Stuck on the lege

By Gilbert Garcia

As the lege's session (apparently) winds to a close, the clearest result is the return of the familiar partisan rancor that made the Tom Craddick years so entertaining for observers and so frustrating for participants.

With Democrats trying every possible point of order last week to bury Voter ID so the House could move on to pressing matters, Speaker Joe Straus was a picture of restrained irritation, stubbornly refusing to give up a procedural point that, in the eyes of his GOP colleagues, would qualify as a legislative emasculation. So he clung to Voter ID with grim determination and Democrats dug in their heels for five days of chubbing -- a slow, grind-it-out, run-out-the-clock technique that everyone hates, but no one was willing to do anythig about.

Once the House hit its Tuesday midnight deadline, effectively killing Voter ID this time around, they settled into some real business, passing legislation both laudable (property tax breaks for disabled veterans) and dubious (did this state really need to mandate the use of car booster seats up to the age of 8?). They also pushed through a get-tough-on-graffiti bill, which has been a major obsession for SA's City Council (although, with so few taggers caught in the act, it remains debatable how effective this kind of strategy will be).

But the person most impacted by the last week's action inside the Capitol Dome has to be Straus. He became Speaker because Democrats were fed up with Craddick and saw the San Antonio representative as a conciliatory, moderate voice. That perception, which held firm for most of this year's session, collapsed over the last week.

"A tremendous amount of goodwill that was built in a short period of time is pretty much eviscerated," said Trey Martinez Fischer, a Representative from San Antonio, and a friend of Straus. "This Speaker got elected with 64 Democrats. I don't think I could get five to vote for him today."

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