Saturday, April 28, 2007


There's a famous quote, coined by a famous person, that says: Half of life is just showing up.

If I had a copy of Bartlett’s Famous Quotations, the handy reference guide compiled by former Dallas Congressman and Mayor Steve Bartlett (the only person, to my knowledge, to ever beat – at least in a political race – Kay Bailey Hutchison) I would look it up and give you the name of that famous person who uttered that famous quote. But Billy Clyde would like to see his warm and cuddly readers do their own independent research now and then.

Anyway, your House of Representatives got into dangerous territory yesterday afternoon. Phil King has been trying to bring Troy Fraser’s electric bill to the floor for almost a month now. And Robert Talton keeps having it sent back to committee. People following that bill have the kind of whiplashed neck you get after watching a grueling five-set match at Wimbledon.

Talton raised a few more points of order, and the chair said “no mas.” So debate proceeded and so did the members. Proceeded back to their districts, that is. En masse. Gotta beat that nasty Friday traffic.

So debate ensued for a while, amendments were offered, and Billy Clyde learned something he never knew – but should have. Pine trees are HUGE emitters of NOx. This wasn’t just thrown out as a theory. The green lib types and the dirty air advocates and everyone in between all agreed. Having grown up in a pine forest, I better get one of those medical lung test things.

(Parenthetically – thus the reason for the parenthesis – if Al Gore starts trying to cut down the pine trees in East Texas, I will kick.his.ass.)

But that’s not the point. Some amendment (BC was just waiting around for announcements) was offered and debated and voted on and the vote was 86-11. Burt Solomons wanted to prove that his tenure as Financial Institutions chairman has made him really good at math. So he went to the back mic and pointed out that 86 + 11 = less than a quorum. Billy Clyde quickly pulled out a pen and pad and did the math his very ownself. And damn if Burt wasn’t spot on.

So everything shut down while they verified the presence of a quorum. Lots of people got excused on account of important business in the district, and some others showed up on the floor, and apparently the math up on the dais got real complicated, but in the end it turned out exactly a hunert members were present and verified.

Man, talk about cutting it close.

With a big ol’ stack of amendments still on the Speaker’s desk, King of Parker decided that, as far he was concerned, they were all susceptible to Arthur, whoever he is. That, obviously, was smart on Chairman King’s part. Although that little devious devil in my head was hoping that the Sargent would be asked to shut all the doors and lock down the House. For some reason, Billy Clyde always gets a kick out of it when a bunch of grown men and women in high elected office are, in effect, put in a sorta lawmaker jail.

The last time I recall that happening was a few years ago when those Democratic House members bolted to, of all places, Ardmore, Oklahoma, to break a quorum. The members who showed up at the Capitol got locked down in the House Correctional Facility, while the guys on the lam got to big dawg it in a life of freedom and luxury at the Ardmore Holiday Inn.

On the Monday when that happened, a few hours went by with nothing happening and the folks on the floor wanted to go to their offices or to lunch or do a little sight-seeing or whatever. So the leadership decides to parole them from the Chamber and gives them what amounts to a hall pass. It was a basically a red strip of paper that looked like a long movie ticket with words on it. Something like: “Representative Octavious Rothschild “Scooter” Clampett IV may roam the halls or eat lunch or do other stuff – long as he comes back when told.

Old timers say that calling a lack of a quorum – usually just because gin rummy games or perhaps more nefarious endeavors were forcing members to be, uh, temporarily unavailable – used to be fairly common.

A lot of the old timers were at the Capitol on Thursday for Speaker’s Reunion Day. Were Billy Clyde’s clairvoyant powers working properly, he would have asked a few of them about their favorite lockdown/escape stories. And inquired about legislator hall passes in the good old days.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Sorry about being so irregular here. Billy Clyde ran out of Internet Metamusil.

Gotta be brief, but ...

**Can someone explain to me why H.B. 218, the first voter identification up today (we’re on Amendment 30 after about six hours of debate, with no end in sight) is important? Every freshman and sophomore at UT has gone to the flee market on U.S. 290 and got ‘em a fake ID. If someone really, really wants to vote, why wouldn’t they do the same?

BC’s proposed election law reform: mandatory voter competency test. In a society in which Jackass was No. 1 at the box office and some people think Borat was a real documentary and Who Wants To Marry A Dancing Millionaire Apprentice or some such nonsense gets higher ratings than Friday Night Lights ... well, you see where I’m heading.

**It’s been a full week since the House conferees on the general appropriations act (H.B. 1) were appointed. But still no Senate conferees. Throw darts at the wall, have a Twister contest, use the rock-scissors-paper method – whatever works. But for the love of God, don’t drag us bystanders into a special session. This plain old regular session is wicked enough.

P.S. The delay has nothing to do with the Lieutenant Governor tying the appointment of conferees to action on that Jessica’s Law bill. Billy Clyde knows this as an iron-clad fact because he read in the clips this weekend that Governor Dewhurst said so.

**Speaking of that Jessica’s Law deal, has anyone else heard about a filibuster tomorrow on that issue? I know that Senators exerting special privileges like voting “no” on a bill or filibustering is frowned on these days. But the bill will be eligible tomorrow, so it’s possible.

**The Sunset Review process is a freakin’ joke. The safety net bill places no pressure whatsoever on members to pass a Sunset legislation. Witness the TABC bill today (it failed last session, too). Senator Montford called the Sunset system “pet food for lobbyists,” so I would normally be a big booster. But even lobbyists don’t get much out of it anymore.

Sheryl Crow (great musician and former Lance Armstrong flame) just came out for toilet paper restrictions as an environmental protection measure. Eliminating Sunset would save WAY more paper and would have other, uh, benefits not offered by her one-square per crap idea.

**After Calendars tonight sets a schedule for the rest of this week, we’re down to about 10 legislative days left for House bills in the House. To quote felonious cook and decorator Martha Stewart, “That’s a good thing.”

Folks and folkettes, I gotta move the previous question. And again, Billy Clyde is taking positive steps to be more regular with you nice people.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


This will be brief. But it needs to be said. And it’s kind of substantive, which makes this post a rarity on

Representative Diane White Delisi had a criminal justice-related bill on the floor this week that failed. A bunch of racial minority members got up and explained, best I can tell, that the 5th Ward in Houston is not exactly like Belton when it comes to law enforcement practices.

Now most of you who know Billy Clyde personally also know that he is white. And most of you also know he is a self-loathing white dude. Not that I have anything against white people; many, if not most, are very good people. I just prefer hanging out with black folks, all things considered.

I’d never really met a Hispanic person until 1984, but they seem cool, too. An Iranian guy moved to Walker County in 1979 when his family fled Persia after the overthrow of the Shah, and I not only welcomed him into our community and school, I personally arranged for him to learn English and become Freshman Class President. One of my ocassional good deeds geared toward trying to get me to Heaven.

Reverse racism is a term BC has never liked. For one, if a honkie or two gets discriminated against, big whooping deal. We’re a long way from being London or Paris, two cities that, in a goofy act of political correctness, have handed over their metropolises to outsiders. That ain’t happening here.

But when African-American and Hispanic lawmakers went to the back mic to describe racial injustices that had personally faced in dealing with uniformed police officers, I started thinking about how that is a two-way street. Please allow me to explain.

Representative Harold V. Dutton, Jr., was one of the guys who fought the bill and tried to shed light on the practical dangers of unchecked police power. Interestedly enough, Billy Clyde’s first experience with racial profiling came when he drove to Houston to attend Representative Dutton’s dad’s funeral.

Dutton is not only Black, he’s Catholic. Apparently there are a lot of Black Catholics in Houston, because the church (maybe it’s called Temple or something in Catholic parlance) was giant. But not big enough for BC to readily find it.

Now I was born in Houston. Go there all the time and think I know my way around. But damn, there’s a whole section of the city I didn’t know existed. And that section included Harold’s church, where I was trying to get to.

So one of Houston’s finest pulled me over in a residential area and asked for license and insurance. Okay. Then he asked me to get out of the truck. Okay. Then he asked me a series of random questions that seemed totally unrelated to any traffic violation. In a very respectful, polite voice, I asked something along the lines of “what’s going on here.”

This made the police officer very, very angry. He threatened to take me to jail. Yet he hadn’t even suggested I had committed a traffic infraction, much less a jailable offense.

We visited for a few more minutes, and he got to the bottom line: What are you doing in this neighborhood, and who is your crack dealer? Believe it or not, I have never done crack. And I was in the neighborhood because I was going to a church for a funeral.

Imagine waking up in the morning to go pay respects to one of your best friend’s dad – a well-respected letter carrier and civic figure – and almost getting thrown in the pokie because some half-wit cracker cop thinks you must be a criminal if you’re driving around in a certain area of town. Damn BTW, I didn’t get a ticket or warning and, it turns out, had not violated any motoring statute. It was just HPD policy.

That shit ain’t right.

Now let’s go down to South Texas, where there are not real Interstates or Highways or Freeways and the speed limit changes every 50 yards. Some dimwit police officer in, if I recall correctly, San Diego (a little town in either Jim Wells or Duval counties) pulled me over and gave me a pretty rough going-over for something like doing 47 mph in a 45 mph zone. He came up with some cockamanie deal about my Vehicle Identification Number not matching the number on my insurance card and slapped the cuffs on me.

Then he made a huge-ass mistake. He said I could give him $75 or could go to jail. The passenger in my truck – my girlfriend at the time – was a no-nonsense prosecutor who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. While I was being manhandled, she was on the phone to her boss, who immediately called the local D.A., who called the cop shop, which patched through a call to the officer who was harassing me, and was told to stop acting the fool. So I was free to go.

But in both those cases, Billy Clyde could have, at least temporarily, lost his freedom because some power-hungry local yokel didn’t like the way I looked. Which is white.

So remember, this is a two-way street. Sylvester Turner may have a run-in with the law when he jogs through River Oaks. But BC can have the same sorta run-in when he’s two miles to the east.

Texas will be a majority-minority state within a decade. Us honkies ought to start thinking about basic civil rights.

UPDATE 1: Miss M delivered a powerful story in the comments section. I have obtained a copy of her traffic stop photo. And yes, powerful Capitol lobbyist Miss M and Hollywood starlet Anne Archer are the same person.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Some decisions are going to have to be made in the next few weeks. They will be important decisions. Like lunch. BBQ or fajitas? Turkey sandwiches or ham? Makes you glad you don’t have to be the decider.

Billy Clyde has made one decision. In this, his final legislative session, he will devote roughly 99 percent of his time to killing stuff. If for some reason one of the few bills he wants passed makes it through, well great. But there’s so much nasty stuff out there – a House member filed a bill yesterday, which is nearing Day 100, that is simply atrocious – that I gotta turn a perfectly good noun into a bastardized verb and (I can’t believe I’m writing this) prioritize.

Before I delve into specifics (or specificize), it’s incumbent on me (the Nixon Administration made up that totally meaningless phrase) to expound (worst.word.ever.) on the colloquy (fancy word for talk or visit or debate or discussion) that went on in the rarefied (don’t even know that word purports to mean; used to be used a lot more) air of the Senate this week.

It’s not unusual for freshman legislators to arrive at the Capitol convinced that the whole state government system is bloated and corrupt and run by lazy idiots. A former Farm Bureau lobbyist, who shall remain nameless (David Marwitz), once told me that a group of his members was certain that lawmakers, lobbyists and staff got together for breakfast every morning at the Driskell to figure out amusing ways to screw up state government. Like it was a big inside joke or something.

For the record, we only do that on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The big gossip item of the week was the Whitmire/Patrick showdown on the Senate floor. Personally, I think the John T. Montford slapdown of freshman Senator Jane Nelson on the exact same subject was much more brutal. Interestingly enough, she’s now the person who directs welfare and poor-people health-stuff programs.

BC is a relative newcomer to the Capitol. But in that short tenure, he’s watched the biennial state budget grow from about $20 billion to what looks like will be roughly $160 billion. Those figures are admittedly misleading, but they are factually correct. If I were a Realtor in Floydada who learned that the State of Texas now spends more than the nation of Spain .. well, I’d have me a healthy dose of skepticism.

Even more interesting than Jane Nelson being the Medicaid/Welfare guru is that Warren Caesium now runs the House Committee on Appropriations. When Representative Chisum first came to the House, he was REALLY conservative (and a Democrat). The man stood at the back mic and butt-paddled everyone who came to the front mic. Urban liberals like Pete Laney and Tom Craddick have taken him under their wings, and now he’s the voice of moderation in the House. Simply amazing.

Let’s get back on track. The first end-of-session rule takes effect on Monday. Senators will no longer be restricted to placing just three bills on the Senate Notice of Intent; they can turn in five. Not that it matters, since Senators are rarely recognized to lay out a bill. But it’s nice to know in case Governor Dewhurst comes down with bipolar disorder and decides to pass a hundred or so bills like Mr. Bullock did a few sessions ago. Do y’all remember that night? It was wild. Sibley and Montford complained, and the presiding office, being all statesmanlike and everything, called them, and I quote, “crybabies.”

The next big deadline will be the weekend after next, when Calendars has to decide on a final list of bills to put before the People’s Chamber. Let me just say this: Whether you love her or hate her (I luv her; she can come off as hard-edged but in fact she has a heart of gold), be nice to Nancy for the next coupla weeks. Trust me.

Two weeks later is the drop-dead date for Senate bills. Then it will be just concurrence votes (which under a strange new rule requires an analysis by the Chief Clerk’s Office??) and adopting conference reports. In a strange sorta way, it makes you long for the 72-hour rule that served our state so well for so long.

So if you’re in the leadership in the House, you face this question: do we try to accomplish as much minor stuff as possible and reserve a few days for major deals? Or do we just hope that luck is on our side?

In the Senate, members there will have to decide: Should we take that gavel away from the tall guy and let Brimer or Whitmire ram a ton of stuff through. Or should we go to dinner?

Billy Clyde freely acknowledges that he doesn’t know the answer to these perplexing parliamentary questions. But, assuming it doesn’t force a special session, dinner sounds like an excellent choice.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Mark it down. Monday, April 9, 2007. The single most productive day that Billy Clyde has experienced all month.

Three summaries, four bill analyses, two sets of talking points, and, get this – an entire, 13 page committee substitute that the client actually likes. Not a single person yelled at me all day. And I’m so far ahead I can actually engage in a full day of people lobbying tomorrow.

Life = Good.

A few things I’d like to share, if BC may be so bold.

NUMBER 1: Now that Easter is behind us, we can look forward to Christmas, the next great Christian holiday. Some people look forward to that day as a time of reflection, a time to praise our Father for blessing Earth with his one and only Son. Youngsters eagerly await the arrival of Santa Claus. Others just appreciate the time away from work.

All that is fine and dandy. But for Billy Clyde, Christmas 2007 will be like no other. It is, I have it on good authority (Charlie Schnabel) that December 25th will be the opening day of Charlie Wilson’s War, perhaps the most anticipated feature film since talkies were invented.

The book is just fantastic. Please, I implore you, read it before you see the film. BC acknowledges he was a tad bummed upon hearing that the film version was gonna be directed by Mike Nichols and Charlie Wilson was gonna be played by Tom Hanks. They’re both outstanding, but it didn’t seem like a snug fit.

But as a worldwide leader in the anti-pessimism movement, I decided to look on the bright side. Hanks has actually been very good in almost everything he’s done, Nichols is one of our better directors, and Julia Roberts is pretty damn good, too. Plus that Phillip Seymour guy, or whatever his name is, has a starring role, and he seems to be a hot property these day.

Anyway, I ran into Mr. Schnabel down in E.1 last week and asked him who was playing him in the movie. (In case anyone doesn’t know, Schabel was Secretary of the Senate when Mr. Wilson served in that body and served as his Congressional chief of staff for, if I’m not mistaken, a very long time.)

Schnabel said his character got bumped from the film because the Hollywood big-shots – get this – thought the audience would prefer a Hollywood starlet with big hair and even bigger breasts. Though, in all fairness, as Schnabel gets up there in age these days, he’s developing a pretty decent rack himself. Whatever.

More – much more than you would ever care to know – will be written about this upcoming cinematic extravaganza in the coming months. But in the unlikely event you care, here are a few reasons, in exact order, why Billy Clyde is so excited:

** Charlie Wilson was my very own state Senator and Congressman for most of my life.

** He only dated beauty pageant winners and Playmates 30 years his junior.

** He personally ended the Cold War and forced the collapse of the Soviet Union. That took a big “to-do” list item off the table for all of us.

** He pretended to be a womanizing drunk while secretly running a war out of his Congressional office in a God-forsaken place and actually won. People thought he was either delusional or just playing the Big Dawg, but he really was conducting a war and NOBODY REALLY CAUGHT ON.

** He was an early and vocal supporter of civil rights and East Texas timber interests.

Read the book and look forward to the film, cuz we gotta move on to ...

NUMBER 2: The spiritual Godfather of this blog (he, in turn, would probably call me his problem bastard child) posted an interesting piece day about, of all things, the mysterious El Cucuy. Guess being a major committee chairman and key cog in the House leadership doesn’t take ALL your time.

I know about El Cucuy because, in my freshman year at UT, I had a roommate from McAllen, a dude who seemed to never sleep (or go to parties, or date, or play basketball, or watch the teevee; he studied electrical engineering and I was in the Liberal Arts college, so we sorta had different priorities) and he blamed it on El Cucuy. It became a running joke after he explained to me about all things El Cucuy related.

Hadn’t thought much about El Cucuy until a few months ago, when I was reading a novel by Ben Rehder – the absolute greatest Austin novelist you probably haven’t heard of, but should. He writes the best books about Hill Country game wardens, drunken poachers, high fences, deer hunting, political intrigue and hot babes. His last book centered around the Chupacabra, which is sorta the critter version of El Cucuy.

My uncle used to tell me stories about the Chupacabra when Bill Clyde was knee high to a Shetland pony. BC never really believed those stories. Nevertheless, he was careful when alone in the woods. Who knows?

In any event, if El Cucuy and the Chapacabra are making comebacks, then society is heading in the right direction.

Oh, and Mr. Chairman blogger dude: since you’re on that special TYC committee that meets all the time, how about this for a fix. Tell the kids to behave, else El Cucuy will GET you. And tell the sadistic guards and administrators to shape up, lest a whole pack of Chupacabras will lunge at your throats.

Something to think about, plus this ...


Billy Clyde tries to serve his friends and neighbors via this Web Internet site blog page. Can y’all do me a little favor?

I gotta go do a deal at UT later this week with a pretty little edgy blonde chick who has opinions and actually knows something about blogging, and an old overweight guy who knows a ton about state government. Best I can tell, I’m supposed to be the designated dumbass.

So if you have any material or clever one-liners – hell, whatever you got would be appreciated -- please send it my way. It’ll count as your obligatory good deed of the week. If it’s really amusing, I’ll just read it and that will fulfill my part of the show.

Thanks dudes.

Friday, April 6, 2007


Billy Clyde batted .500 this week – all things considered, not too shabby.

Many in the chattering class, people who have no idea what really went on behind the scenes, have seen fit to criticize the way me and the Blair Witch Man got the soldiers out of Iran. Well next time, you and Jimmy Carter can try to secure the release of hostages held by Persian madmen and we can just compare results. It ain’t as easy as you think. BC chalks it up as a huge win.

The loss was really more of a draw. In my 20 years at the Capitol, never have I seen so many people work so hard to accomplish so little. Not that the status quo is bad, mind you. It’s just that if nothing is gonna happen, can we at least go fishing or get some sleep or bail Billy Joe Shaver out of jail or ... well, do SOMETHING worthwhile.

If you’re like BC – and if you’re not, you should try it – there is nothing you dig more than really worthless trivia. I don’t really like the word “trivia;” I prefer “fun facts.”

When the House Clerk closed up shop yesterday, House members had filed 4090 bills, 500 more than last session. Senators, judicious souls that they are, have filed a mere 2012 – still 100-plus more than last session.

Three have made it to the Governor, who has signed two (bet his wrist is sore).

If you generously assume that about 25 real calendar days remain in the session, that’s about 36,000 minutes to work on these bills – if you work 24 hours for all of those 25 days and never eat or take a bathroom break or have a committee hearing or recognize folks in the gallery or mull over a point of order or hear a single resolution of any sort.

If each of these bills were to take just three minutes of floor time, that is close to 38,000 minutes. This, of course, assumes that the bill analyses, fiscal notes, substitutes, revised bill analyses, revised fiscal notes, various impact statements, etc. have already been prepared. It also assumes we live in Nebraska under a unicameral legislative system – so go ahead and double that 38,000 figure.

If Representative Talton, for example, finds a sustainable point of order on, say 10 more “big” bills that get debated for three hours before they head back to committee to restart the journey and return to the floor, that’s about three 24-hour days right there.

Remember, this is not to be taken too literally (no way the House and Senate will drop the pledge or allegiance of the doctor of the day or ignore the folks in for Maverick County Day). These are fun facts. Billy Clyde simply wanted to illustrate where this session is heading.

Here’s the part where Billy Clyde stops rambling and his loyal fans get excited because they know it’s time for THE POINT. Which is, this process has became unmanageable.

Dealing with this kind of ridiculous amount of paper in the current system just won’t work. The Legislature somehow managed to send to the Governor almost 1,400 bills two years ago, and that was not a pretty sight. But instead of stepping back and remembering that the system is designed to kill, not pass, legislation, the Legislature – and, to be fair, the lobby – responded by increasing the paper flow by 10 percent.

Best I can tell, it’s not really anyone’s fault. But the really smart people need to get together during the interim and visit about ways to refine the process. Otherwise, the necessary but routine stuff along with the must-pass big-picture stuff will all start failing in droves. And people, special sessions are not our friends.

The worst solution I could envision would be a full-time Legislature or annual sessions. That defeats the purpose of our Constitutional framework. Long ago, House rules forced members to prioritize their bills (Billy Clyde knows this for a fact because he thinks he vaguely remembers some old-timer telling him about it). That’s a bad idea, too, because, let’s face it, not all members are created equal.

It seems like the simple solution – and if there is anything Billy Clyde excels in, it’s being a simpleton – would be a more deliberative committee process. Let the committee members take their time to really understand and vet bills and gain real substantive knowledge in their jurisdiction. Increase staff and staff pay so they, too, have the time and resources to become experts in the field instead of being experts in drafting clean committee reports.

Under this system, the average House member would have a comfort level that the substantive committee looked at the issue and reached a consensus, Calendars set it, so the presumption is that it must be good. Plus a lot of these 6,102 bill that have been filed this session would make excellent committee amendments if folks just had some time to think.

In the meantime ... tick tock tick tock tick tock.