State of Texas: The best and the worst

AUSTIN (KXAN) – The four largest cities in Texas are taking the state to court over its new immigration law. Senate Bill 4 bans sanctuary city policies in Texas. Austin, Houston, San Antonio and Dallas claim the new law is unconstitutional. A federal district judge in San Antonio will hear a motion for injunction, which would stop the law from taking effect in September, on Monday.

The Department of Justice issued a statement on Friday supporting the new state law. State Senator Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, who authored SB 4, says he’s happy the federal government is taking an active role in the court battle.

“SB 4 at its heart is about cooperation with our federal partners regarding immigration,” Perry said. “And that’s the way the federal immigration system works, is they expect and need cooperation in local jurisdictions.”

SB 4 has led to protests around the state. Opponents believe the law will lead to racial profiling. Many people object to a provision added by Rep. Matt Schafer, R-Tyler, that allows local officers to ask the immigration status of anyone who has been detained. A previous version of the bill limited such questioning to people under arrest.

Schaefer leads the group of conservative lawmakers known as the Freedom Caucus.  His amendment created one of the more divisive moments of the session. Weeks after the decision, anger over his amendment contributed to a scuffle between lawmakers on the House floor. So it surprised some people when Texas Monthly named Schaefer as one of the top lawmakers in its bi-annual “Best and Worst Legislators” list.

Texas Monthly Politics Editor R.G. Ratcliffe compiled the list, based on input from lawmakers, lobbyists, and journalists. He spoke about the list on KXAN’s Sunday morning political program State of Texas. Ratcliffe said whether you agree or disagree with Schaefer’s politics, he did a better job than most when it came to getting things done. “The Freedom Caucus was essentially like the whip of the Texas House at the end of the session, they could push Republican legislators into taking positions they didn’t necessarily want to take,” Ratcliffe explained. “And Schaefer was more or less the captain of the team.”

No lawmakers from the Austin area made the Texas Monthly “best” list, but two were on the “worst.”

Senator Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, made the worst list after pushing to cut funds for Medicaid therapy services for disabled children. “A lot of the way he got on there was, he’s a doctor and he doesn’t have a very good bedside manner,” Ratcliffe said. He pointed to a moment when a speaker went past her time during a public hearing on a bill to add more restrictions on abortion. “He gaveled her down very hard and shattered a tabletop in the Senate.”

Schwertner called the publication a “liberal Austin travel magazine” with “contempt for conservative leadership.”

Austin Representative Dawnna Dukes also made the “worst” list. The Democrat has missed the vast majority of votes for the past two sessions due to an injury from a car accident in 2013. A spokesman from her office said it was not fair to put Dukes on the list because of her battle with health issues.

Ratcliffe said that wasn’t why she was named one of the worst legislators. “…she had promised that she was going to resign if she was elected, and then reneged on her promise. Then she got indicted for her misuse of office…” Ratcliffe said.  “And then for the second session in a row, she missed the majority of the votes.”

Texas Monthly has put out the Best and Worst Legislators list after every session since 1973. While the names have changed, the responses to the ratings follow a familiar pattern. “Let’s put it this way. The ones who are on the best list put out press releases saying they were honored to be on the prestigious Texas Monthly best list,” Ratcliffe said. “The ones who are on the worst list either just say it’s a total mistake, or it’s fake news or whatever, and that it’s wholly and completely unfair. That’s pretty common every session.” provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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