THE 80″ LEGISLATURE: BLOOD ON THE FLOOR abandon the speaker in the session’s final week. He said he withdrew his support because the House needed “to move Then there was the pork. The Craddick Ds got plenty. Pena won $3 million for a drug treatment center in Edinburg. The center “is the reason I came here said Pefia, who ran for office in 2002 after his teenage son died of an overdose. Guillen touted the $150 million he inserted into the budget for a mobile dental treatment program for poor areas. Pena and Guillen represent South Texas, long ignored by state budget writers. Said Pena, “I’ll be an old man, and I’ll still see those placeslong after everyone’s forgotten the words that [other reps] put out there In all, the Craddick Ds estimate they passed roughly 80 percent of their proposals. Other Democrats such as Coleman contest that math. An increase in Medicaid rates for providers and hospitalswhich the Craddick Ds listed among their successescame about when a decades-old lawsuit was settled. On higher education, numerous Democrats and rural Republicans worked to kill a bill that limited the Top 10 Percent university admissions rule. And it was a bipartisan coalition that increased funding for state parks, not just Craddick Ds. Then there are the items that the Craddick Ds utterly failed to deliver. They had hoped to repeal the deregulation of university tuition that has led to such high prices at Texas colleges. That will never happen as long as Craddick, who maintains close ties to the University of Texas System Board of Regents, remains speaker. Craddick has never appeared politically weaker than he did at the end of the session on May 28. His weakness may tempt the Craddick Ds, ever the opportunists, to search for a better deal with anoth er speaker candidate as they try to retain some of their power. Two days after the Legislature adjourned, Turner announced his own candidacy for speaker. Some Capitol watchers have speculated that Turner’s run may be an attempt to keep the Craddick Ds together as a voting bloc, or perhaps even front for Craddickby trying to divide his opposition. Turner won’t find it easy to drum up support from a number of his Democratic colleagues. After he filed for speaker, Rep. Jessica Farrar, a fellow Houston Democrat, released a blistering press statement that read, in part, “Perhaps Sylvester Turner believes his record of sticking with Tom Craddick as Tom Craddick has ‘stuck it’ to Texans qualifies him to carry on Craddick’s tradition of disservice to Texas as our next speaker.” For Democrats who gave their support to the speaker, a day of reckoning has yet to come. Three of the Craddick Ds Kevin Bailey of Houston, Robert Puente of San Antonio, and Penaalready have likely primary challengers. More may be on the way. Did the Craddick Ds make the right choice on the session’s first day? Ultimately, that question will be answered in the voting booth. 10 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JUNE 15, 2007 Second anf fifth from the left Marsha McLane and Athena Ponce OVERLOOKED HEROES THREE STAFFERS LED EFFORT TO OVERHAUL THE TEXAS YOUTH COMMISSION BY NATE BLAKESLEE IIn a session that will be remembered for its stalled legislation and discordant ending as much as anything actually accomplished, passage of an ambitious reform bill for the troubled Texas Youth Commission seems to have happened almost effortlessly. Just a few days after the story of sex abuse and cover-up at the West Texas State School in Pyote broke, the Senate met in a rare evening session to address problems at the youth corrections agency. A special joint committee to investigate the agency formed later that week. A 92-page bill was drafted and zipped through committees, floor passage, and on to the governor’s desk. How did such major change happen so fast? The appalling nature of the scandal and the daily drumbeat of news stories helped keep lawmakers focused. At least as important, however, was the fact that by the time the Pyote story broke, TYC reform had been in the works for months. It was led by a small group of legislative staffers whose work has been overshadowed in the rush of stories covering the fallout from the Pyote scandal. Three of those staffers, Alison Brock, Athena Ponce, and Marsha McLane, were on the dais in the House of Representatives on May 14, when the House honored members of the media, law enforcement, and advocacy groups who helped uncover the TYC scandal. None of the three received an honorary resolution from the Legislature, but each was indispensable in turning a scandal into a piece of sound public policy. Brock, chief of staff for veteran Democratic Rep. Sylvester Turner of Houston, was the first to hear about the cover-up at Pyote, when she had dinner last October with a youth corrections reform advocate named Isela Gutierrez. Brock, who is in her mid-30s, wears her hair pulled back and a col
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