Scott Hochberg, Back From The Wilderness

One of the big winners in the aftermath of the revolution that overthrew House Speaker Tom Craddick is Houston's own Scott Hochberg.

After six years of exile from the powerful Appropriations Committee, he's not only back on it but chairing the sub-committee on education.

He got the appointment Tuesday morning, and held his first all-day hearing Thursday.

"It's sort of a case of being able to move right back in on things, but it's also like drinking from a fire hose," he tells Hair Balls. "There's been a lot of changes in six years."

The sub-committee tends to deal largely with higher-ed issues; Hochberg's priorities are student aid and finding a way to get more open freshman slots at "top-quality research institutes in Texas."

"UT and A&M -- the size of their freshman class has changed little since I was a freshman way too many years ago," he says. "We are a net exporter of college students, and that's not a good thing to be."

One way to deal with the issue, he says, is "to elevate UH and possibly some other schools to a level that will attract students, and students from out of state," he says. "It's a long process, but it's long overdue. We've been talking seriously about it for 10 years."

Hochberg says there seems to be a new atmosphere in the House now that that the autocratic Craddick is gone:

We've had one day of debate on the House floor, and that was on the relatively uninteresting matter of the rules and how we conduct business during the upcoming session, and members truly felt relieved of a burden when they were making decisions on how to vote without worrying about what any particular vote would mean to the speaker.

For members, particular those who were not there before Mr. Craddick, it was clearly a new experience for them. And again, I think that's good. There will clearly be some issues where the speaker, as any member, will wish to weigh in, but I think we have pretty good [reason to believe] that it's not going to be on every issue.

Normally, Hochberg's sub-committee would deal at least partly with the UTMB problem, but all Ike-related issues are being dealt with by a special committee -- one that's touring Galveston today.

-- Richard Connelly

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