Tag Archives: Four Price

A new trio forms a ‘Three Amigos’ team

I was fond years ago of referring to three Republican Texas state representatives as the “Three Amigos.”

They were Reps. John Smithee of Amarillo, David Swinford of Dumas and Warren Chisum of Pampa. Two of them — Swinford and Chisum — have retired from the Texas Legislature; only Smithee remains in public life. Indeed, Smithee is one of the longest-tenured members of the Texas House of Representatives, having served there since 1985; that’s 33 years.

Well, here’s the thing: Smithee has two new members of a trio of legislators with whom he has teamed up.

Sen. Kel Seliger and Rep. Four Price, both Amarillo Republicans, have joined their pal Smithee in creating a formidable team of “amigos” to represent the Panhandle’s interests.

I suppose I could include state Rep. Ken King, a Canadian Republican — but that would create a sort of “Fearsome Foursome” for the Panhandle. I cannot speak with any authority on the job he’s doing; King was elected after I left the working world.

So, for the purposes of this blog, I’ll stick with the newly constituted Three Amigos, all of whom I know quite well.

They’re all dedicated to their public service.

Smithee has been setting his legal practice aside for more than three decades during legislative sessions. He serves as chair of the House Insurance Committee and my experience with him has been always on the up-and-up. What I always appreciated about Smithee is his willingness to provide direct answers to direct questions. There’s no flim-flam or obtuseness where Smithee is concerned.

Price has emerged as star in the House and is now being discussed openly as a possible candidate for speaker of that body when the 2019 Legislature convenes. He has championed mental health reform and has learned quickly the unique language of legislators.

Seliger, too, emerged as a quick study in legislative-speak after he took office in 2004, succeeding the late Republican Teel Bivins, who had received an ambassadorial appointment from President George W. Bush.

And just this past week, Seliger and Price sent out mailers that were paid for by the Associated Republicans of Texas Campaign Fund. Both men’s flyers say they are “getting conservative results for Texans.” They both said, “John … we know it isn’t easy to stand up to special interest groups. Tell (them) to stand strong and keep up the good work.”

Tag-team campaigning? Sure looks like it to me.

All three men have been endorsed by Amarillo Matters, a local political action group with a mission to help shape the community’s agenda for the future.

The Three Amigos have opponents this year. Seliger and Price are facing primary challengers; Smithee has a Democratic foe awaiting him this fall.

The Three Amigos aren’t the same trio that I once knew. They are just as effective, though, in fighting for the region they represent.

Die, Bathroom Bill, just die

I am going to make a not-very-aggressive prediction.

It is that Texas House Speaker Joe Straus is going to bow out of politics at the end of 2018. He likely will ignore my plea that he reconsider his decision to not seek re-election from his San Antonio House district next year.

Speaker Straus, would you reconsider quitting the House?

There. That all said, my hope now is that the next speaker of the House of Representatives will follow Straus’s lead and do whatever he or she can to derail that crazy Bathroom Bill that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and most of the Texas Senate wanted to enact into law this year.

The Bathroom Bill was the brainchild — if you want to call it that — of archconservative legislators who had this goofy notion that it would be OK to discriminate against transgender people. They sought to craft a bill that required individuals to use public restrooms in accordance with the gender designated on their birth certificate.

That means a man who becomes a woman must use the men’s room; same for women who become men.

They came up with this cockamamie idea that transgendered people would seek to assault people sexually in those restrooms.

The good news came from police chiefs and business executives across the state. They all came out in opposition to the Bathroom Bill. The speaker of the House, Straus, heard their concerns and said “No can do” when the Bathroom Bill made its way to the other end of the State Capitol from the Senate.

Straus was having none of it. The bill died in the regular session and then didn’t survive the special legislative session that Gov. Greg Abbott called.

Where do we stand now?

I’ll also presume that Lt. Gov. Patrick will be re-elected in 2018. He’ll then bring his nutty notion back to the Senate when the 2019 Legislature convenes. The House will be led by someone other than Speaker Straus. It well might be state Rep. Four Price, the Amarillo Republican who told me he was a big supporter of Straus and his agenda. Dare I presume, thus, that he, too, might block a future Bathroom Bill from becoming law? One can hope.

If it is someone else, then one can hope that whoever ascends to the speaker’s chair would do the same thing.

At least that’s my hope for the next legislative session: Kill the Bathroom Bill dead, man.

Speaker Price? Sure, why not? But only if …

Four Price is a friend of mine who I’ve known for about two decades.

Having gotten that disclosure out of the way, you may take my endorsement of the Amarillo Republican lawmaker’s potential candidacy for speaker of the Texas House of Representatives for what it’s worth.

I believe he would make a smashing speaker.

But here’s the important caveat I want to attach to it: I want him to follow the lead set by his good buddy, the current speaker who’s leaving the Legislature after the 2018 election.

Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican, is quitting politics. He calls the atmosphere too “divisive” and too “partisan.” He sought to run the House of Representatives with a bipartisan touch. He worked with Democrats as well as Republicans.

That sense of political comity cost Straus support among the hard-core Republicans who believe he had become a Republican In Name Only, a dreaded RINO.

I don’t sense that Price, also a Republican, believes that of his friend and colleague. I believe it would be pure folly for Price to buckle under the pressure that some of the right-wingnuts are going to exert.

One of them happens to run the Texas Senate. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick locked horns with Speaker Straus over that damn Bathroom Bill that died a well-deserved death in this summer’s special legislative session. The bill would have required transgender people to use public restrooms in accordance to their birth certificate gender. Patrick wanted the bill passed into law; Straus resisted, earning him the scorn of county GOP organizations, including the Randall County Republican Party, which resolved to support someone else for speaker in the 2019 session.

So, to my friend Four Price, I ask only this: If you’re going to run for speaker, please resist the temptation to tilt too far to the right. Do not forsake the millions of Texans — such as yours truly — who believe that moderation is critical to effective governing.

All hell is about to break loose in Austin

You want to hear the rumble of thunder under your feet?

Put your ear to the ground and get a load of the racket emanating from a Texas legislator’s announcement that he won’t seek re-election in 2018.

That would be House Speaker Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican, who stood firm, tall and steady against the onslaught of the far right within his party. Straus is calling it quits.

The Texas Tribune is reporting that a political earthquake is under way in Austin. A Rice University political scientist says the “political center in Texas” has just collapsed.

That might be the truth.

Straus fought against the TEA Party and other fringe elements within the Republican Party. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sought to shove the Bathroom Bill down our throats. Straus was having none of it; a bill that would require people to use public restrooms according to the gender noted on their birth certificate. The Bathroom Bill discriminates against transgendered individuals and Straus wouldn’t stand for it.

His stubborn refusal to let the bill get a vote in the House has drawn the outrage from those on the right. So the speaker is out of there.

And the successors are starting the line up. One of them might be a friend of mine, Rep. Four Price, an Amarillo Republican first elected to the House in 2010. I asked Price about the speaker’s future a few weeks ago, but he said he was standing behind his guy, Straus.

Now that the speaker is on his way out, there exists an opportunity for one of Straus’s key lieutenants — that would be Price — to step in and maintain the moderate tone that the House ought to keep.

As the Texas Tribune reports: More than any other Texas Republican with real power, Straus was seen as a voice of moderation. On issue after issue, he and his team alone stood in the way of the kind of runaway populism that Donald Trump championed and major statewide Republicans endorsed.

Here’s the Tribune article

Will another moderate step up? Might it be Four Price? And would a Speaker Price resist the pressure that’s sure to come hard from the far right?

Meanwhile, the ground continues to rumble.

Rep. Price makes the grade, according to Texas Monthly

Texas Monthly is an entertaining and informative publication.

Its most popular regular feature arguably is its annual Bum Steer Award issue that highlights the antics of the weird throughout our vast state.

The next most popular issue is the one that features the Best and Worst Legislators. Guess what, dear reader: One of the Panhandle’s own made the Best list.

I’ve long been proud of Walter Price IV — aka Four Price — the Republican state representative from Amarillo. He’s a friend and a supremely good guy. According to TM, he’s also one of the Legislature’s most effective members.

The TM list was compiled by veteran political journalist R.G. Ratcliffe, who knows his way around the Capitol Building in Austin.

Price is the only Panhandle delegation member to make either list from the 2017 Legislature. That is not to denigrate the others: Reps. John Smithee of Amarillo and Kenneth King of Canadian, or Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo, all of whom are Republicans in the heavily GOP Legislature. It’s interesting to me, though, that GOP Sen. Charles Perry from just down yonder in Lubbock made the Worst list, but since he’s not from the Panhandle, I won’t say any more about him.

TM cites how Four Price — a lawyer by training — often gets overlooked because he makes legislating look easy. As TM notes: “It’s not. As chair of the Public Health Committee, Price introduced more than a dozen bills to reform how Texas cares for those with mental illness, a historically neglected population. Probably the most significant was House Bill 10, which designated a state ombudsman to oversee access to behavioral health care and push insurance companies to cover treatment for mental health the same as they do physical ailments. It passed the House on a 130–13 vote, and the Senate sent the measure to the governor with only one dissention.”

Read the entire article on the Best and Worst legislators here.

I am sure Rep. Price is going to get his share of pats on the back from his friends throughout Amarillo and House District 87, which includes Potter and Moore counties.

That said, I want to join them in offering a good word to a sharp and energetic young man who works hard on behalf of the community that keeps sending him back to the Legislature.

Legislators remain neutral in presidential race


The Four Horsemen of the Texas Panhandle legislative delegation are keeping their political powder dry.

According to the Texas Tribune, none of the four has endorsed any of the seven remaining candidates for president of the United States.

Silly me. I said “seven,” even though only the five Republicans still standing are what matters, given this region’s heavy GOP bent.

State Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo is neutral, as are state Reps. Four Price and John Smithee of Amarillo, and state Rep. Ken King of Canadian.

It’s an interesting twist to see so many legislators lining up for candidates in both party primaries.

I’ve been of two minds on whether elected officials should make endorsements in party primaries. If they remain neutral, then they can say they “support” the winner without having to demonstrate it. There won’t be any hell to pay if they back the “wrong” candidate. Their vote, of course, remains a secret and if they don’t want to disclose who gets their vote, they aren’t obligated to tattle on themselves.

Then again, why not lead? Why not show us your allegiance to give us a clue as to how you believe the country should be run, in what direction it should travel?

I, of course, fully endorse the secret balloting that’s one of the hallmarks of our representative democracy.

If they don’t want to tell us who they support, that’s their business.

Not ours.


Lower gas prices: more positive than negative


Did you see what I saw this morning while driving to one of my four part-time jobs?

The price of regular unleaded gasoline has dipped to less than $2 per gallon in Amarillo.

Good news, yes? Well, I think so.

Motorists such as my wife and me do not enjoying shelling out big bucks for gasoline. Our Prius hybrid has more than paid for itself in fuel efficiency. We’ll keep for as long as we possibly can. Heck, it might live me.

But I get the downside of the lower prices, particularly in states — such as Texas — that rely on oil revenues to fund things such as, oh, state government.

State Rep. Four Price, an Amarillo Republican, told the Rotary Club of Amarillo the other day that the next Texas Legislature is likely to receive some not-so-cheery news from the comptroller’s office when it convenes in January 2017. It will be that oil revenue will be down sharply from the current budget cycle and that the state likely will not have the projected revenue surplus it got when the 2015 Legislature convened.

Gas prices plummet

I get that. I also understand that $100-per-barrel oil is more profitable to pump than, say, $42-per-barrel crude — which is about what it’s drawing these days.

But you know what? I am not going to waste too much emotional energy worrying about those ancillary effects when my household is getting a significant break in its weekly expense obligation.


Why not debate … in Amarillo?


I’ve noted before in previous election cycles that the major political parties need to think beyond the norm when planning for debates between their presidential nominees.

The norm in the past has been to select cities with large media markets. Sometimes the parties put these debates in cities and states where the race is competitive.

Here’s a revolutionary thought: Why not stage one of these events right here, in little ol’ Amarillo, Texas?

Hey, I know it’s a long shot. A pipe dream. I know it won’t happen. Then again, in this strange, goofy, unpredictable, topsy-turvy primary campaign — which on the Republican side is being driven by Donald J. Trump — well, anything seems possible.

Look at it this way, Amarillo is a significant city in a significant state. One of Amarillo’s state lawmakers, Republican Four Price, said the other day that Texas’s economy all by itself is the 12th largest in the world. That by itself makes us a player.

What might be the theme of a debate held in Amarillo? Energy policy ought to be front and center. I doubt, of course, that debate planners would build a two-hour televised event around energy policy by itself.

But it does tie into the nation’s economy. How about foreign policy, given that we’re weaning ourselves of foreign oil? We’re becoming something of a trend-setter in the development of wind energy, one of those alternatives that gets some of the credit for the plunging oil prices around the world.

We’ve got venues for such an event. The Civic Center is one. The performing arts center across the street is another. Why not look at the West Texas A&M University event center in Canyon?

Is such a thing possible?

Consider this: No one ever thought that Donald Trump would be setting the pace in the race for the Republican Party presidential nomination.

I’m just saying that this election is wild and crazy enough for Amarillo to get a serious look if the political parties here want to put together a formal request.



Texting-while-driving ban fails in Legislature

Tom Craddick wasn’t my favorite speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. He ran the place as though he owned it, not the people who elected its 150 members.

But when he got removed as speaker and became just another legislator from West Texas, well, something happened to him. He developed a keen eye toward what’s actually good for Texans — such as protecting motorists from idiots who simply cannot resist sending text messages while driving a motor vehicle.

To his great credit, the Midland Republican, persuaded his House colleagues to approve a statewide ban on that moronic practice. And to its great shame, the Texas Senate let Craddick’s bill die.


House Bill 80 sailed through the House on a 102-40 vote. Then it fell a vote short of going to a vote before the full Senate. That means we’ll have to wait another two years before Texas joins the vast majority of other states in banning this practice.

Yeah, I know. I’ve heard the unenforceability argument. Big deal. Police officers are able to spot motorists doing all kinds of things they shouldn’t be doing. If we’re going to rely on a bogus notion that we cannot enforce no-texting-while-driving laws, then let’s repeal the law that bans motorists from driving with an open container of alcoholic beverage. What the hell: The cops can’t see the open can or bottle of beer unless the motorist actually lifts it to his or her mouth, correct?

I ran into state Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, not long ago and he more or less suggested the Senate would drag its feet on this important piece of legislation. I pleaded with him to talk to his Senate colleagues to do the right thing. I have no clue if he did.

Texas stands among a shrinking field of states — I think it’s six of them, all told — that cannot muster the guts to lay down a law that makes it illegal to do what idiots cannot quit doing by themselves.

Will a law, by itself, prevent this behavior? No, but we still execute convicted capital murderers and that hasn’t stopped people from committing those heinous crimes.

One of these days, and I hope it’s soon, Texas legislators will wise up to do what’s right and make it illegal across the state to send text messages while driving.

Thanks, Rep. Craddick, for the valiant effort.


Texas to keep Daylight Savings Time

We’ll all need to catch up on our sleep over the winter after all.

Texas legislators have defeated a bill to toss out Daylight Savings Time in Texas. The House of Representatives rejected a bill by Rep. Dan Flynn to revert solely to standard time in Texas, joining Arizona in staying away from having to spring forward and fall back every year.


I’m one who never quite has understood the problems people have with the time change. It’s been around off and on for many decades. It was brought back in force in the 1970s as a way to conserve energy. Longer daylight hours in the summer months meant using less electricity. What’s so terrible about that?

It’s interesting to me that Amarillo’s House delegation split their votes on this deal. John Smithee, who represents Randall County, voted “yes” on Flynn’s bill; Four Price, who represents Potter County, voted “no.” I don’t know why that’s important. I just thought I’d mention it to illustrate that occasionally the two Republican lawmakers do not vote in tandem.

I’ve gotten used to the time change since I was in my 20s. It’s no big deal to me.

Then again, I’m not a farmer or a rancher.

As Flynn told his House colleagues: “The only one who knows if it is sun up or sun down is the rooster.”

Whatever. It makes no difference to me.