Perry Looks to Regain Power in Texas Legislature
With his presidential campaign collapsed, Governor Rick Perry must now get back to work in Texas. But after a poor performance on the national stage, what’s in store for Perry as he re-engages in state politics?
Rick Perry is considered by some to be the most powerful governor Texas has ever had. Perry’s appointees fill just about every available slot on all the agencies and boards in state government.
“And really they won’t do anything any differently than they would have whether or not he had been elected President,” former Texas Republican political director Royal Masset said.
But when it comes to Perry’s relationships with lawmakers, he has considerably less power. Harvey Kronberg is editor of the online political newsletter the Quorum Report. He says the legislature has cast aside several of Perry’s initiatives.
“They rejected the HPV vaccine, they ultimately rejected the Trans-Texas Corridor, they rejected his tax proposals to fund public schools. There’s a long history of rejecting the governor’s initiatives, his big policy initiatives,” Kronberg said.
But with Republicans controlling two-thirds of the Texas House during the 2011 legislative session, Perry was able push several bills to bolster his Presidential run. Like cutting 15 billion dollars from the state budget, passing a voter ID law and defunding Planned Parenthood. Masset says those may have been priorities of candidate Perry, but they were also Tea Party priorities.
“But remember it was the Tea Party and not Governor Perry that got the conservative bent to the Legislature,” Masset said. “It was not Governor Perry who elected the extra whatever it was, 30 extra legislators, Republican Legislators giving us a majority of 100 to 50 – a two-third’s majority in the House.”
And he said the real power in the GOP, particularly at the national level, can be found in the conservative media circuit. So he thinks Perry will spend more time flexing his muscles there than at the Texas Legislature. Especially if he’s eyeing another run in the 2016 Presidential election.
However, Democrats say ignoring the state would be a big mistake. In a press release last week, Austin State Senator Kirk Watson said it’s time for Governor Perry to focus on fixing a broken budget and addressing a neglected education system.
But if not Perry, then who would lead the state’s next legislative session in 2013? Watson could have a new boss in the Senate by then if Lt. Governor David Dewhurst wins his race for the U.S. Senate this November. And House Speaker Joe Straus must be re-elected each term. So if Straus does claim his 3rd term as speaker, “well Tom Craddick proved the Speaker of the House can be the most powerful person in Texas government,” State Representative Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) said.
Coleman said any new Lt. Gov. would take the helm of the Senate with much less power than David Dewhurst. And weaker leadership could diminish what the body could do legislatively. Which again, points back to the House and Joe Straus to lead.
“It is time for him to exercise the leadership capability he has. And that would mean the vacuum would be in the Senate or in the Governor’s office but not in the House in terms of state government,” Coleman said.
Of course, this is very fluid. Perry has just returned to Texas. He hasn’t had time to reassert himself in the Governor’s office. Lt. Governor Dewhurst hasn’t won the GOP nomination for Senate yet. And Speaker Straus still has to win his own election in November before he can run for Speaker in January.
That leaves plenty of time for those who want to put their stamp on the session to begin their work.