 50-member House base or 11-member Senate core to prevent overrides? Does this proposed amendment actually permit the Governor to, well, govern, with a 33.3 percent support base in the Legislature?

I have no idea. But if you do, come find me in the House gallery tomorrow. This, my cousins, is history in the making.

10 comments:

Gritsforbreakfast said...

My sessions last 160 days, too. :-( Perry nailed SIX bills I cared about in the last three sessions, all of them good ones, too, public policywise. One each in 2001 and 2003, and FOUR in the 79th.

OTOH, it's odd, isn't it, that the Lege has the power to veto but not the opportunity? I wonder how many other states find themselves in the same circumstance?

I modestly lean toward the override period, whereas before this Governor's relative overruse of the veto compared to his predecessors I would have likely been against it. But I think your point about a lobby bonanza is very well taken and could be reason enough not to risk it.

Anonymous said...

>>sleep with near-strangers who claim that what look like genital warts are just “blemishes,”

Hmm...this is the founding member of the Billy Clyde Fan Club (BCFC), not sure if I still want to be a part of the BCFC though.

My stalking days may have just ended with this bit o' knowledge....

Billy Clyde said...

Dear Grits:

Six in six years is nothing.Quit bitching. When you lose eight in a week, call me.

Dear Anon:

BC is STD free. You can come to the doctor's office with me and I'll PROVE it.

For the love of God and all that is right with the world, please don't stop stalking me.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Well, in 2005 it was four in a day - biggies, too - but in any event it's never fun. best,

Don said...

Thanks for the insight BC.
Let's just go into permanent session, with maybe a recess and definitely a nap time.

Winston Smith said...

We know the real reason for all the rules is to prevent legislation, not pass it. So, wouldn't adding another opportunity to prevent legislation be a good thing overall?

Miss M said...

Missing you. 'Specially during times like these. :-)

dreamer said...

Now that this has flown through the House and is semi-languishing in State Affairs in the Senate, I have a question. Since David Dewhurst desperately wants to be governor, and probably doesn't want to see any of his possible once and future powers eroded, do you think he'll try and keep this thing bottled up in committee? Or perform some other lite guv-type maneuvering to ensure this thing never gets to the voters?

Billy Clyde said...

When Miss M starts misses me, it's time to write something new. Sorry about my tardiness.

I plan to do this full time if I win the Lottery tomorrow, when, natch, I would run off with Miss M.

Miss M said...

I'd convince you donate a portion of your lottery winnings to assist in the formation of a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of knowledge regarding fulltime lobbyists and their contributions to society. We could hire Gullahorn to run it, and Billy Clyde would have a permanent seat on the board, complete with a bust of his image placed strategically, but tastefully, in the grand foyer of the headquarters.

Then, knowing we'd done our best to make the world a better place, we would be able to enjoy our Disney Cruise (TM) in good conscience.