As the Texas Legislature prepares to commence its 88th legislative assembly next month, I would like to offer this brief admonition.
It is that Texas state government works best when legislators from both major parties find common ground, work under rules that give the minority party a slice of power and find compromise whenever possible.
I have a nagging feeling that today’s legislative leadership is going to heed the saber-rattling that comes from the Freedom Caucus, the TEA party, the MAGA crowd and assorted right-wing fruitcakes as they prepare to legislate their way through this 140-day session.
It need not be that way.
We once had a Republican governor, George W. Bush, who worked tightly with the likes of Democratic Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock and Democratic House Speaker Pete Laney. Democrats controlled the Legislature in 1995 when Bush took over as governor after defeating Democratic Gov. Ann Richards. Bush was new then to elective politics, but he turned out to be the quickest study imaginable as he grasped instantly the need to work with the other guys under the Texas state capitol dome.
He would later, of course, be elected president, handing the governorship over to fellow Republican Rick Perry, who didn’t quite grasp the Bush formula for legislative success.
It’s different these days. Republicans control the governor’s office and both legislative chambers. There still is a sizable Democratic minority in both the state House and Senate, some of whose members remember how it used to be in Austin.
House Speaker Dade Phelan appears slated to another term as the Man of the House. If he follows form, he will appoint House Democrats to committee chairs. I don’t have as much faith in Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate. But … bipartisan cooperation in one out of two legislative chambers is better than none.
The session will be busy. Legislators need to fix our electrical grid. They keep yapping about reducing property taxes. Our highways need repair.
I just want them all to keep their eyes on the prize and not worry about offending the fire breathers who make up both of their bases.