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Of molehills and mountains

The Chron reviews Rick Perry’s history of executive orders, in comparison to his predecessors, and finds that he really has been doing things that weren’t tried before. I’ll leave it to you to read, but this pretty much sums up how I feel about the whole HPV fiasco.

At least four times, Perry has issued executive orders for state agencies to adopt policies that failed to pass in the Legislature — including a bill by [Rep. Warren] Chisum to speed up the hearings process on air pollution permits such as the one involved in the TXU case.

In three other orders, Perry took provisions of education legislation that had failed in 2005 special sessions and ordered the Texas Education Agency to implement them.

One was a requirement that school districts spend no less than 65 percent of their budgets on classroom instruction. School districts had been instrumental in killing the so-called 65 percent rule in the Legislature.

In another order, Perry one-upped a joint select legislative committee investigating efficiency and spending by higher education in the wake of dissatisfaction over tuition increases. Perry ordered state colleges and universities to perform efficiency studies and report to him.

And he also used an executive order in January to essentially re-create a criminal justice policy agency that he had vetoed out of existence in 2003. The agency had advised the Legislature on crime trends and whether new prisons would be needed. The new incarnation is a division of his office rather than an independent agency.

There also were some that it would have been hard to find detractors for, such as the executive order telling the Department of Public Safety to establish an Amber Alert system for notifying the news media about the kidnapping of children.

Chisum said legislators did not get upset over some of the earlier executive orders because they “weren’t as important” to lawmakers in general.

“When you did the vaccine, that was statewide. It affected everybody. You can take on little groups, but you can’t take on the whole group,” he said.

No, Warren, the Lege – in particular, the Republicans in the Lege – finally got upset and objected because Perry finally issued an order that they didn’t like. It’s possible that things could have come to a head with the TXU coal plant order, but had the acronym HPV never tripped from Rick Perry’s lips, the whole thing might be little more than grumbling from the minority party and an article or two in the Observer. If this really had been a matter of principle for the Lege, they’d have hashed this all out long ago. But they didn’t, and so here we are today. Better late than never, perhaps, but it didn’t have to be this way.

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One Comment

  1. seth says:

    I have heard a leading D argue this before… that Perry has quietly taken the Texas Governor’s office from one of the weakest to one of the storngest without “a constitutional vote or even many taxpayers’ knowledge.”