Naked City

Frosh Rep Points Out Elephant in Living Room

Maybe it was freshman naïveté talking, but Rep. Mark Strama's brutally honest remarks last week about the political system in Texas drew appreciative applause from an audience of public policy enthusiasts. Strama, who joined other legislators for a panel discussion as part of the LBJ Future Forum series, said that when a political candidate's success is dependent on large contributions of, say, $250,000 from individual sources, "you have to do what they want you to do" – a remark that prompted some double takes from startled panelists. "You got how much?" Rep. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown, asked. The point is, Strama went on to say, the overall political process – from campaign finance to redistricting – is a real mess.

The Austin Democrat also criticized the redistricting process, calling for the creation of an independent commission to oversee the redrawing of district boundaries when the issue is taken up anew in 2011. (Fellow panelist and Austin Rep. Eddie Rodriguez said he intends to file such a bill.) An independent commission would replace the old-fashioned way of legislators redistricting themselves. "There is no worse way than to have politicians drawing their own districts," Strama said.

The District 50 legislator, who defeated incumbent GOP Rep. Jack Stick in a bruising and expensive contest in November, has also taken a campaign finance dig at his former opponent, filing legislation that would ban political fundraising in state buildings. Last year, Stick drew fire for hitting up insurance industry representatives for campaign contributions during a meeting in a state-owned office building. Stick later said he was just joking, but Strama's HB 906 would force politicians to take it outside.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Mark Strama, House Bill 906, Dan Gattis, Jack Stick, Eddie Rodriguez, Future Forum

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