Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Party Switching In The Texas Legislature—Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up

Here is the weekly posting of the Texas Progressive Alliance round-up. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas.

With the round-up this week, I’ll offer a few thoughts on the prospect of some of our Democratic state legislators in Texas switching parties.

State Rep. Allan Ritter of Nederland has switched to Republican and Rep. Aaron Pena of Edinburg is considering doing the same.

None of this is surprising. Before Mr. Ritter’s defection, Republicans held a 99-51 edge in the House. There is not much to be said for Democratic prospects in the 2011 legislative session.

Politicians are likely go where they can have influence and can get the best deal. In the case of Mr. Ritter, it seemed probable he would lose his seat in 2012 given the political trends in his district.

It’s easy to get mad at these traitors and potential traitors, but is should be noted that the way we run our Texas legislature mutes partisan affiliation. While it would seem the ideological gap between the two parties is such that switching seems unlikely, the fact is party identification in the legislature often takes a backseat to a process that leaves voters guessing just where the person who represents them in Austin really stands.

Examples—

* Votes for the position of Speaker of the House involve legislators of one party voting for a candidate of the other party.

* Committee chairs and vice-chairs are often persons of the minority party.

* Democrats supported former far-right Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick  for years and they got away with it for long enough to do plenty of damage.

* There is no formal majority leader and minority leader position in the House and Senate.

In this context, there is a measure of coherence in switching parties. Rather than a hard and fast identification to one or the other major party and to the values voters count on that party to represent, state legislators work in a system where loyalty is to individuals and to unseen influences.

I realize that control by murky and unseen forces embodies how politics works around the nation. But must we exacerbate these tendencies by making them institutional?

The whole system is lousy. The Speaker should be selected by the majority caucus, and the majority party should run the chamber as elected to do by voters.

In any case, it is hard to muster full outrage at the party switchers when many on both sides of the aisle in Austin have long embraced a system that rewards partisan double-dealing.

Here is some history of party switching in Texas.

Here is a history of the Texas Leguisture up until 1995 from the excellent Handbook of Texas Online.

Here’s the round-up—-

Off the Kuff takes a look at the HHSC report on the effects of dropping Medicaid. Short answer: It would be bad, but what they really have in mind to do may be even worse.

Bay Area Houston has some interesting comments on the criminal probe of State Representative Joe Driver.

Capitol Annex takes a look at a dangerous proposal by incoming State Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Humble) to allow independent school districts to lessen the amount of cash reserves they are required to keep on hand and explains why this is a terrible idea.

This week on Left of College Station Teddy takes a look at the shortfall in the Texas budget, and also covers the week in headlines.

McBlogger reminds everyone to STOP SHOUTING at the Federal Reserve for doing its job.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme won’t be switching to U-verse now that AT&T bought 700 copies of Rick Perry’s book. Yuck.

Neil at Texas Liberal makes note of the fact that unionized city workers in Houston are taking voluntary furloughs to help ease Houston’s budget crisis. What a contrast this act of helping out Houston represents in comparsion to the public at large, which can be barely troubled to vote in municipal elections. Sometimes it is government that gets it right while individuals are apathetic or even hostile with regard to the public good.

Public Citizen’s TexasVox blog gives you ways to get involved to keep Texas from becoming the nation’s radioactive waste dump, by attending the public hearing in Austin on Dec 9 at 10am.

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December 12, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,

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