Serving Dan Patrick Instead of Their Districts

There’s a saying in the Legislature: Members, vote your districts. But when you look at the votes of state Senators Charles Perry of Lubbock, Dawn Buckingham of Horseshoe Bay, and Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham, you have to wonder whether their constituency is comprised of people in their districts or Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. The three of them, whose districts span one-third of Texas almost contiguously—from the Panhandle southeast to the coast—consistently voted for the lieutenant governor’s priorities throughout this session. Not once did one of them vote against Patrick’s top twenty legislative priorities, or his full thirty priorities, for that matter.

Let’s take a look at their votes on two Patrick priorities: creation of private school vouchers and lowering local property tax revenue caps.

In rural Texas, independent school districts are often the center and future of local society, as well as a primary economic driver. Voters are far removed from “school choice”—geographically and philosophically. Perry, Buckingham, and Kolkhorst each voted for Patrick’s private school voucher plan. Republican Senators Kel Seliger of Amarillo and Robert Nichols of Jacksonville have similar dynamics and results in their districts, and both voted against vouchers. And even though the Lubbock ISD opposed the bill in all of its iterations, Perry voted for it after he amended it to carve out rural school districts. The Lubbock ISD apparently saw even the reduced bill as the camel’s nose sticking through Perry’s tent.

But members of the House are closer to the people. Their districts are smaller, and they run for re-election every two years instead of four like the senators. Senators Perry, Buckingham, and Kolkhorst don’t face the voters again until 2020, but the state representatives in their districts face the voters next year. So how did they vote on “school choice”? Twenty-two out of 28 representatives who call these three their senator voted against vouchers in the House this session. All 28 are Republican, so this wasn’t a partisan vote. It was a vote-your-district vote for lawmakers who are accountable to voters instead of Dan Patrick.

The six pro-voucher House members accounted for just five percent of the total 2016 GOP primary votes for all representatives within the three districts. That should send a message to Perry, Buckingham, and Kolkhorst that they are on the wrong side of their constituents.

The triumvirate’s votes for private school vouchers don’t add up mathematically. Nor do they politically.

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