Keeping it Villarreal 

This session’s go-to performer: Mikey “Rulebook Nerd” Villarreal. Photo by Dave Maass.

NAME: Representative Mike Villarreal

CONSTITUENCY: District 123, a thin Y-shaped strip that starts in South Town and runs north through downtown San Antonio to just beyond 410.

ALTER EGO: Captain Recess

SECRET ID: Rulebook Nerd

 

HABITAT: During the session, Villarreal rocked it Chris-Farley style, living in a trailer by the river at McKinney Falls State Park ...

“It’s amazing. The parks are kept alive by volunteers and during the early part of the session it was Winter Texans. They’re not even from Texas, but they take great pride in our state parks. The state, though, needs to do its share, and this session we increased park funding by $141 million, but we didn’t dedicate all of the sporting-good tax to our parks, and so we could’ve done a lot more.”

COMMITTEE APPOINTMENTS: By voting against Craddick for Speaker, Villarreal lost his prized vice-chairmanship of the Ways & Means committee. Instead, he was sent to Pensions & Investments. But at least he was still a vice-chairman, right?

“I think `the vice-chairmanship` was Craddick’s way of trying to show that he was not going to hold any grudges. But it’s superficial. You know what the responsibility of the vice chairman is? The special task of the vice chairman is to plan the end-of-session committee gift for the chairman. That’s it, buddy. I get a special plaque on my door that says “vice chairman.” I get no resources, no committee staff, no new authority.” `All six members chipped in $50 to send Chair Vicki Truitt to a spa`.

HIS SESSION EVALUATION: Fell Short ...

“In my heart, I was kinda like, yeah, we did better ... but relative to what we could’ve accomplished at the start of session with a record-level surplus, we fell short in getting more kids on CHIP, re-establishing our Texas grant-scholarship program to where it was before the 2003 budget cuts. We still didn’t create any new streams of financing to get us out of traffic, and as for public education, we gave our teachers a piddly raise of $425.”

ON MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: Lo, the environment ...

“I think we really should’ve hit it hard in rethinking our energy economy. We passed a bill that created a task force to study the effects of global warming. It passed the House, but it didn’t pass the Senate. I had legislation to incentivize school districts. We spent over the last five years $5 billion in building school buildings and we haven’t been smart about making them green, and setting a standard for the private sector to follow in terms of green building, energy efficiency, solar panels, this kind of thing. This session, we could’ve done that; we had the money. We just lacked the commitment or imagination.”

ON THE CHAIRMAN: Mikey no likey ...

“In those last three days, when Craddick declared he had absolute power to recognize, and he refused to recognize us on a motion to vacate the chair, and then he refused to recognize us on a motion to adjourn, or to give a personal-privilege speech, on and on, it was like Pandora’s Box. Once it came open he just decided, ‘Hey, I have absolute power, I don’t have to recognize you for shit.’

“ ... Craddick refusing to recognize us, torturing our rules: that was scary. It’s what Hitler did. He used democratic means to rise to power and then he twisted the laws of the state to assume absolute control.”

ON THE INSURGENCY: Villarreal joined in a coup attempt, followed by a walk-out. As a result, key legislation was temporarily left in limbo ...

“Twenty years from now, when my kids look back on this period of time and ask me, ‘What did you do when he stole power from the entire House of Representatives?’ I wanted to be able to say I spoke up, I raised my voice, I was a part of the majority that protested, I was a part of the members that walked out. I wanted to make sure I did not sit by idly and watch this man trample on our democracy.

“Did it delay some bills? Yes. Did it kill any bills? No. It didn’t ... The biggest misconception we need to make clear is that if anybody is to blame it’s Tom Craddick. Craddick killed any bill that did not survive this session.”

INTERIM PLANS: In addition to his assigned committees ...

“I’ve told both Higher Education and Public Education that I’m showing up to their committees. They’re doing school finance during the interim, and I used to teach school finance at St. Mary’s as an adjunct. Higher Ed is looking at how we fund scholarships, and I want to be a part of that.” 


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