Legislators rarely enact policy changes without his input. So lawmakers, advocates and even Fabelo, who was vacationing in Florida, were shocked to learn the governor axed the council’s $2.5 million appropriation from the two-year budget he signed June 22. The governor said in a statement that the council was no longer needed. “The criminal justice crisis of the early 1 990s provided a need for an independent agency to assist public officials in restructuring sentencing policies,” Perry said in his budget proclamation. “However, current [council] functions such as program monitoring and developing projections can be contracted on an asneeded basis or assigned to another agency.” “We disagree with that,” said Scott Gilmore, chief of staff for House Corrections Committee Chair Ray my boss likes to use is to think of a plane up at 35,000 feet. Then take off its navigation system and try to fly it. It can’t be done. We’ve got an airplane that’s been shot at and hit a couple of times. But it’s still flying. The last thing we want to do is remove our navigation system. From my perspective, from my boss’s perspective, we’d be flying blind without [Fabelo].” Meredith Rountree, director of the ACLU Prison and Jail Accountability Project, said cutting the council would make Texas the only state without an independent agency compiling this kind of criminal justice data. The governor’s surprise veto spawned rumors that the agency’s elimination was payback for Fabelo’s opposition to prison privatization. Fabelo’s studies have concluded that private companies can’t run prisons much cheaper than TDCJ, numbers disputed by the coterie of private prison lobbyists who back the governor. Of course, no one’s a bigger booster of privatizing prisons than Allen, who authored this session’s private prison legislation and didn’t much like some of Fabelo’s studies either. But it’s indicative of Fabelo’s standing that, despite those clashes, Allen is leading the charge to reinstate Fabelo’s agency. Allen and Sen. heads the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, are lobbying the governor’s office to restore the council’s funding. Failing that, Gilmore said, Allen may try to revive the agency’s budget during this summer’s special session on redistricting. Rules Mavens Without ever stepping on the House floor, Hugh Brady and Benjamin Isgur had a larger impact on the 78th Legislature than many representatives did. Their hidden influence was not that of the tiny band of powerful lobbyists who pulled the strings of the Republican leadership this session. Brady and Isgur don’t have oodles of money to offer as campaign contributions in exchange for votes. They don’t push specific legislation. And in fact, they do most of their work on behalf of progressive public policy groups. The strength of the two, who operate a consulting firm called the Brazos Partnership, comes from their utter mastery of legislative rules. By the end of the session, when House Democratic Caucus leader the back microphone during discussion of a bill, one could almost see flinch. Time and again during the 140-day session, Dunnam and other Democratic representatives raised points of orderobjections by lawmakers that a pending matter or proceeding is in violation of a House rulein an attempt to kill legislation. Often, the discerning eyes that ferreted out these legislative problems belonged to Brady and Isgur. Their work is not confined to points of order. The two also train legislative staffers at the beginning of the session and help policy groups plot strategy. The duo was instrumental in planning the Killer Ds’ flight to Ardmore. Brady has even written an authoritative book on the rules called “Texas House Practices.” The two men assisted at least one Republicanwhom they refuse to namewho wanted to buck the leadership. “We will help Republicans as long as it’s not against progressive causes,” says Isgur. continued on page 20 7/4/03 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13
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