Every two years, members of the Texas Legislature descend upon the state Capitol to pass a budget and amend or repeal state laws. Some bills are noble; other bills are not. Then they go home, back to their districts.
After the lawmakers settle in, groups ranging from Equality Texas to your local chamber of commerce release report cards based on legislators’ votes. They’re valuable for fundraising, used to inform voters – and of course, serve as bait during primary season, too.
Among other groups issuing scorecards are – you betcha! – fringe conservative power brokers Empower Texans, Concerned Women of America and Texas Eagle Forum. Wielding the crowns of liberty, they roll out their scorecards to preserve the sacred relationship between donor and flak.
Already two of the three groups have released their scorecards. Empower Texans’ Fiscal Responsibility Index, loosely defined, focuses on the budget. Concerned Women for America gets down the most pressing issues, like preventing Shariah law and reassuring the assurance guaranteed in the Constitution about a clear separation between church and state.
On the Fiscal Index, minions are graded from A+ to F based on key votes, like moving HIV/AIDS education and awareness funds to the abstinence education fund or for a budget with the empty promise of tax relief. Six senators, all Republicans, received a 90 or above. Among them are North Texas freshmen Sens. Konni Burton, Bob Hall, Van Taylor and Don Huffines.
The better the vote, the more likely they’ll stay on the good side of their buddies in West Texas.
But these scorecards are, for the most part, fraudulent. They’re deceptive. They only feed red meat to primary voters. To some observers, their beef with them lies in their fiscal irresponsibility. To me, it’s their co-opting of the term “liberty” altogether. Liberty is a right, allowing people to live and be free.
But to these legislators, liberty is all about chasing their next campaign donation.
If politics is the art of deception, then these scorecards and Texas legislators who champion them are the ultimate definition of politics.
I bring this all up not because reading scorecards is my favorite post-legislative activity, but because freshman Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, complained on Twitter this morning that no one was covering her A+ grade on the Fiscal Index. While I can’t see her Twitter posts, The Texas Observer’s Christopher Hooks managed to get a screen shot. You can see those here.
While her meltdown is unbecoming and unprofessional, if she wants publicity, then here, let me give it to her:
Congratulations, Senator. You got a gold star, another toward your re-election bid. You join Rep. Molly White, who is probably getting her first gold star. Ever. (For what it’s worth, White has already received a “worst” award from Texas Monthly and Equality Texas.)
But keep in mind, as you race toward a perfect grade, don’t fall along the way. That vote to slash the social safety net didn’t just earn you a re-election check and gold star, but the chance there’ll be nothing to help you back up after you’ve fallen down.