Thursday, January 15, 2009
The Dallas-area delegation to the Texas House will be filling a vacancy in one of its leadership posts, and Rep. Dan Branch's resume makes him the best person for the job. At stake are must-get assets for North Texas, such as upgraded research universities and transportation and water projects.
The co-chairmen of the multi-county Dallas-area delegation are critical to effectively push the region's agenda. The two posts were filled last session by Democrat Roberto Alonzo of Dallas and Fred Hill, a veteran Richardson Republican who is now retired.
Hill's exit left big shoes to fill on the GOP side, and Branch, a four-termer from University Park, has the preparation to step forward and work with the more senior Alonzo.
One area of new expertise Branch has developed is education finance, a subject he spent months analyzing through a series of special hearings last year. That groundwork enables him to lead the charge for rapid development of North Texas' three research universities, which include the University of Texas-Dallas, UT-Arlington and the University of North Texas in Denton.
Achieving that goal pays dividends to the entire local economy through businesses spin-offs and the creation of new jobs. With Democratic ranks bulked up in the House, Alonzo has an important job to round up votes. He cites the sound goals of a downtown Dallas law school and keeping up with urban transportation needs.
Meanwhile, Branch has been mentioned as a possibility to chair the House Higher Education Committee. That would be the decision of new speaker and Branch ally Joe Straus, and we think Branch would be a smart pick to mold informed statewide policy.
In fact, the Tarrant County delegation to the House also should see value in Branch assuming the two leadership roles. Enhanced research funding for higher education helps their interests, too.
North Texas would benefit from one other development: After members caucus and pick chairs for both the Dallas and Fort Worth sides of the region, the leaders should put to rest traditional rivalries and work for common goals.
The region's numbers in Austin have been diluted by division for too long.