Interesting article on how State Reps Mark Strama and Todd Baxter, both of whom were elected by miniscule margins in November, arrived at their votes on HB2.
Baxter, the Republican representative for District 48 in northwestern Travis County, fresh from taking a public role speaking on the floor Tuesday, was eager to help fellow Republicans pass a bill that, he said, begins phasing out redistribution of school money from property-rich to property-poor districts, called "Robin Hood" by critics.
Baxter did it for his constituents: not just Eanes, often cited as a district that suffers under the system, but the Austin, Lago Vista and Leander districts.
"I consider it a watershed, one of the most important things I've done since I've been here at the Capitol," Baxter said, exhilarated. "I perceive myself a leader on this issue because it's what's right for my district."
Strama, a Democrat from District 50 in northeastern Travis County, intended to do what was right for his district, too. But Strama was nagged by a feeling that this plan wasn't good for schoolchildren in other parts of the state, in poorer districts that have been the beneficiaries of money sent from districts such as Eanes. His feeling was freighted by the sense that as a Democrat, there wasn't much he could do to alter the outcome.
Strama, like Baxter, represents a swing district that elected him by the narrowest of margins last year, creating pressures that drive both toward the political center.
Earlier in the day, Strama considered leveraging an aye vote on the Republican-sponsored bill for changes he thought might improve the bill for his constituents. But by early evening, Strama had decided to vote nay.
"I think that if the vote is close enough, I ought to vote as if my vote were going to decide the outcome," Strama said. "I don't think this is a good bill."