Friday, July 16, 2010

Chair leaves Senate Committee just before scheduled DRP hearing

Who knows what this will mean in practice for the Driver Responsibility program, which presumably is still scheduled to be discussed before the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee on August 3, or for that matter the array of other issues facing the committee, but Sen. John Carona, a critic of the program, was replaced as chair by Sen. Tommy Williams, a Republican out of the Woodlands. Austin Sen. Kirk Watson is now vice chair. Carona left the committee entirely and will now chair Business and Finance.

The San Antonio Express News editorialized that Carona was benched for telling the truth about state roads, however there are reports that he requested the change himself because "transportation funding is not something legislative leadership is serious about for next year's session, so he sought a committee chairmanship that will make a difference."

Whatever the case, on the DRP in particular, the switch shouldn't matter in the short term. Williams supported the 2007 legislation that authorized the rulemaking underway at the Department of Public Safety. During the debate on that legislation (available for viewing online here, it's the first bill up) he spoke knowledgeably about the problem and was the senator who moved passage for the "fix" presented to them.  OTOH, Carona had an ongoing burr under his saddle about the DRP program and had openly discussed the possibility of scrapping it. We'll find out more about Williams' attitudes toward the program at the August 3 hearing, assuming it's still on.

(Incidentally, the Amnesty and Indigency rules that 2007 bill authorized were finally presented yesterday to the Public Safety Commission and presumably will soon be published in the Texas Register. I had to work for a paying client and couldn't make yesterday's PSC meeting, but their media relations folks promised to get me the deets today, so check back for more on the subject.)

Other than on the DRP, Williams is less moderate than the Chair he's replacing, for sure, and we disagree on a lot of things. But he's also a CPA by profession and a fiscal conservative by his own description, so perhaps having a chair capable of serious close vetting of all that border-security pork and some of DPS' more crazy Big Brother projects may not be a bad thing. We'll see.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst decided to reshuffle the committee chairs on the Senate side early, thinking that the new leadership needed rampup time before a difficult budget session. Sen. John Whitmire remained chair of Senate Criminal Justice, notably, and Steve Ogden remains Chair of Senate finance. See the full updated list (pdf).


Mary Sue said...

Grits, Viewing the list for the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, it appears as if Carona is still on and Seliger has moved on. ??

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Good catch, my bad. I waslooking at the list right next to it. :) Fixed in the post.