This leadership stuff hasn’t gone quite as Dan Patrick had hoped.
When the Houston radio talk show host-turnedstate senator beat out incumbent David Dewhurst for the lieutenant governor’s office in last year’s Republican Primary, he correctly thought the 2014 general election was a gimme.
He easily beat his senate colleague, Democrat Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, in November, and presumed the Texas Senate would fall in line with him as their new leader.
With 11 Democrats 20 Republicans, with nine mostly new Tea Party Republicans, he was correct.
However, the Texas legislature, like most states, is bicameral. Lawmakers in both chambers have to agree before laws can pass — and then survive review by the governor.
Except for turning thumbs up or down on gubernatorial appointments, the Senate passing something doesn’t make it a done deal. So Big Boy Patrick is learning Big-Time that just because he says something should happen, and the Senate goes along, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.
Also, Patrick probably wasn’t ready for one of his gimmicks to blow up in his face.
Patrick appointed not just a committee of fatcats and fundraisers, supposedly to advise him on business stuff. He also named a couple dozen Tea Party types to a “grassroots advisory board.”
So then the group decides to advise. On April 21, on stationery with a state of Texas seal, the 18 members put out a letter on “Lt. Governor’s Grassroots Advisory Board” stationery, addressed to the 31 senators condemning new efforts at pre-Kindergarten programs.
That happens to be Gov. Greg Abbott’s number one priority.
The “advisory committee” blasted Abbott’s plan as “experimenting at great cost to taxpayers with a program that removes our children from homes and half-day religious preschools and mothers’ day out programs to a Godless environment with only evidence showing absolutely NO LONG-TERM BENEFITS beyond the
. “We stand united in opposition to HB 4 and SB 801, as every parent should, and fervently ask each of you, our elected representatives to support strong families, and lessen the State’s well-meaning but disastrous interference in Texas Families,”
Mind you, the governor’s $130 million program – as carried in HB 4 by Dan Huberty, R-Humble, which easily passed the House, and SB 801 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo—has been criticized by pre-K advocates as an OK start, but hugely under-ambitious.
They said it wouldn’t help all districts provide the full-day program a lot of research says really helps young kids.
Also, the bills wouldn’t expand free preschool beyond kids currently eligible: four-year-olds from low-income, non-English speaking or military families. The bills also don’t restore a $200 million pre-K grant program state lawmakers gutted in 2011, and it didn’t require the quality standards and data reporting Abbott calls for.
Among those surprised, Patrick said, was him.
He put out a statement saying the letter “was unsolicited and expresses the individual viewpoints of Texas citizens.
“We had no advance notice of the letter and saw it for the first time after it had been distributed,” he said.
Zaffirini, Abbott’s pre-K Senate sponsor, said that “to associate Gov. Abbott’s pre-K initiative with socialism and with parents not loving their children is complete nonsense.”
“I am disappointed that the lieutenant governor’s advisory board sent this letter without first reaching out to the authors of the legislation or even, apparently, the lieutenant governor,” she said.
“Instead of offering constructive ideas for improving the bill, the letter attempts to frighten parents with misleading information.”
Among grassroots folks not on the lieutenant governor’s advisory board, the president of the Lubbock Independent School Board, Dan Pope, expressed his chagrin at the Patrick group’s declaration.
“I don’t know what evidence they’re talking about, but we could show evidence at our school district. The science on this is pretty consistent, what pre-K does for children,” Pope said.
Public education and the fact that every child in this country is educated is what this country is based on, Pope said
He noted that the country’s founders “were very Godly men.”
Pre-kindergarten in Lubbock schools is held in a clean, nurturing, safe and loving environment, he said, and has benefits to the children who take part.
“It certainly could not be described as Godless. So speak up. Speak up,” Pope said. “This makes me, as an eighth-generation Texan, only two days after San Jacinto Day, this makes me sick.”
This blow-up, plus Patrick’s arrogance in expecting Senate bills to pass the House because he thinks they should, helped make the “Big Three” weekly breakfast between Patrick, Abbott, and House Speaker Joe Straus less than cordial.
Now, let’s see if Patrick can learn to say “please.”
DAVE MCNEELY is a political columnist. You may contact him at davemcneely111@ gmail or (512)458 2963.