Political toxicity spills over . . . into Austin

He never would say such a thing publicly, let alone within earshot of a key state government aide, but Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger’s brief stint as Texas Senate Agriculture Committee chairman well might have been “beneath” his legislative skill.

There. I’ve said it for him.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pulled the chairmanship from Seliger after the Amarillo Republican reportedly made an impolite comment about a Patrick assistant’s stated view that Seliger should seek another chairmanship if he thought the Ag Committee post was “beneath” him. Patrick said Seliger should have apologized for the comment. Seliger didn’t do it, but said he should have directed his remark at Patrick instead.

But . . . what about the Agriculture Committee?

It’s a brand new panel that Patrick created. Why is that? I guess it’s because the Texas Legislature traditionally has taken little direct legislative action affecting our farms and ranches. Congress enacts federal farm legislation every couple of years to protect the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers against years when harvests don’t allow them to repay their loans or feed their livestock.

What does the Legislature do in that regard? Umm, not much.

Sen. Seliger used to chair a meaningful committee: the Senate Higher Education Committee, which is where the Legislature does have a tremendous impact on our state’s publicly funded colleges and universities. Oh, but Patrick and Seliger aren’t exactly BFFs, given their different approaches to governance. Accordingly, Patrick took the gavel away from Seliger and then removed him altogether from the Higher Ed panel; he also took Seliger off the Education Committee and the Finance Committee.

How might any of us react if we were treated so shabbily? I wouldn’t like being denied a chance to represent my constituents in a more meaningful way.

So the 2019 Texas Legislature has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start — at least where it concerns one of the Senate’s most senior Republicans, who since 2004 has taken his responsibilities most seriously representing the interests of West Texas.

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