New State Laws

Stateline.org (funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts) has an interesting story on the batch of state laws that take effect with the start of the new year. The laws range from prohibitions on texting while driving to changes to the rights of same-sex couples.

Back in Texas the number of declared candidates for Speaker of the House reaches into double-digits.

Best of luck to those of you who might be out on Texas roads on New Years Eve!

The battle within the Texas GOP

One advantage of having studied politics for decades is that I’ve seen the “death” of both parties. Of course, the most recent casualty among the two parties has been the GOP. However, I remember that the Republican party was dead and adrift after Goldwater in ’64, Nixon’s resignation/Ford’s defeat in ’76, and George H.W. Bush’s defeat at the hands of Clinton in ’92.

Of course, there are still serious battles going on inside the Texas GOP. The Dallas Morning New’s Wayne Slater has one story on how the pending Perry-Hutchison campaign will stir up the tension while the DMN’s also ran a story on Perry deriding Hutchison as Democratic Lite. As the Republican incumbent governor who won a whopping 39% of the vote, Perry is an expert on coalition building.

The battle for the heart and sole of the GOP has been going on across the country for year as social conservatives battle more business-oriented or liberatarian conservatives for control over the priorities of the party. Anyone who has read the Texas Republican party platform knows who controls the party machinery in Texas.

In the political equivalent of putting your hands over your ears and humming loudly, many Texas Republicans sat out a meeting to take stock of the party’s health. They feel that the national GOP has made a mess of things and that they have nothing to learn from Republicans inside DC (it’s worth noting that there’s no report that any of these brave, outspoken Republicans acknowledged the role of George W. Bush in the GOP’s problems). However, the Texas GOP seems to be doing exactly what the national GOP did two years ago by ignoring the warning signs in the narrow 2004 victory and drawing closer to their base.

Perrywear

Kay Bailey Hutchison’s apparent decision to jump into the governor’s race reminded me of a post at BurkaBlog (the Blog of Texas Monthly’s political reporter Paul Burka) this summer. There wasn’t much unusual about a bunch of Texas Republicans dressed alike for the GOP National Convention. You can see a picture on an entry on Political Junkee (a blog by KVUE’s Elise Hu). This year’s twist on Texans’ apparel is that, according to Burka, the delegation’s gear on the first night of the convention featured “Governor Perry” over one pocket with Perry’s campaign logo. Apparently, these outfits were worn by everyone in the delegation–except Kay Bailey Hutchison and David Dewhurst (Coincidentally, Perry’s #1 and #2 rival for the 2010 governors race).

Dressing alike is common but no delegation seemed to be wearing around their governor’s name (except for the Palin buttons found on many delegates for obvious reasons). It certainly reflected Perry’s strength within the Texas GOP organization and looks like a little muscle-flexing from the Perry camp.

The decline of the super state?

A recent story in USA Today speculated about the decline of Texas’ political power in DC. A similar story in the Houston Chronicle suggested that Rep. Chet Edwards is now the most influential Texan given his connection to President-elect Obama.

The decline in the state’s power may be overstated. However, it’s not hard to believe that the state has lost some clout since President Bush and Tom Delay led the charge for Texas. Of course, the true high-water mark was likely the days when Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson, House Speaker Sam Rayburn, and a group of congressional committee chairs from Texas brought NASA, military bases, and a host of new post offices to the state (at times supported by the sympathies of Texas-born President Dwight Eisenhower).

To some the worry about the decline of influence is ironic as Texas continues to battle to get promised federal assistance with Ike cleanup. The complaints from Governor Perry and local officials are pretty well summed up in a recent Houston Chronicle story. According to the story, FEMA has to move slowly on storm cleanup so that things are done right. As one official commented, “And you can’t just put Bubba or Skeeter out here on a dozer.” Apparently, the Feds feel the subtleties of bulldozer operation are lost on Texans and we can’t be trusted to push around our own dirt without extensive supervision.

Texas may have lost some of its luster in Washington. However, we’ll probably find our way back into the spotlight. I happened to come across an old Newsweek from 1977 that reflected an earlier version of our star status. The cover had nothing to do with my decision to attend Kilgore Jr. College.

In 1977 Newsweek declares Texas the superstate and illustrates this with a picture of the Kilgore Rangerettes.

In 1977 Newsweek declares Texas the superstate and illustrates this with a picture of the Kilgore Rangerettes.