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POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE Dog Days at the Lege MADDENING MADLA On most days in the Texas Senate, it’s easy to forget Sen. Frank Madla is even there. The San Antonio Democrat isn’t one for fiery floor speeches. In committee hearings, he rarely speaks. And major legislation isn’t his forte, eitherhis prized bill this session addressed the pressing issue of wine distribution. So it’s a bit ironic that as the redistricting bill steams toward a vote in the Senate, all eyes are on Madla. With the first special session in 10 years stretching into a second week, it’s increasingly clear to Capitol watchers that Madla holds the decisive vote on redistricting. By rule and tradition, 21 of 31 senators must vote to “suspend the Senate’s regular order of business” before any bill can be debated on the floor. This means that if 11 of the 12 Senate Democrats vote against redistricting, the plan will never get debated, much less passed. Of course, Republicans made a habit of cracking the Democratic caucus during the regular session. The first to flip were usually Sen. Ken Democrat in name only, Eddie Lucio July, it was widely assumed in the Capitol that Republicans would easily nab Armbrister’s vote. Since Lucio had come out strongly against redistricting, that left only Madla. Asked recently how he would vote, Madla repeated what he’d said for weeks, that he hadn’t formed a position on redistricting and would wait to see the Senate map. Cryptically, he explained that, “I don’t see any added need in Washington at this time for additional Republican congressmen: Why then, he was asked, would he consider voting for the plan. Madla, in a spasm of circular logic, said he’d just have to wait to see the map. That coyness has spawned speculation about Madla’s intentions. If he sells out the Dems and votes for redistricting, Madla could see a strong primary opponent when he faces reelection in 2006. That is, if he runs again. Rumors abound in the Capitol that the 66-year-old Madla, who’s served in the Lege since 1973, is considering retiring from the Senate to work full time in the private sector. These whispers were fed further by speculation that Madla, a business consultant and insurance salesman, is struggling financially. His 2003 financial disclosures, filed with the Texas Ethics Commission, show he’s accumulated significant debt in the past three years. Since 2000, Madla’s accrued at least $6,000 in credit card debt, according to his most recent filing in April. Madla also owed between $5,000 and $10,000 to AT&T Financial Services. That’s in addition to payments on two cars and two bank loans. If Madla’s looking to retire, he may hope to leverage his vote for any number of political goodies. The horsetrading possibilities include passage of his cherished wine bill, more pork for his district, which runs south and west from San Antonio, or, given his debt, a future lucrative lobbying gig. When queried about possible retirement, Madla was downright defiant. “That’s wishful thinking on the part of certain individuals:’ he said. “The people who are saying that I’m not running for reelection have no way of knowing because I haven’t divulged my plans to anyone. I have no intention of quitting unless my constituents make me quit?’ Asked if that meant he was definitely running for reelection, Madla hedged, saying he wouldn’t commit to anything at this point. Three years is a lifetime in politics. He then denied that his growing debt would have any impact on his decisions about redistricting or reelection. “I don’t know where in the hell that’s coming from,” he said. Maybe he’s just not used to being the center of attention. UNDER COVER OF DELAY While most people were caught up watching Tom DeLay-inspired legislative theatermore commonly known as congressional redistrictingthe Republican leadership at the Lege was quietly using the special session for other ends: reviving several especially ill-conceived bills that died in the final weeks of the five-month regular session. Among the measures sneaking their way toward floor votes once more are a family of government reorganization bills that would grant Gov. Rick Perry significantly more power. \(For example, one bill would allow Perry to arbitrarily replace all nine members of the Texas Several of these reorganization measures were originally part of Rep. David ernment reorganization bill that imploded during the regular session’s final weekend. After calling the Legislature into special session to handle redistricting, Perry swiftly added “government reorganization” to the list of 10 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7/18103