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Legislature produced mixed results, GOP chairman tells tea partiers

By Glenn Evans
Aug. 1, 2011 at 10 p.m.

A Texas Legislature that featured a super-majority of Republicans produced mixed results from a conservative standpoint, the Gregg County GOP chairman told some 120 local tea party members Monday evening.

Chairman Keith Rothra had nothing but praise for Longview's freshman legislator, Republican David Simpson, for whom the audience broke into applause four times. Rothra was not pleased with other Northeast Texans in Austin for the 82nd Legislature and special session that ended June 29.

He wasn't thrilled with Gov. Rick Perry, either.

"Are you ready for that guy to be president?" Rothra asked, referring to Perry's likely run for the nation's highest office.

Citing tea party dominance of November's state elections, Rothra noted four assignments the voters issued the 82nd Legislature: balance the state budget; refrain from raising taxes; create no new fees; and cut the size of government.

"Overall (on the budget), I would give them a B-plus," Rothra said, noting a budget that balanced once $15 billion in cuts were identified. Rothra said education cuts should have focused more on highly paid administrators, but added the Austin lawmakers did not want to encroach on local salary decisions.

"I can understand that," he said. "Remember this when you go to your school board elections."

Lawmakers did not raise taxes in producing the two-year spending plan.

"Hey, give them an A," Rothra said. "Give them an A-plus on that one."

Lawmakers held the line on new fees as well, he said.

For the most part, he continued, they kept government small.

Voter ID, frustrated two years ago by Republican Speaker Joe Straus became law this session despite his re-election to lead the House. Voters must present one of several designated forms of photo ID to cast ballots under the new law.

"I do not give Speaker Straus very much of a good grade," Rothra said. "But, we have a photo ID bill now."

And while Simpson, and fellow tea party Republican Bryan Hughes of Mineola, earned high marks from Rothra, GOP Rep. Chuck Hopson of Jacksonville fared less well.

"We need to make sure there's a responsible person who's going to come forward who can speak tea party and get some support," he said.

Rothra criticized Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, though inaccurately. Eltife raised the hackles of extreme conservatives for his Senate Finance Committee work softening House cuts to education and human services such as those for the mentally ill.

"I disagree with Sen. Eltife extremely on the idea that what we need to do is raise taxes and not make cuts," Rothra said.

Eltife never proposed raising any taxes during the session.

"I never, ever proposed raising taxes," Eltife said later Monday night. "I never supported raising taxes. We cut $15 billion in spending. And, I said all along what we didn't need to do was raise taxes. I don't know where he got his information, but it's wrong."

Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, earned praise for a failed bill that would have required law enforcement to verify the citizenship of anyone they stopped.

On the larger playing field, Lt. David Dewhurst took a hit in Rothra's speech. The Republican has announced intentions to run for U.S. Senate.

"What was David Dewhurst doing, appointing Democratic chairs in the Senate?"



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