Texas Politics vs Washington Bickering

Jan 10 2019
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What will 2019 bring us from the world of politics? Time will tell, but to paraphrase William Shakespeare, “Whether government will accomplish much or accomplish nothing, that is the question.”

The midterm elections saw the Republicans strengthen their hand in the US Senate by expanding their majority to 53, while Democrats recaptured the House after 8 years of being in the minority.

After a few niceties were exchanged by both President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, it sure seems like things are getting back to normal; that is, each party is bashing the other.

Pelosi has avoided commenting on the possibility of impeaching President Trump, despite the vitriolic demands of the increasingly powerful left wing of her party. Rather, she has said it remains to be seen if Trump will be indicted over all “this Russian business.”

I must say that this seems rather odd, as Trump has been forceful in terms of placing new sanctions on Russia. Conversely, the Clintons enriched themselves yet again in dealing with Russia. Bill Clinton received a lavish $500,000 for making a 30 minute speech in Moscow, and just one week later Secretary of State Hillary Clinton approved the sale of 20% of the USA’s uranium to a Russian backed company. You could call this a quid pro quo, or simply yet another example of sleazy behavior by the former first couple.

None the less, the partisan bickering continues, the deficit continues to grow, while every day Social Security and Medicare are one day closer to insolvency. What a mess!

Let’s contrast this with how Texas’ government functions. Our budget is balanced (a constitutional requirement), we have a very healthy rainy day fund that is expected to grow to over $15 billion, our economic growth leads the nation, and we are the drivers of American energy independence. All this is accomplished despite, or rather aided by, the fact that our legislature meets for only 140 days every two years.

You see, our representatives have real jobs outside the Texas Legislature where they get to interact with the citizens of our state. Congress representatives choose to lord over the people and pass laws that they exempt themselves from.

The other day I had the opportunity to attend the swearing in of the new Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Dennis Bonnen. He was voted as Speaker on a 147-0 vote, a sign of bipartisan support unheard of in Washington DC. He was nominated by a Republican state rep, while seconding speeches were made by three Republicans and three Democrats.

Rep. Senfronia Thompson, a Houston Democrat who has served for 45 years, said in her speech that Bonnen “Has learned the ins and outs of the Texas House as well as anyone I’ve ever served with. I trust Dennis as he is a man of his word.”

After an unusually unproductive legislative session in 2017 symbolized by discord within the majority Republican leadership, Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Speaker Bonnen have all agreed and stressed that school finance reform and property tax relief are their top priorities. Democrats have indicated support for school reform, with a number of them surprisingly supporting property tax relief as well.

Partisan bickering has become the norm in DC on almost every budget issue. What people may not realize is that in Texas, the last budget was approved unanimously in the Senate and by a 136-12 vote in the House. Our legislators realize we cannot spend money we do not have and that we must balance the budget. This reality helps create responsible decision making and governance.

Despite an increase partisanship in Austin over the past decade, people may also not realize that approximately one-third of House and Senate committees are chaired by a member of the minority Democratic Party. This is unheard of in Washington DC.

I am not suggesting that all is wonderful and lovey-dovey in Austin. What I do think is clear is that legislators are far more effective in Texas in enacting policies and budgets that have a wider range of support and thus are far more likely to have positive impacts on the state.

I look forward to a productive 2019 session of the Texas Legislature. We certainly need to revamp our absurdly complex and inequitable school financing system. Hopefully, our leaders will follow through on their promises and progress will continue to benefit our beloved Texas.

Written by Rich Sena and previously published in the Boerne Star