Did the El Paso lege delegation just rain on my leg?
by David Karlsruher
Posted on June 3, 2009
That’s not rain on my leg, is it?
I was happy to see the El Paso delegation get together to release a statement of success and unity in reference to their legislative efforts this session. What a joyous occasion it must have been for our loving, united delegation to have gathered, even if virtually, one last time this session.
One last time to put out a joint statement where they each individually credited themselves for a job well done while giving no one else credit for their hard work, which was expected. After all, there is no “I” in team, but there is “ME.”
Somehow they figure that by releasing a joint statement at the end of the session highlighting their meager successes we’d somehow forget their behavior over the past few months. Fighting, squabbling and acting like a bunch of sorority girls who weren’t getting their way pretty much sums up what they did in Austin this session. I can’t tell you how proud I am of them. We’ve been dying to be noticed way out here in El Paso and they’ve made that happen… in a Paris Hilton kind of way, but noticed nonetheless.
Please take a moment to read the joint statement here.
Take note that in the entire press release state Rep. Chente Quintanilla is the only one who provides an actual bill number, which is convenient when fact-checking his claims. I’m a little disappointed the other representatives didn’t follow his lead.
I’m curious that the delegation did not address their agenda items as put forth by them, and reported here in the electronic pages of Newspaper Tree.
Their legislative goals as of January of this fine year were as follows:
1. Tier 1 status for UTEP
2. Texas Tech Medical School - fund $48 million base budget for new medical school
3. Texas Tech Medical School - fund $17 million for new clinical faculty
4. Tiguas - restore Tigua gaming in El Paso
5. Fort Bliss/BRAC - recruit and retain new health professionals for 67,000 new troops and dependents
6. Increase funding to Texas mental health system; support El Paso state center
7. Reform Central Appraisal District governance structure, appraisal process, appeal process, accountability and transparency to the public
8. Improve public education funding formulas regarding basic funding elements
9. Increase funding for CHIP program
I numbered each item so that I could easily refer to them in a little list below where I give you an update on how they fared this session.
Item 1 – Didn’t happen. Didn’t even get close to happening this session. Was the first casualty on the list.
Item 2 – It happened, but the groundwork was laid before the last session, when then-Speaker Tom Craddick finally let us have the medical school money (because of the big-money guys working their big-money magic) and members of our delegation couldn’t take credit for the money fast enough. I’m not sure why they’re not fighting over a microphone in front of medical school as you read this.
Item 3 – Nope.
Item 4 – The Tiguas’ had their hope dashed again. They were actually closer to their goal under Craddick than they were with a new speaker. David Crowder reminded me that “the devil you know may be better than the one you don’t.” He was right.
Item 5 – I’m not sure you can legislate that goal. I can’t say they failed, but I can’t say that our state senator and state representatives have any power to make doctors and nurses move to El Paso. Besides, don’t members of the military and their families get medical care for free and through the military? Why would we be staffing up for a group of people who do not use private medical care facilities?
Item 6 – State Rep. Joe Pickett takes credit for keeping local mental health centers open and doubling the funding for local mental services to $162 million dollars. That’s $637,795.27 for each of the 254 counties in the State of Texas. Way to knock at least one item off the list, Joe!
Item 7 – Nothing was done with the Central Appraisal District.
Item 8 – They did not get rid of the current formula for school funding in the State of Texas.
Item 9 – Increase funding for the CHIP program… Failed again.
I’m not a mathematician, but I’d say out of the nine stated objectives for this session our delegation achieved a couple. Not bad for two beginners, a guy who put a bill up to make sopapillas the state dessert of Texas last session, a part-time college student, a guy who turned his office into a soda fountain and a senator who votes against everything.
Please don’t hurt your hands giving them a big round of applause. They are much too modest for your admiration.
In all seriousness, (not really) I don’t blame state Reps Joe Moody and Marisa Marquez for not achieving the goals set forth by the delegation. They were learning a lot and probably just trying not to get run over during their first fast and furious session. They both introduced a couple of bills and weathered their fists on the fence post that is the Texas legislative process.
Moody even passed a bill aimed at putting a building in the state park where people go to enjoy the outdoors. That’s key. When I head for the great outdoors, I enjoy a nice building to hang out in.
And let’s not forget that Marquez passed a bill allowing the county judge to delegate power in case of an emergency. Too bad for Jaime O. Perez, he can only pick a county commissioner to take charge. We all wish Dan Haggerty luck if he’s picked and hope the catastrophe isn’t taking place at a McDonalds after 10 p.m.
State Rep. Norma Chavez became a college graduate this session and was proud of her bills requiring more education for motorcycle riders and increased money for job training. She also learned to text message on her cell phone and developed herself as a frequent radio personality in the El Paso media market. Rumor around the capitol is that she missed the “Ms. Congeniality” award for this session by just a few votes this year. I also heard she was narrowly beat out by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn for the Tiguas’ “Legislator of the Year” award.
Chavez’s quote in the release today said “the Delegation passed more legislation this session that benefits El Paso and the state than in previous sessions." This has left constituents wondering if they passed zero legislation in the past given they only achieved one of their stated goals this session. It also left constituents wondering if any of the six press secretaries involved with these legislators proof read anything.
Quintanilla passed legislation that actually had bill numbers attached to them. He’s was able to get Screw, Texas (Tornillo) help with a planned business park and made sure that those con artist selling your grandmother Medicare at least have some classroom time under their belt before they rip her off. No dessert legislation this year for Quintanilla who is just saying no to diabetes these days.
Pickett took time out from writing love letters to TxDOT Commissioner Ted Houghton and tried to dissolve TxDOT all together. Pickett was named Chair of the Transportation Committee this session and used his spot at the top to pass 118 bills out of his committee. It’s unclear how many of them were aimed at fixing the potholes on your street.
State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh effectively shut down ASARCO using his telepathic powers on their parent company’s executives. He also surprisingly voted against the budget, sent out more press releases than the entire El Paso delegation combined and reminded us once again that tax cuts for the rich took the place of funding for CHIP. Basically it was exactly like last session for Shapleigh, only it was this session.
Just as the Texas legislature hated to bring their days of fun to close, I hate to bring this gibberish to a close too. There’s not much good to say about this session for us, unfortunately. Like that year in high school where you had braces, acne and a Twinkie snorting habit, we all just want to forget this session.
The bickering and embarrassing actions of some really put a hurt on our confidence in these representatives. High hopes for treasure chests of gold for our city were dashed when we couldn’t get on the same page legislatively or personally. Petty personal differences should never get in the way of the needs of entire city.
The lessons to be learned here may have only been learned by the constituents. To put out a press release pretending that we don’t know the score among the representatives was a slap in the face. The knowledge from those lesson learned may be imparted on our leaders via the ballot box. Time will only tell.
David Karlsruher writes an occasional column for NewspaperTree.com, and blogs at Refuse the Juice.
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