trated by his lack of influence with Craddick. \(At one point, during a heated debate, Craddick left the speaker’s podium to sit next to Turner on the floor and pretend to fan him in an attempt the speaker and the leadership’s priorities. In keeping with his reputation as one of the consciences of the House, he spoke often and with great passion against what he deemed bad legislation. His eloquent and heartfelt speeches delivered in a bold, preacherlike tone usually captivated the often-raucous chamber. Turner voted nay on several of the big bills this session, such as House sition to one of the Speaker’s rare votes from the chair. During the crazed final week of the session, the Observer was able to speak with the House’s second in command about his unique position, his feelings on the outcome of the session and the budget, and the future of Texas politics. What follows are excerpts from that conversation. The Texas Observer: In your opinion, what have been a few of the highlights and low points of the session? Rep. Sylvester Turner: The highlights can’t be judged by what you’ve accomplished, but by what you prevented from passing. [For example], they tried to pass a [school] voucher bill, we stopped that. They tried to change the top 10 percent rules, and we stopped that. Now those laws will remain intact… HB 2, the education bill, and HB 3, which didn’t provide any funding for education, probably won’t pass. [We stopped those], and I didn’t vote for either of those. We did pass House Bill 412, the electronic [credit] scoring bill, that will protect poor and minority Texans. We restored the mental, dental, and eye care benefits of CHIP. We restored Health and Human Services and Medicaid. We helped criminal justice. Disappointments … we’ve done an excellent job in telling the underprivileged folks that we’re not interested in their plight. I’m not pleased with the insensitivity the House has had towards the poor. TO: As a member of the budget conference committee, what were some of the major issues you fought for, and how do you feel about the outcome of the budget this session? ST: I’m pleased with some of the things we were able to accomplish. We restored more money to the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The mental health services, for example, all of that is restored. We restored money to the optional Medicaid Program, which is a plus. So I’m real pleased with that. We restored additional money to the criminal justice portion. We took a different approach on how we handle the criminal justice programwe’re not building any prisons. We provided more money for probation. We put additional monies into diversionary programs like probation, substance abuse, and residential treatment facilitiesall the tools that the district judges said that they needed to have some confidence with before placing people on probation rather than sending them directly to Texas Department of Criminal Justice. So we did that, and I’m pleased with that. With regard to Higher Ed, we provided additional funding there. We restored many of the five-percent reductions that were made in Higher Ed, and that’s a plus. And I think on balance, Higher Ed is pleased with what we did. Speaker Pro Tempore Sylvester Turner The disappointment still deals with public education. There is no teacher pay raise at this time, and we did not restore their healthcare stipendfor teachers, janitors, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers. I’m disappointed with that. We didn’t fully restore the CHIP program all the way; another $50 million certainly would have done that. But we still have those eligibility limits like the six months’ wait, the 90-day asset test. So continued on page 18 JUNE 24, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11
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