The Legislature's foremost expert on school finance and one of its top public education advocates, state Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, confirmed this afternoon that he won't seek re-election next year.
Hochberg, who took office in 1993 and is now the vice chairman of the House Education Committee and the chairman of the education subcommittee on the House Appropriations Committee, said the time had come for him to pursue something new.
"Being in this job and trying to do it well is a continual thing, as any member will tell you, after a certain amount of time, I think the grind just wears people down," he said, "I love working on all the problems we work on, but it's 24/7 and it makes it hard to focus on anything in specific." He brushed off any suggestion that his absence would leave an void of leadership on school finance issues.
"Nobody's indispensable," he said. "The state survived a lot of years before I was in the Legislature, and will continue to after I'm not."
His announcement comes as a new round of school finance lawsuits enters the courts. The issue will almost certainly be under discussion during the 2013 legislative session.
When asked about his future plans, Hochberg said he did not have a job offer — nor was he soliciting one, saying that he still had a year to serve out of his term.
But he did jokingly reference his reputation as a sometimes fierce presence on the House floor and in committee meetings: "I hear 60 Minutes is looking for a curmudgeon to come up and complain about things on a weekly basis, so maybe that's something I have the talent of doing."
Updated, 4:14 p.m., 12/2/11: Joe Madden, who is currently the chief of staff for Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, told the Texas Tribune that he was taking a "very hard look"at running for the seat Hochberg will leave open. He expects to make his decision within the next few days. "It's an exciting opportunity, but those are big shoes to fill," he said.
Here is the statement Hochberg released about his decision:
After much consideration, I have decided not to seek reelection in 2012.
I am deeply and sincerely grateful to all my friends and supporters who have allowed me to hold this position of honor for what will be twenty years, especially those of ordinary means and busy schedules who, year after year, gave their time and financial contributions to my campaigns.
I especially thank those who have worked so hard on my district and capitol staff throughout the years, providing our constituents with the service and attention that they should expect from their government, and always going the extra mile. Whatever success I have had has been in a great part their making.
I thank my friends in all levels of government for their support, encouragement, and even their challenges, with special appreciation to Speaker and Mrs. Pete Laney for their guidance starting from my first days as a member-elect.
My decision should not be thought of as any commentary on the current political environment, the challenges ahead, or, for that matter, the disappointment of soon having to endure the designated hitter rule when watching hometown Houston baseball. It's simply my desire to move on to new challenges, and find some other ways to be of service to our community and state.
I plan to serve the remainder of my term that runs until January, 2013. With the Legislature not in session, I will continue to work with local business leaders to complete the establishment of the new Gulfton Management District, as well as on other local matters. Beyond that, I have no specific plans.
Best wishes for a joyous and safe holiday season, and again, thank you.