Republican Freshmen Come on Strong in State Legislature
Newly elected state lawmakers are usually treated like children. Veteran lawmakers remind them they are to be seen and not heard. They're told to get along they have to go along, and most do. But not this year. The current freshman class is refusing to just sit and be quiet.
"I don't pay any attention to freshmen," said Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, on the day he and his fellow House members began voting on proposals that would slice more than $20 billion from the current budget and the 2012-2013 spending plan.
Normally, that sort of good-natured disdain is universal, but not this session. Because of their numbers - 37 new members, 31 of them Republicans - and because of the cost-cutting, anti-tax zeal that got so many of them elected during last fall's GOP avalanche, the House leadership and membership are paying attention to them.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts of Waxahachie admitted that's what's happening last week, when House Bill 1, the budget bill that cuts education funding and Medicare reimbursement rates cleared the Appropriations Committee and went to the House floor.
Pitts said "They feel like they were elected to make cuts, and they...reflect what their constituents want."
An informal survey of Republican rookies indicates they're holding firm as floor debate continues into the weekend, despite House Democrats' desperate efforts to amend the bill, and despite concerns expressed by folks back home about teachers losing jobs, nursing homes closing and college financial aid withering.