The 85th legislative session wrapped up May 29. Anna M. Tinsley
The 85th legislative session wrapped up May 29. Anna M. Tinsley

State Politics

Two Tarrant lawmakers rated among ‘worst’ of session by Texas Monthly

By Anna M. Tinsley

June 20, 2017 03:47 PM

The 85th Legislature may not have been the best session for Tarrant County members.

None of the 15 local lawmakers rose to the top, according to Texas Monthly’s list of the best and worst lawmakers from the legislative session that wrapped up May 29.

But two — state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, and state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford — made the list of the worst lawmakers.

“Around the Texas Capitol this year, it wasn’t unusual to hear the 85th Legislature described as the worst anyone could remember,” according to the article. “While we wouldn’t go that far, this session had more than its fair share of dispiriting moments.

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“In the end, this session featured too much noise and too little done to improve the lives of Texans,” the article stated. “Politics is not just about conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats. It’s about working cooperatively to make Texas a better place. That has been the standard for the Best and Worst list since its inception in 1973 and remains so four decades later.”

The magazine publishes the list every other year, after the end of the regular legislative session.

Gov. Greg Abbott has called Texas lawmakers back to the state Capitol July 18 for a special session.

Local rankings

The article states that Hancock, who heads the powerful Business and Commerce Committee, “managed to anger Texas businesses and tea party groups this session with opportunism and vindictiveness.”

State Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills
Joyce Marshall jlmarshall@star-telegram

When the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce opposed the so-called bathroom bill, “Hancock resigned his membership,” the article stated.

“Then, in a public hearing on the measure, a skeptical Hancock ruthlessly grilled the president of the Texas Association of Business over the group’s estimates of economic damage from the bill, including the possible loss of the 2018 NCAA Final Four in San Antonio,” according to the article. “But just four years ago, Hancock passed a bill to give state funding to such tournaments because they ‘encourage robust economic growth,’ as he said at the time. The next day, still steaming from the bathroom bill hearing, Hancock wanted to ban a TAB lobbyist from appearing before his committee and only relented after his staff convinced him that the lobbyist simply wanted to testify about her personal problems with health insurance billing.”

Also during the session, Hancock took the lead on an emergency bill “to benefit car dealerships in Texas owned by [investor Warren] Buffett” after Buffett privately met with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. The so-called Buffett Bill was quickly approved by his committee, although it later died.

This session, it seems, Hancock was an equal-opportunity offender.

Texas Monthly list of best and worst lawmakers

“The bill was killed only after tea party groups opposed the measure as corporate welfare,” the Texas Monthly article stated. “This session, it seems, Hancock was an equal-opportunity offender.”

In an email to the Star-Telegram, Hancock said of the article: “Well, this is the second time I’ve been on this list for standing my ground on conservative policy issues, and if I’m representing my constituents well and getting things done in Austin, it probably won’t be the last. I certainly don’t regret pointing out TAB’s grossly inaccurate economic impact numbers or filing a free market-friendly auto bill this session.”

Stickland — long known as a political bomb thrower and staunch Tea Party member — also made the magazine’s “worst” list.

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford
Rodger Mallison

“No lawmaker causes more eye-rolls than Jonathan Stickland,” the article stated. “It often seems as if he’s at war with the world.”

But when he and other conservative lawmakers teamed up this session to create the Freedom Caucus, they quickly found a louder voice together than they ever had separately.

Despite the team effort, much of the focus remained on Stickland.

“He doesn’t hesitate to kill other members’ bills but throws tantrums when they kill his,” the article stated. “He’s so disliked by his colleagues that when he attempted to cut spending on feral hog control, a legislator responded by trying to fund the program by taking $900,000 from highway maintenance in Stickland’s district. The measure was initially approved 99-26. Stickland backed down and complained that, ‘It’s funny until it happens to you.’ 

Stickland worked to fight proposals ranging from eliminating lunch-shaming to combating human trafficking and he supported measures such as the conservative bathroom bill and tax rollback elections.

We don’t begrudge Stickland his ideology. We do, however, mind his bullying and ineffectiveness. And so does just about everyone else.

Texas Monthly list of best and worst lawmakers

“We don’t begrudge Stickland his ideology,” according to the article. “We do, however, mind his bullying and ineffectiveness. And so does just about everyone else.”

Stickland said being on the “worst” list is “an absolute honor as a conservative Republican.”

“My biggest fear is that one day they will hurt me politically by naming me as Top Ten Best,” Stickland said. “Thankfully, we dodged that bullet again this session.”

The list

A look at the lawmakers on Texas Monthly’s list this year.

The best: State Reps. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana; Sarah Davis, R-Houston; Dan Huberty, R-Houston; Joe Moody, D-El Paso; Chris Paddie, R-Marshall; Four Price, R-Amarillo; Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler; and Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston. State senators on the list: Joan Huffman, R-Houston, and Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville.

The worst: State Reps. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park; Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin; Gary Elkins, R-Houston; Jessica Farrar, D-Houston; Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving; and Stickland. State senators on the list: Hancock, Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham; Charles Perry, R-Lubbock; and Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown.

Other awards: State Rep. Ina Minjarez, D-San Antonio, was named rookie of the year. State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, was named Bull of the Brazos.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

Video from the House's Chief of Staff shows the scuffle that broke out on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives on May 29. Protesters gathered inside the Texas State Capitol in protest of SB4, legislation that could ban sanctuary cities.