Saturday, April 14, 2007

MY MACHINE MALFUNCTIONED; I INTENDED TO VOTE "AYE" ON THE MOTION TO ADJOURN

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.

2 comments:

The Therapist said...

BC, if this session is your last, why should the rest of us believe any legislator when they tell us that they will "fix it next session?" They can't do that without you -- regardless of the topic.

texxasredd said...

I've been thinking - which is a truly dangerous thing in and of itself - that Billy Clyde would make a most excellent speaker/lite gov. This session, neither office holder has been worth a bucket of warm p*ss --- but Billy Clyde could do both exceedingly well and still have time to blog and admire - well, admire whatever he wants to... Why should the speaker job be limited only to members anyway?