Both Oars in the Water

untitledMolly Ivins, the late columnist for the Fort Worth Star Telegram, earned a living making fun of the Texas Legislature.

“All anyone needs to enjoy the state legislature is a strong stomach and a complete insensitivity to the needs of the people. As long as you don’t think about what that peculiar body should be doing and what it actually is doing to the quality of life in Texas, then it’s all marvelous fun.”

“….our very own dreaded Legislature is almost upon us. Jan. 9 and they’ll all be here, leaving many a village without its idiot.”

The mantra about Austin’s corruption and incompetence of past decades has become such a fixture in our state lore, even Marion County Judge Leward LaFleur could not resist sticking in the needle at Monday’s commissioners court session.

As the court discussed a new law permitting commissioners to resume meeting two Mondays each month rather than meeting to approve payroll in the middle of the week as a recent Attorney General ruling required, LaFleur struck.

“This may be the only thing to be excited about from this legislative session,” LaFleur said. Apparently, LaFleur’s thrill meter doesn’t rate teacher pay, a balanced state budget, a new school finance plan, safer power lines on Lake O’ the Pines and the war on feral hogs very high.

The legislative session that ended May 27 was actually one of the most successful in this century and Marion County’s representatives played a significant role. Certainly, Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Don Bonner deserve credit for setting a positive, cooperative tone from the beginning, but it was the men and women in the trenches like State Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, and State Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, who made this session work.

“We came in with three big bills – doing something about teacher pay, school finance and property taxes,” Hughes, a 16-year Austin veteran, said. “A lot got done on those three, so that’s a win.”

Paddie, in an interview with the Jimplecute, was also buoyant. “I think we had a lot of big issues, a lot of big goals coming into this session,” Paddie said. “Overall, I think it was an extremely productive session where the body really came together to accomplish some pretty big stuff.”

Hughes found satisfaction sponsoring and passing a bill to prevent the government penalizing people or companies for donating to religious organizations. Hughes was also responsible for a new law lowering property tax appraisals on timber land and a bill to permit the hunting of wild hogs without a license.

Paddie, who carried much of the Sunset Committee legislation, also claimed victory on bills of local interest. “We passed House Bill 4150 this session to add additional requirements for inspection and overall safety improvements in hopes of preventing that type of tragedy from ever happening again,” Paddie said, referring to the scouts electrocuted in a 2017 boating accident on Lake O’ the Pines.

I’ve met every state senator from this area for the last 50 years and most of the state representatives. A.M. Aikin, Jr. was the dean. He was respected because he earned it. There was also Ed Howard, Bill Ratliff (competent, clean and a friend), Kevin Eltife and that guy from Marshall who got arrested for DWI.

You could always count on Buck Florence from Hughes Springs for a colorful quote from a state representative. Sam Russell was another personal friend. Pete Patterson was probably a good county commissioner and should have kept that job.

How do Hughes and Paddie rank among their predecessors? I don’t know. Ask me when they leave Austin. I can tell you this. They work hard and appear to know their jobs. And, one more thing – neither Paddie nor Hughes is a joke.

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