The 84th Legislature, apparently, was both the best and the worst of times for some Tarrant County lawmakers.
Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, was named one of the 10 best Texas lawmakers this year, according to Texas Monthly’s biennial list of the best and worst lawmakers from the legislative session that wrapped up June 1.
On the flip side, Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, were ranked among the worst. And Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, gained the designation “Bull of the Brazos,” described by the magazine as going to the lawmaker “who demonstrates brilliance, tenacity and unpredictable temper in equal parts.”
“These rankings are lots of fun, and perhaps used by challengers in elections,” said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “[I] doubt if most can name their own legislators. So, at best, the Texas Monthly list of best and worst is great reading for the political literati.”
No explanations were given Wednesday for the lawmakers rankings, although magazine staffers said write-ups on the lawmakers will appear in the July issue.
Despite changes this year in the Legislature and at their own offices, “some things remain the same, like our commitment to holding our legislators accountable for their actions throughout the session,” the magazine said.
What did they do?
Geren, a chief lieutenant of House Speaker Joe Straus who heads the House Administration Committee and was involved in crucial negotiations during the session, said he will reserve commenting on his designation “until I see what they say.”
Klick, a nurse who drew nationwide attention for carrying a bill that broke new ground in Texas to allow a very limited form of medical marijuana, said she was pleased to make the list.
“It’s an honor to serve in the Texas House and to have that work recognized,” she said.
Klick’s proposal to make cannabidiol use legal for Texans with intractable epilepsy, when federally approved medication hasn’t helped, was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott. This chemical in the plant, she has said, lets a patient get the benefits without the high. A different chemical, THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive ingredient that produces a high.
Nelson, whose district includes portions of Fort Worth, served as the Senate’s chief budget writer. A driving force behind some of the Legislature’s top priorities this year, she declined to comment on the magazine’s rankings.
A separate recent ranking, by Capitol Inside, landed her on the list of the best lawmakers, specifically naming her as the Senate MVP saying she “had a session for the ages” and was “the most obvious all-star as the author of the two-year state budget and the record tax cuts that are built into it.”
And Stickland, an outspoken Tea Party conservative described by some as a political “bomb-thrower,” drew attention from the first day of the session to the last.
He said making the Texas Monthly list is a “badge of honor.”
“As a conservative, you haven’t really arrived until you make the Texas Monthly ‘worst’ list,” he said. “Some of the most notable Republican conservatives have been on it.
“I feel like we are doing our job right.”
Toward the end of the session, he and state Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, who also made the “worst” list, were embroiled in a dispute that began with Stickland’s opposition to Pickett’s proposal to give Federal Reserve officers authority similar to peace officers in Texas.
Stickland temporarily derailed the bill from consideration. That day, as he prepared to present a bill to ban red-light cameras to a House committee, Pickett — chairman of that committee — began calling people who allegedly turned in witness cards but weren’t present.
He kicked Stickland out of the hearing and referred the witness registration issue to the House General Investigating and Ethics Committee, which turned the matter over to the Texas Rangers.
Stickland, like Nelson, received top honors on a separate ranking by Capitol Inside.
“Stickland made a massive difference because he was willing and eager to do the homework and to fight harder than anyone else with a fearless resiliency and unbridled passion and devotion to liberty and other tea party causes in a way that put principles he’d embraced over a need to be liked or to play along to get along,” the report said.
The best: Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler; Reps. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen; César Blanco, D-El Paso; Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton; Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth; Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio; Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio; John Otto, R-Dayton; Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound; and Sylvester Turner, D-Houston.
The worst: Sens. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels; Joan Huffman, R-Houston; Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound; and Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown; Reps. Cecil Bell Jr., R-Magnolia; Harold Dutton, D-Houston; Joe Pickett, D-El Paso; Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler; Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford; and Molly White, R-Belton.
Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610