Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Speakers race disappoints prison building crowd

The "tuff on crime" crowd must be disappointed in the outcome of the Texas Speaker's race. Reported Mike Ward yesterday, opponents of stronger probation (mostly prosecutors) "are rooting for Pitts, in the belief that if [House Corrections Chairman Jerry] Madden gets the boot and they can then get a leg up in lobbying to build new prisons."

If for no other reason than that, I can't find myself as apoplectic as some in the blogosphere over the outcome of yesterday's anticlimactic Speaker's race. On most issues you couldn't slide a credit card between Pitt's positions and Craddick's over the years. But on criminal justice - first with retired Corrections Committee Chairman Ray Allen and last year with Jerry Madden - Craddick has appointed leaders who have stood up courageously to promote smarter solutions.

I don't know who Jim Pitts might have appointed Corrections Chair if he'd won, and at this point the question is academic. The fact is Jerry Madden has done a exceptional job in that slot, as did Ray Allen before him. I don't agree with them on everything by a longshot, but I've never left interactions with either man on corrections topics when I didn't think they were trying to do what's right for Texas, not just for Republicans or their own careers.

Over at Burnt Orange Report Karl announced that the "House needs cleaning" of the Democrats who supported Craddick. That's a mistake. At this point those Democrats constitute the party's sole grasp on power in the House. Most of them are good people making hard judgements about what's best for their district and their own ability to get things done.

The reason we have elections is to decide who gets to govern the state for five months every two years. But these days, too often, you'd think the purpose of governance was to give candidates something to run on during the next election. That Craddick has sometimes played that way, too, IMO, is why he drew opposition in the first place. But emulating such retributive posturing won't improve things.

Now that the Speakers race is behind us, here's hoping Texas legislators can put aside such electoral froth and dreams of "House cleaning" for a few months and focus on what's best for the state.

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