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Bill Hammond gets his name in the papers again

Whether he actually achieves any of the goals that are the basis for many of these stories remains to be seen.

Hammond, a former business owner and Republican lawmaker from Dallas, is accustomed to steering the state business organization between its support for Perry and his fervent belief that now is not the time to short-change public or higher education.

Hammond, who’s been interested in public education since his days as a lawmaker in the 1980s, has added higher education to his list of concerns for the state’s future workforce.

“If we don’t have an educated workforce, the jobs will leave,” Hammond said. “We are not meeting the needs of the future.”

It’s a message he takes to lawmakers, educators and the business community. The message not only chastises lawmakers who favor cutting education, it also faults the public and higher education establishment for not doing a better job of preparing students for tomorrow’s jobs.

“Business needs to be a critical friend,” Hammond said of his double-barreled message.

Hammond, listed this year on Texas Monthly’s list of the 25 people who most influence state politics, leads the oldest statewide business organization, which includes 3,500 businesses and 220 chambers of commerce.

For this legislative session, the Texas Association of Business has partnered with business and education groups to produce reports on ways to improve higher education and the need for better pre-kindergarten.

He also called for spending money from the state’s reserves, the so-called rainy day fund, weeks before state officials inched in that direction with a deal to spend about $3.2 billion to cover the shortfall in the current budget.

To those who would argue the state’s funding gap for the next two years can be closed with cuts alone, Hammond says, “You can’t cut from current (spending) levels and have a functioning government.”

I give Hammond credit for being out in front of the need to use the Rainy Day Fund, and I give him credit for being a voice of relative sanity on immigration. But as I’ve repeatedly said, I just don’t expect him to be very effective in getting what he says he wants. Maybe if he threatened to actually oppose some of the Republican legislators that stand in the way of these goals, I’d have more faith in him. But as long as he continues to be buddy-buddy with bad actors like Leo Berman, I expect he’ll be as successful as a parent who threatens his kids with various punishments for misbehavior but never carries it out. What does any currently elected Republican legislator have to fear if he doesn’t do what Bill Hammond asks? Not nearly as much as what they believe they have to fear from the teabaggers. As long as that’s the dynamic, the results will be utterly predictable.

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