By Jared Woodfill
President, Conservative Republicans of Texas
During the regular and first special session of the 85th Texas Legislature, on numerous occasions we witnessed an abuse of power by Texas House Speaker Joe Straus. The most recent example came when he adjourned the Texas House without any notice or warning a day before the special session was supposed to end. As he did so, numerous state representative objected loudly, only to be ignored by King Straus. Unlike past sessions, the house did not vote to adjourn. Instead, King Straus unilaterally exercised his will, raising his scepter and dismissing his subjects.
This was consistent with a long chain of abuses in a Texas House that ignored women’s privacy, school choice, tax reform, pay check protections, life and many more issues identified as priorities by Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Patrick, and the Republican Party of Texas. The only thing important to the Texas House was spending more money on public education and satisfying the unending appetite of the labor unions. One of the leaders in this effort was Straus Lieutenant State Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton). According to Empower Texans, “After the Texas House voted to approve a half-billion-dollar education spending program, Bonnen told lawmakers he would not appoint a conference committee….” Like his boss, Joe Straus, Lieutenant Bonnen told House members, the Senate would have to accept the House version or get nothing at all. Straus Lieutenant, State Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Humble); the Rep. who single handedly killed school choice, then joined the game, walking to the microphone and moved that the House adjourn “sine die.”
Straus’ and his Lieutenants’ move ended the first special session with most of Governor Abbott’s priorities sitting on Joe Straus’ desk unsigned and unheard in the Texas House. After the first special session, the House Republican Caucus started the process necessary to create rules to elect a caucus nominee for speaker. Remember, Joe Straus was elected in 2009 by Democrats and a handful of Republicans. The first caucus meeting did not result in any substantial reforms. We can only hope that more will be accomplished in their second meeting scheduled for September.
The unanswered question is: Will Governor Abbott allow Straus to get away with killing his conservative agenda for Texas? Since his election in 2009 as Speaker, Joe Straus has consolidated his power. From day one of the 2017 session, we encouraged Texas House members to vote against Joe Straus. Unfortunately, we could not find one to stand with us, and Straus was unanimously elected. The question now is who will stand up and be the voice for the conservative, pro-family base that makes up the Republican majority in Texas? Who will have the courage to run against Joe Straus?
I can assure you many of Straus’ lieutenants will be retired and replaced prior to the next legislative sessions. We can no longer elect or support any state representative or candidate who pledges to vote for Joe Straus as Speaker of the House. To make this happen, Gov. Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Patrick and the Republican Party of Texas must engage in the primary. If not, we can expect more of the same; a lot of promises, but few results.
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