Pardon me as we take a brief detour from the parade route for just a moment, but Texas Monthly's just posted its latest list of the best and worst state legislators -- and Leo Berman made worst? No way. Anyway. The preview's here, sans further categories awaiting their print and online debut next week. Let's run down a few of the locals, shall we? First, a few bests' excerpts:
Dan Branch (R-Dallas)
"After his childhood friend Joe Straus became Speaker, in 2009, Dan Branch could have had any assignment he wanted. Most members would have wanted a chairmanship of one of the power committees -- Appropriations, Ways and Means, or Calendars. Branch chose Higher Education. That's the essence of Branch -- he doesn't care about status; he cares about making a difference. He believes that Tier I research universities are the future of the state, and he wants to be in a position where he can help more institutions achieve this status."
Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth)
"His position in the House -- chair of the Administration Committee -- sounds like the job description of a hapless Cold War apparatchik in the Kremlin bureaucracy, but don't be fooled: Charlie Geren is the glue that holds the Straus team together. Anything that happens in the House must go through his committee -- every travel voucher, every request for a parking place, every office expense -- with the result that Geren accumulates useful knowledge about members."
Will Hartnett (R-Dallas)
"Hartnett is a quiet, unassuming sort who goes about his business, session after session, with little fanfare, passing bills on such scintillating subjects as notices of lis pendens and power of attorney. Then along comes a situation where the House needs a sharp legal mind who can rise above politics and carry out the law with impartiality and integrity. When that occurs, Hartnett is first on the list of candidates."
Now, to the worst. And there are quite a few familiars on the other side ...
Leo Berman (R-Tyler)
"This is Berman's distinguishing characteristic: Once an idea is in his head, it's embedded. There's no reasoning with him, on birtherism or anything else."
Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound)
"Cutting billions from Medicaid was one of two thankless tasks doled out by Senate Finance chair Steve Ogden; the other -- cutting $4 billion from public education--was given to Plano Republican Florence Shapiro. The two committees were a study in contrast, with Shapiro's running relatively smoothly and Nelson's veering all over the highway. Republicans Bob Deuell and Kevin Eltife found themselves reaching across the aisle to join social services stalwarts Judith Zaffirini and John Whitmire in putting the brakes on shortsighted cuts, as Nelson, who has emerged as a kind of party whip for the Senate's right wing, rolled her eyes and grew more and more frustrated."
Burt Solomons (R-Carrollton)
"Burt Solomons is the House's leading expert on the rules. He chairs the Redistricting Committee. He shepherded the controversial sanctuary cities bill to passage. He's one of the 'cardinals' who constitute the Straus leadership team. So what is he doing on the Worst list? The answer is that Solomons's propensity to be a bully raged out of control this session, like a grass fire in August that no one could put out."
Bill Zedler (R-Arlington)
"When the House was meeting, Zedler spent much of his time at his desk talking on his Bluetooth or heckling whichever Democrat was at the front mike, smiling his odd little mortician's smile. You'd think that someone who launched his political career in a group called Decency for Arlington would try a little harder to spread some of that decency in Austin."