Last week, attention here and elsewhere turned to Shanda Perkins, one of Governor Perry’s appointments to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Perkins’ claim to fame is that she contributed to a woman getting arrested for selling sex toys (courts later dismissed the charge, and overturned the state law it was based on). She’s also a Republican Party operative, most recently spotted handing out anonymous fliers attacking Kay Bailey Hutchison on behalf of Perry.
With those stellar qualifications, Perry appointed her to the board that decides whether people live or die, and whether people remain imprisoned or are set free. Perkins said it’s where her passion is. That, plus the $90,000 salary, I’m guessing. Did I mention that Perkins is unemployed?
They didn’t count on Senator John Whitmire.
Whitmire is the most senior member of the Texas Senate. As chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee, other Senators of both political parties defer to his expertise on such matters. Whenever Dean Whitmire decides to act on something, he can be a one-man wrecking ball.
When Perkins’ nomination hit the Senate floor for confirmation Wednesday, Whitmire moved to sever it, then moved to recommit Perkins to the nominations committee, effectively killing the appointment. By the time Whitmire was done with her, all the Democrats and many of the Republicans – apparently including some who had voted for the nomination in committee – voted to help bust this appointment.
None of the above should be big news. The reason it is news is because yesterday, Perkins became the first gubernatorial nomination in decades to be busted on the Senate floor.
The Texas Constitution says that all key gubernatorial appointments must get Senate confirmation, then sets a high bar of support for it – a two-thirds vote. Yet, for years the Senate has been merely rubber-stamping governors’ appointments. These appointees run state government on a day-to-day basis.
That Perry thought he could appoint someone to a highly-paid position who has absolutely no qualifications for the job isn’t Perry’s fault, in light of the fact that nobody can remember an appointment being busted on the Senate floor for the last
25 18 years. Legislators, through their inaction, have been signaling to a generation of governors that they can do anything they want on this front.
Legislators are prone to calling in state agency heads and grilling them on the mis-deeds of their agency. Many times, those agency executives are the same people who were appointed by the Governor and confirmed by those same legislators, with little oversight or due diligence during that important hiring process. Then those same legislators are shocked – SHOCKED – when the result is mismanagement at the agency, or when the agency doesn’t have the best interest of Texans as its highest priority. The same legislators might put a moment of thought into whether they had the best interest of Texans in mind when they opted not to make confirming those appointments a priority in the first place.
The Senate acted yesterday in a way which should make all Texans proud, Republicans and Democrats alike. Please take a moment to thank them, and ask for more of the same.
I’ll start: on behalf of those who believe that the criminal justice system plays the key role in keeping folks safe, who believe it’s crucial that dangerous people not be set free prematurely, who believe it’s a moral imperative that those who serve their time and who are not a continuing danger to society not be imprisoned longer, and who believe that those wrongfully convicted and imprisoned are worth fighting for – thank you John Whitmire.
And oh yeah, also spend a few minutes today photoshopping the picture of Perkins. You know you wanna.