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Legislative Candidates Trapped In Judicial Limbo Primaries Coming Soon (Maybe)

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Please remove all those from under 18 years of age from the Capitol building.

Perhaps such a sign should have been prominently posted near the granite edifice during the last legislative session, because that most dreaded time for legislators, which comes every ten years after the census had arrived: the time to redistrict.

First was the easy part, the redrawing of boundaries for the fifteen elected members of the State Board of Education. If there was a member of the House or Senate who wanted to run for that body, he or she was able to keep quiet about it: the map passed with a minimal fuss. Then the wagons circled as each body drew its own map while simultaneously firing figurative arrows at fellow members. Of course, this occurred with more fervor and frequency in the 150-member House than it did in the more sedate 31-member Senate. All veterans of the legislative process, and those who had even served in the Legislature for 90 days, were aware that the legislative action it was taking was a prelude to a bevy of lawsuits brought by those who perceived themselves or groups that they represented were ill treated by the process. In fact, there were a handful of lawsuits filed before the legislation reached the floor of the respective legislative bodies. And, oh yeah, what about the four new seats which would be added the Texas Congressional delegation? That legislation did not pass during the regular session, but, with a special session to enact reforms of a quasi-governmental agency dealing with coastal calamities, Governor Rick Perry added that to the call and it was passed. Of course, its fate was no different than the maps passed for the Texas House and Senate in that it was part of the legal battle that unfolded before a three judge federal panel in San Antonio in September.

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WIthout boring the reader with all the details, suffice to say that as this article comes out, the primary elections are purported to occur May 29 and the filing deadline is sometime after that for the 36 US Congressional seats and for the members of the Texas House and the Texas Senate. Surely those who are now running, and some who may even contemplate jumping are hoping that the redistricting lawyers will come to a consensus on the maps.

Perhaps the best description of the current situation can be found in the movie (and book) No Country for Old Men, which won the best picture Oscar a few years back. As they were surveying the carnage of a drug deal gone bad, the deputy asked the Sheriff (played by Tommy Lee Jones), “It's a mess, ain't it sheriff?” To which Jones replied, “If it ain't, it'll do till a mess gets here.” Maybe by the time this is printed, the mess will be resolved and the primaries will go forward with no more furor. But at this stage of the game, it appears to me that the political soap opera may continue for a while longer.

Meanwhile Back At The State Senate…

Certainly on the back burner at this time is the potential contest, which members of the state senate may face before the convening of the 83rd session. And that is the possible election from within their membership of the lady or gentleman who will wield the gavel (and much of the power) during the session convening January 10, 2013.

How’s that, you ask? Well, it will be the second time in just over a decade that such an unusual situation is possible. In 2000, Governor George W. Bush resigned the governorship to prepare for his inauguration as the nation's 43rd president. Lt. Governor Rick Perry left that post to which he had been elected in 1998 and became Texas’ 47th governor. So then, who becomes lieutenant governor? That duty fell to the Senator who achieved the majority vote amongst his peers and on December 28, 2000, that was Senator Bill Ratliff, Republican of Mount Pleasant, a 12-year veteran of the body. It was done by secret ballot after such a procedure was okayed by the State Supreme Court. Several members of the senate were on the initial ballot, but on the final ballot it was Ratliff and fellow Republican David Sibley of Waco.

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As most are aware, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, who succeeded Ratliff as Lt. Governor in 2003, is a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay B. Hutchison. Most polls show Dewhurst with a commanding lead over a group of lesser-known rivals. Should Dewhurst capture the Senate seat, it is very likely that he would have to resign prior to convening of the 83rd session of the Texas Legislature. Then the president pro tempore of the Senate would call the senate to meet on a date certain to elect the lieutenant governor from among its membership. Just when it appears that this would be a logical process, try this on: the current president pro tempore of the Senate, Mike Jackson of LaPorte (east Harris County) is now a candidate for the U.S. Congress, and likely has a decent shot of winning that post. So a complicated process could become even murkier, if that is possible.

Road Hands Program Goes Strongly With Founder Passing Away

In November one of the premier leaders of the Texas’ highway program in the 20th century Luther Deberry died at age 97. Luther retired as the engineer director the department in 1980 after forty-four years of service. He served as the department's chief executive from 1973 until his retirement seven years later. In fact, he was the last individual to hold the title of state highway engineer. In 1975 the Highway Department's name changed to State Department of Highways and Public Transportation and with it, the title change to engineer director. One of the many great legacies left was the beginning of the Texas Road Hand program. This recognition was begun by Mr. Deberry in 1973 and provided special commendation of those Texans who had gone above and beyond to help promote the Texas highway program. District engineers each year make recommendations to the Administration and then those are okayed by the Commission. The 2012 class includes former Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief, Temple Mayor Bill Jones, East Texas local government executive Walter Diggles, Montgomery County Commissioner Ed Chance, and Center civic leader John Windham (posthumously). Their names will join the select group of 233 on a plaque outside the hearing room at the D.C. Greer Building in Austin. The dedication of these Texans to improving the plight of our state's motorists is a genuine tribute to the vision of our dear and departed friend, Luther Deberry.



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