Texas Monthly confirmed that hunch earlier this week by releasing its “Best and Worst Legislators” list for 2023.
Every two years, lawmakers go head-to-head on a wide range of issues large and small. This session was a doozy. It started with a $33 billion budget surplus and ended in the House-sanctioned impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton. Somewhere in the middle, a state representative was unanimously expelled from office (more on that later) and House Speaker Dade Phelan, who was filmed slurring his words while wielding the gavel, resisted Paxton’s call to resign.
This session, the Republican legislative majority worked to gut tenure in higher education and ban college diversity, equity and inclusion programs. Lawmakers scrapped over teacher raises and did their damndest to restrict drag.
At least one person who landed on the Monthly’s “worst” list seemed just a tad salty. GOP state Rep. Dustin Burrows from Lubbock claimed on Twitter that he was “proud” of the demerit before dragging the mag as “an extreme leftist publication.”
State Rep. John Bryant
“I am deeply grateful to have been listed as one of @TexasMonthly’s Best Legislators, and to the voters of HD114 for allowing me the opportunity to lead the progressive line-of-defense in Austin,” he tweeted earlier this week. “A ‘Sylvester Stallone 76’ has a nice ring to it, too.”
State Rep. Angie Chen Button
I am deeply grateful to have been listed as one of @TexasMonthly’s Best Legislators, and to the voters of HD114 for allowing me the opportunity to lead the progressive line-of-defense in Austin.— John Bryant (@johnbryantfortx) June 13, 2023
A “Sylvester Stallone 76” has a nice ring to it, too. 🤠https://t.co/Sx2CVHvohw
Richardson state Rep. Angie Chen Button was praised by the Monthly for keeping her nose to the grindstone. The publication called the Taiwanese-American lawmaker a “voice of reason amid a rash of Republican-sponsored bills that targeted individuals and entities from China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia.” One such proposal, which ultimately sputtered out, would have barred people from those countries from buying land in Texas. But Button backed a more palatable alternative. Also worth noting: Button, a Republican, works well with folks across the aisle.
State Rep. Toni Rose
Dallas state Rep. Toni Rose shined this past session. Texas Monthly lauded her for being “quietly effective and universally respected,” which has a nice ring to it. The Democrat authored House Bill 12, which advocates say will help mitigate Texas’ maternal mortality issue by extending Medicaid coverage. Rose’s efforts are working to save Texans’ lives, particularly the lives of low-income constituents in her Dallas County district. She doesn’t quit when it comes to fighting for things she’s passionate about.
“Thanks @TexasMonthly for the honor!” Rose tweeted earlier this week.
This Rockwall Republican made the grade, in part, for keeping it real. State Rep. Justin Holland’s thoughtfulness, integrity and willingness to listen set him apart from his peers, the Monthly argued. Even though he knew a bill was doomed — one that would have raised the age to buy certain semiautomatic weapons to 21 — his conscience pushed him to back it anyway, in spite of the political shrapnel. And he advocated for greater investment in the state’s parks system.
“Aside from being a husband and father, serving in the Texas Legislature is one of the greatest honors of my life,” Holland said in a press release sent to the Observer. “I can’t express my genuine gratitude enough for allowing me to serve you in Austin. I take each measure before me with reverence and vote according to my convictions. Thank you for the opportunity to be your voice in the Texas House.”
State Rep. Tony Tinderholt
State Rep. Tony Tinderholt doesn’t seem to have too many fans at the Monthly, which described him as “prone to paranoid outbursts.” The mag gave the Arlington Republican at least a little credit for “maturing” somewhat since his maiden election campaign in 2014. But instead of continuing that growth this year, he turned into a nuisance. He advocated for headline-grabbing but unlikely-to-pass bills and tried to keep “Democrats from chairing committees,” they wrote.
State Sen. Kelly Hancock
This year, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick locked state Sen. Kelly Hancock in “the doghouse as punishment for clashing with him last session over how to fix the electric grid,” the Monthly writes. The North Richland Hills Republican’s tail stayed between his legs throughout the entire 140-day session.
The CockroachState Rep. Bryan Slaton
Yikes. Getting dubbed “The Cockroach” has gotta sting, no matter how much of a pest one is. The Monthly joked that state Rep. Bryan Slaton has finally been “exterminated” thanks to the historic 147-0 vote to expel him from the Texas House last month. The ultraconservative from Royse City seemed comfy in his role as someone who constantly irritated others, including by proposing legislation that humored secessionists.
But lawmakers were fully fed up after an investigation found that Slaton, a self-fashioned family man and former youth pastor, had given alcohol to a 19-year-old aide with whom he also had sex. So he resigned — and got the boot, too.
P.S. We reached out to everyone’s office by email, and to Slaton via Facebook Messenger, for their response to making the list. With the exception of Holland, no one got back to us with comment before deadline.