Tuesday was the first day of classes at Private Christian U, but I had enough time before class to head down to the Legislature for kickoff, I mean, the opening session. It's my last spring in Texas for awhile, and certainly the last time I'll be around for the 140 days in an odd numbered year in which nothing in our state is safe for quite some time.
Those of you fortunate enough not to follow Texas politics may not know that we've had a little drama around here of late. Tom Craddick, a far-right Republican who ruled with a "my way or the highway" iron fist, was effectively deposed as Speaker of the House by a coalition of moderate Republicans and all Democrats in a series of backroom negotiations last week when they chose moderate San Antonio Republican Joe Straus as Speaker. By the opening of the session at noon on Tuesday, all of Straus' challengers had dropped out, so the House side was all formalities and underhanded digs at Craddick's style.
So many people were happy about this that there was a long line to get into the House gallery. I was behind a new empty-nester who's decided to give two hours a week to learning about what's going on in her state. Behind us was an older Hispanic man from San Antonio, there to see his son-in-law sworn in as a Representative. Behind him was Joe Straus' seventh grade social studies teacher, then some interns, lobbyists from Beaumont, everyone you can imagine. Inside the packed chamber were Texans of every stripe. Even the nominating speeches reflected Texas - women spoke, Democrats spoke, Hispanic legislators spoke. Our government looked, for once, like Texas.
It was amazing. People were happy. I don't think I'd realized how truly awful things were under Craddick. And while I firmly believe that Texas government will be a mess no matter who's in charge, we are much better off with someone who'll govern from the center and who will, as one of the speakers put it (and I'm paraphrasing broadly here), allow bills to be judged on the basis of their merits, not on the Speaker's/the people who bought and paid for the Speaker's personal political preferences. It may not last, and goodness knows Dan Patrick is doing his best to destroy civility on the Senate side, but it's nice to be hopeful for once.