Price: 'I've Done My Best'
AUSTIN - It's tough to stand out as a rookie, especially in the Texas House of Representatives. In the just concluded session it was even harder to shine because there were 38 of them, nearly twice a session's average, and the largest rookie class since 1973.
But Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, said he did his best to be an effective legislator. And his colleagues, particularly from West Texas, gave him high marks for it.
"I am really pleased with what we have accomplished so far," Price said while the Legislature was still in session. "There is nothing unexpected about the challenges we've faced and what is ahead of us."
Price was the first among the four rookies from the Panhandle/South Plains delegation and one of the first among the entire freshman class to pass a bill on the House floor. And he ended the session passing 10, tied for first place with Rep. Naomi Gonzalez, D-El Paso, for most bills passed by a rookie.
One bill that will require all public schools in Texas pay more attention to concussions suffered in sports events, including practice, became a high profile measure because it had the support of the National Football League and of concussion experts. In addition, Price co-authored or was joint author of 35 additional pieces of legislation and multiple House resolutions.
However, the 43-year-old Amarillo attorney said he doesn't evaluate his effectiveness as legislator on the number of bills filed or passed. Instead he measures his effectiveness on how he represents his constituents in District 87 - which includes all of Potter, Carson, Moore and Sherman counties - and what he is trying to accomplish for West Texas and the entire state.
House Speaker Joe Straus appointed him to the chamber's Natural Resources and Culture, Recreation & Tourism committees. In Price's opinion both panels are critical to the economic success of the Panhandle and of West Texas, the former because it handles water issues and the latter because tourism, particularly hunting, is a big component of the region's economy. And though in this session the daily House meetings plus the long committee hearings occasionally took more than 16 hours, Price is not complaining.
"Nope, no frustrations or disappointments," he said. "This is what I signed up for. The learning curve has been extremely steep but I am satisfied with the progress we've made. I truly believe in this process ... it's a really privilege to represent my district and the Panhandle."
Price said he gives a lot of credit for his legislative success to his staff.
"I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how good they are," he said. "They help me with everything I need and more."
Price's colleagues in the House, particularly Panhandle Republicans Warren Chisum of Pampa and John Smithee of Amarillo, give him marks for the job he's done.
"He has shown himself to be a very bright person who is involved with the issues," Chisum said as the session started winding down. "He has not been on the microphone a lot but there are many other ways to show that you are on top of things and he is always doing that, like talking to other members or getting engaged on whatever we are all working on."
A good number of rookies make what are known as freshman mistakes but Chisum, Smithee and others said that as far as they could tell, Price didn't make any.
"Four has already earned a lot of respect and that is the most important asset you can get from the members," said Smithee, the dean of the Panhandle/ South Plains delegation.
Barring unforeseen developments, if he decides to seek re-election every two years Price is expected to keep representing his overwhelmingly Republican district because in the map of all 150 House districts the Legislature passed this session, Price was not paired against another incumbent. The only change to his district for the next decade was the addition of Hutchinson County.
Another House member, who didn't want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that from the start of the session Price has also played his cards right, mainly because he supported Straus' re-election from the very beginning.
Chisum, on the other hand, challenged Straus on grounds that the San Antonio Republican was not conservative enough. In addition, freshmen Reps. Charles Perry of Lubbock and Jim Landtroop of Plainview were among the 16 Republicans who cast a "nay" vote for Straus when the Legislature convened on Jan. 11. Perry and Landtroop supported the candidacy of Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, the second challenger Straus faced.
However, Price dismisses such talk.
"There is a human element to everything we do," Price said regarding the speaker's race. "I gave my word and that's what I did," he said. "I intend to keep my word and promises when given. In the future, when I take positions on issues, I want those involved to depend on my commitments."