Bud Kennedy

June 5, 2014

Will Texas’ new GOP state senators leave the state high and dry?

Senators reassure Republican conventioneers they can govern, but leave questions about water.

The new-look Texas Republicans have arrived: more conservative than ever, just not in a scary way.

That is, except for the open-carry delegates. And in Fort Worth, they look like they just missed the last bus to the gun show.

Republicans are roaming the streets downtown this weekend, celebrating frugality, family and all things Ted Cruz while frowning at LGBT Texans, legal or illegal immigrants and any idea that the party might be too extreme.

Why is there so much messaging about how the Republicans need to move to the center to grow?” asked state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, to one crowd’s resounding reply of “No!”

“God tells us in Ecclesiastes 10 that ‘The heart of the wise inclines to the right.’ ”

There is no indication Ecclesiastes referred to the Texas Senate, but voters gave it a rightward lean.

Eight new senators (out of 31) will bring the chamber a liberty-minded bent. Business lawmakers were replaced by Tea Party newcomers arguing to cut funding for state agencies or ward off United Nations incursions.

At a breakout session, Campbell and three returning senators took the stage to ease concerns about the Senate changes, but also raised one.

State Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, said only seven returning Republicans have ever even chaired a committee, but the Senate shouldn’t be described as too green or too ideological to lead.

“A lot of people want to say we’re a party of ‘no,’ ” he said.

“What we do is, we come up with solutions that are affordable to the people of Texas.”

As an example, he gave Gov. Rick Perry’s push for the new $10,000 degree.

“Ideas that people laughed at a few years ago, because they were Republican ideas, are successful in Texas today,” Hancock said, suggesting that a more conservative Senate can do the same for highways and water.

Campbell talked about dealing with road needs, saying the new Senate will end back-door diversions out of the highway budget and make sure money meant for roads is spent there. But she didn’t say how she’d replace funding.

Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, talked about that city’s desperate need for water. He chairs the new Joint Interim Committee to Study Water Desalination, considering how to treat brackish water or pipe up Gulf water.

Estes wisely said, “We are going to have to build some reservoirs.” Voters passed a new water fund for that last fall.

But afterward, Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, said he’s not so sure.

This new, more conservative Senate will also be more suspicious than ever of using eminent-domain power to take land or surface water for lakes or pipelines. The area’s last big lake was Richland-Chambers Reservoir, built in 1987 near Corsicana.

“We’ll never build another Richland-Chambers,” Birdwell said.

“I’m absolutely convinced of that. You can’t turn the whole state of Texas into a lake.”

Never another lake?

It’s looking dry off to the far right.

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