Rick Perry’s influence will outlive his term

AUSTIN (KXAN) –  Gov. Rick Perry is stepping aside when his term ends after the November 2014 elections, but his influence in Texans’ daily lives is not fading away any time soon.

On issues ranging from criminal justice to colleges, health care to electric power – Perry’s power is secure for many years after he is out of office. That’s because of thousands of appointments the Republican has made since taking office in December 2000.

GOING IN-DEPTH // The governor’s powers
  • Signing or vetoing bills passed by the Legislature.
  • Serving as commander-in-chief of the state’s military forces.
  • Accounting for all public monies received and paid out by him and recommending a budget for the next two years.
  • Granting reprieves and commutations of punishment and pardons upon the recommendation of the Board of Pardons and Paroles and revoking conditional pardons.
  • Declaring special elections to fill vacancies in certain elected offices.
  • Appointing qualified Texans to state offices that carry out the laws and direct the policies of state government. Most appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

Source: The Governor’s Office

“He’s probably the most powerful governor in the history of the state,” said Brian McCall, author of “The Power of the Texas Governor: Connally to Bush.”

“No Texan’s life is impacted by anything more than the actions of the appointees.”

The office of Texas governor has historically been considered weak because the agencies of state government are run by the people serving on the boards and commissions that oversee them. Most of the people are appointed by the governor to six-year terms.

But before Perry, most Texas governors served less than six years. That means they inherited the appointments of their predecessors and then filled vacancies as they occurred.

McCall – a former state House member and current chancellor of the Texas State University System – said Perry’s unique position as the longest serving governor in state history has allowed him to become the only one to name at least one person to every eligible state office, board or commission.

“The governor can say to those appointees, ‘Look, I would like you to consider X instead of Y,’” McCall said. “They’re not required to do it, and he can’t remove them from office. But they would probably be receptive to his thoughts.”

Through the course of his tenure, Perry has made around 7,700 appointments that were confirmed by the Texas Senate. (How to contact your senator) Some recent highlights:

  • Kyle Janek –  head of the Health and Human Services Commission, overseeing five agencies with a third of the state budget, nearly $60 billion dollars.
  • Wallace Hall Jr. – University of Texas regent who helps set tuition rates and is now the subject of an impeachment hearing.
  • Brandy Marty – Perry’s former chief of staff, who is one of three members of the Public Utility Commission and must make sure the state always has enough electricity.
  • Carlos Rubinstein – new Texas Water Development Board Chairman Carlos Rubinstein, who will help usher in a new wave of crucial projects to keep the state afloat.

“Well, I’m honored to be in this position,” Rubinstein told KXAN. “Water has been a passion for me all my life.”

Leaving a legacy

As Perry makes way for the next the next governor, he will leave behind – at last count – about 2,100 appointees – who will remain in their posts. Some will serve through the end of the decade.

Around 1,400 of those appointees have a term that will expire after Perry leaves office. For example, Rubinstein will serve until February 2017.

“And I welcome that trust,” he said.

When asked about the appointments of Rubinstein and the two other water board members, Perry told KXAN that has “no idea what that says about (his) legacy.”

“I trust those three individuals and their ability to identify very capable men and women to work with them over at the Water Development Board to put policies into place and to work with the Legislature,” he said.

However, those appointees are subject to a two-thirds majority approval in the Texas Senate, as additional scrutiny of the governor’s selections.

Perry’s remaining 700 appointees serve at his pleasure, meaning there is no specific expiration on their terms.

“They serve until the governor chooses to replace them, or until they resign,” said Lucy Nashed, Perry’s spokeswoman.  “They would continue to serve until either they resign or the next governor chooses to replace them.”

McCall notes that the next governor might share similar views as Perry and decide to reappoint them to their posts, greatly prolonging Perry’s influence.

“It will be quite some time before Texas doesn’t have Rick Perry appointees,” he said.

Additionally, Perry has appointed people to fill vacancies for several elected offices, including six of the nine current members of the Texas Supreme Court.

Furthering political power

Being a Perry appointee can also help your political career. For instance, he appointed both Henry Cuellar and Roger Williams to  Texas Secretary of State in the past, and they are now serving in Congress.

And consider the support offices like that and thousands of appointed leaders back home could mean, if Perry decides to run for president again in 2016.

Of course, leaving office could put a governor’s power at risk. In his book, McCall wrote that George W. Bush called up Perry – who had previously been his lieutenant governor – a few months after making the switch from Texas’ chief executive to president, saying: “You remember what I told you about the governorship being the best job in the world? Well, it’s true.”

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