Perry’s power packs a punch
“It was bad enough when Rick Perry went to meddling in the affairs of Texas A&M. But now the governor’s messing with three of Texas’ university systems. What does the Republican think our colleges are, his playground?” – Dallas News
“Gov. Rick Perry’s . . . upcoming primary battle (with) Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has already highlighted the cronyism at work in Perry’s regent-appointment process, with regents who publicly support Hutchison suddenly stepping down, some citing political pressure. . . .
“Perry’s political machine is unparalleled in recent Texas history. It has made him the longestserving governor in Texas history. It has also jeopardized education in Texas and will continue to do so until Perry is removed from office or appropriate checks are placed on the governor’s power to sell higher education to the highest bidder.” – The Daily Texan
“Sadly, the governor’s actions appear to be in the best interest of his political future and not in the best interest of Texas higher education.” – San Antonio Express-News
Be for me, or quit.
Regents at Texas Tech, The University of Texas, and Texas A&M say agents of Gov. Rick Perry pressured them to quit the regents if they had signed on with U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s challenge to Perry.
Some resigned, fearing they might hurt their institutions.
Some UT regents said Perry suggested they support as Chancellor AT&T executive John Montford, a former Senate Appropriations Committee chairman and Texas Tech Chancellor. (For the record, Montford is well-respected and very qualified.)
They instead chose Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, a transplant surgeon who headed the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio.
The Texas Constitution of 1876 was a reaction to the post-Civil War Reconstruction period, when a string of Republican governors imposed iron rule on Texas and other states that had seceded.
Texans who didn’t side with the Union hated having Texas run by powerful and often autocratic governors.
So as Reconstruction was being lifted, a majority of delegates to a constitutional convention sought to decentralize power and diminish the governor’s role.
Terms for statewide officials were set at two years. The governor’s only cabinet appointee was the secretary of state. Other statewide officials, including the lieutenant governor, attorney general and others, were elected independently of the governor.
Most state agencies were overseen by boards and commissions, with staggered six-year terms. The governor could appoint members of those bodies.
But because of the staggered terms, a governor would have to be into a third two-year term before he would have appointed all their members.
The governing bodies selected their own chairmen from among their number.
No term limits were set for statewide officials. But a tradition developed that governors would serve no more than two consecutive two-year terms. So usually, one governor never completely stacked the agencies’ ruling boards.
The first governor to serve the six years needed to appoint every board member was conservative Democrat Allan Shivers. He moved up from lieutenant governor in mid-1949, when incumbent Democrat Gov. Beauford Jester died half a year into his second term.
Shivers won three more terms. When he left after seven and a half years, he had appointed every board and commission member, plus filled three vacancies on the Texas Supreme Court.
After that, governors who served six consecutive years included Democrats Price Daniel Sr., John Connally, Dolph Briscoe (one two-year term and one four-year term, as Texas shifted in 1974 to fouryear terms for most non-judicial statewide offices), and Republican George W. Bush. So each had the opportunity to fill every board slot.
(Perry moved from lieutenant governor to governor on Dec. 21, 2000, when Bush resigned to prepare to become president. It was a few weeks shy of the end of Bush’s sixth year, but the opportunity to fill most vacancies had already occurred.)
Republican Bill Clements won two four-year terms, but they were not successive.
Perry filled out the last two years of Bush’s term, and was elected in 2002, and re-elected in 2006. He has now been governor for eight years and nine months – the longest in Texas history -- and wants to extend his tenure to 14 years.
When he fills an upcoming Supreme Court vacancy, he will have appointed six of the nine court members, though several have since been elected.
Perry has not only appointed every board member and regent, but now can choose not to reappoint those who back Hutchison – which he has done to some of them.
It’s ironic that the constitution-writers wanted to set limits on a governor’s power.
Perry, who has missed no chance to condemn the federal government, is now doing in Texas pretty much what the constitution’s framers hoped to limit.
He is the government.