Tag Archives: Texas House

Speaker Straus to Lt. Gov. Patrick: Listen more, talk less

Joe Straus is now officially the lamest of ducks in Texas politics and government. The midterm election is over. The speaker of the Texas House didn’t run for re-election and voters in his San Antonio House district have selected a successor.

That doesn’t mean he is keeping quiet. He has offered Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the garrulous politician from Houston, some cogent advice: Patrick should “listen more and talk less” during next year’s Texas legislative session.

Patrick, not surprisingly, is having none of it. He responded in an interview with the Texas Tribune: “(Straus) decided he wanted to continue to poke a finger in the eye of Greg Abbott, the president, myself and conservatives as he goes out the door and I find that disappointing. I wish him the best and I thank him for his public service, but at the end of the day, it’s clear he’s not much of a conservative — and it’s beginning to look like he’s not much of a Republican.”

Read Texas Tribune story.

I suppose if Patrick’s view of a true Republican rests with some of the harsh, nutty notions that came out of the Texas Senate this past year, then perhaps he’s right about Straus. It sounds to me that Patrick is still miffed that Straus killed the Bathroom Bill that the Senate — over which Patrick presides — sent to the House. The Bathroom Bill required individuals to use public restrooms that comported with the gender assigned to them on their birth certificate. .

It clearly was a discriminatory measure aimed at transgender individuals. Straus called it a non-starter, along with police chiefs and other law enforcement officials across Texas.

Straus made sure the bill would die in a special legislative session during the summer of 2017. He said it was virtually unenforceable; he said it would harm businesses in Texas. He wanted no part of it.

The soon-to-be-former speaker is a reasonable man. He is as much of a Republican as Patrick, without the stridency that Patrick brings to his high-profile position.

To be candid, I’ll miss Straus’s leadership as the Man of the Texas House. As for Patrick, he ought to take Straus’s advice and listen more and talk less … a lot less.

West Texas remains in the legislative power grid

You know already that I am delighted to see Republican state Rep. Four Price of Amarillo toss his Stetson into the contest to become the next speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

I alluded in an earlier blog post how West Texas, namely the Panhandle, need a strong voice to call attention to their needs. Having a son — or daughter– from the Panhandle in the speaker’s chair certainly would elevate the region’s profile in Austin.

But you know, the Panhandle and South Plains haven’t exactly been cast into the political wilderness over many years.

Pete Laney, a Democrat from Hale Center, served as speaker until he was ousted by Tom Craddick, a Republican from Midland. Republicans took control of the House and Craddick saw his chance to lead the 150-member body. He enlisted support from GOP state Reps. David Swinford of Dumas and John Smithee of Amarillo, the Panhandle’s two representatives who had formerly backed Laney.

I admit to being furious at the time. I hated the way Swinford and Smithee turned on their “pal” Laney. The reality, though, is that West Texas remained a player with Craddick handling the House gavel.

Craddick eventually ceded the speaker’s job to Joe Straus of San Antonio, who this year announced his retirement from the Legislature.

Thus, the door is opened wide for someone new to take control of the House.

I hope it’s my friend Four Price. I no longer live in Amarillo, but I remain intensely interested in the Panhandle’s political future.

You go, Rep. Four Price!

It would be presumptuous of me in the extreme to assume that state Rep. Four Price of Amarillo read a recent blog post of mine and then decided to run for speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

Whatever, my friend has joined a growing gaggle of politicians seeking to succeed Speaker Joe Straus as the Man of the House.

I applaud him for taking the plunge.

Price joins four fellow Republicans and a Democrat in the speaker’s race.

I’ve already stated my bias. Price is my friend and, thus, my admiration for his legislative skill is tainted somewhat by my personal affection for him. Still, the young man has cast a large shadow over the 150-member Texas House since he joined that body in 2011.

“Having successfully worked for the last four sessions with my colleagues from across our state to pass major legislation and focus on issues of importance to all Texans, I am eager to seek this leadership position in the Texas House of Representatives,” he said in a statement. “Looking towards the future, I truly believe the Texas House will play a leading role in making the decisions that keep Texas on the path to prosperity.”

I am quite certain Price knows what becoming speaker would mean to his role as a “part-time citizen legislator.” It means he would become nothing of the sort. House speakers essentially become full-timers, on call 24/7 to the media, to fellow pols, to constituents who live far beyond their legislative districts.

I find it impossible to believe that Price has failed to build sufficient political alliances within the House to make a serious run for the speakership.

With all the talk we keep hearing about the shifting power balance in Texas, as rural districts such as the one Price represents in the Texas Panhandle lose their clout, a Four Price speakership could produce a boon to the often-overlooked region way up yonder at the top of Texas.

So, good hunting, Rep. Price as you scour your colleagues for the support you’ll need as you seek to run the show in the Texas House.

Where is Rep. Price in this speaker race?

I just read where state Rep. Drew Darby has become the fifth member of the Texas House to declare his candidacy for speaker of the House of Representatives.

What do I know about him? He’s a Republican (naturally!) from San Angelo. OK. That’s it. Now he’s running for Speaker Joe Straus’s job, which Straus is giving up at the end of the year after choosing not to seek re-election to another term.

The roll of speaker candidates is missing a key player who has been reported to be somewhat interested, although he’s being typically coy about it.

I refer to my friend state Rep. Four Price of Amarillo.

I want Price to run for the speakership. I also want his House colleagues to elect him.

I’ll admit to bias here. I’ve known the young man almost from the moment my wife and I moved to Amarillo in 1995. He is a lawyer and our paths crossed as I developed a list of friends — and sources — while working as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News.

Then he decided to run for the Texas House in 2011, succeeding former state Rep. David Swinford in the District 87 seat. He won the GOP primary, which meant election in the heavily Republican House district.

Price has acquitted himself handsomely, becoming a champion for the cause of mental health rehabilitation in the Legislature.

He also developed a constructive alliance with Speaker Straus, a man for whom I developed great respect over his objection to that hideous Bathroom Bill that died in the special legislative session in 2017. You remember that one, yes? It would have required people to use public restrooms in accordance with the gender assigned on their birth certificate; it was clearly discriminatory against transgender individuals. Straus would have none of the bill that sailed through the Texas Senate.

Four Price is an ally of the speaker and I’ll presume he backed Straus’s decision to torpedo the Bathroom Bill.

What’s more, Price fended off a challenge this past year from someone who was backed by the far-right political action committee, Empower Texans.

I believe Rep. Price would make a fine speaker of the Texas House. Yes, my wife and I have moved away from the Panhandle, but my interest in Texas politics and government is as strong as ever.

Thus, I hope Rep. Price decides to compete for the title of Man of the Texas House.

Run, Four, run!

Declaring intentions ahead of primary

I am not usually one to declare how I intend to vote before I actually do it, given that we do cast our votes in secret.

This year presents some serious concern for me. It’s enough to make me declare my intention to do something I usually keep semi-secret.

My intention is to vote in the Republican Party primary. Not only that, I am going to vote early; as much as I detest early voting, my wife and I will be unable to vote on primary election day, as we’ll be out of town celebrating our granddaughter’s birthday. Hey, we have our priorities, you know?

I have a particular concern, and it involves Texas Senate District 31. I want Kel Seliger to win the GOP primary. He faces two challengers, Victor Leal of Amarillo and Mike Canon of Midland. Both of those individuals are trying to outflank Seliger on the right wing of the GOP electorate. They contend he’s one of those damn liberals. What they don’t say, of course, is that they are being backed by interests from far outside the Texas Panhandle.

Seliger is a mainstream conservative. His only “sin,” in the eyes of Leal and Canon, is that he is not a crazy right-wing extremist.

I’ll stipulate once again that I believe Seliger, a former Amarillo mayor, has done a fine job representing West Texas in the Legislature. He needs to stay on the job.

I wish I could throw my support behind state Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, too. I cannot. I am registered to vote in Randall County; Price represents Potter County and other rural counties in his House district.

I have known Price and Seliger for as long as we have lived in Amarillo. I like and admire them both and I want them both to win their party’s primary.

Given as well that Price has garnered the attention of Texas Monthly, which considers him one of the state’s best legislators, I believe the Panhandle is well-served to keep Price on the job right along with Seliger.

Not only that, there’s considerable chatter around the state that Price might ascend to the speakership of the Texas House of Representatives. Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio is not running for re-election and Price — shall I say — is not discouraging talk of him succeeding Straus. I consider that a form of code that Price is quite interested in becoming speaker.

Think of the potential that could await the Panhandle if one of our own takes the House gavel and directs the flow of legislation in that chamber.

I won’t surrender my own progressive political leanings by voting in this year’s GOP primary. We do have a general election coming up this fall and my intention is to back candidates up and down the state ballot who adhere to my own world view.

When you live as we do in Ground Zero of Texas Republican Land, you have to cast your vote where it will do the most good for the region where you live.

That’s my intention. So there.

Senate race starting to get … nasty

Here come the grenades.

They’re being lobbed at Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, who is facing a GOP primary challenge from former Midland Mayor Mike Canon and Amarillo restaurant owner Victor Leal.

The live ammo is being tossed by Leal, who has approved a TV ad that accuses Seliger of being “liberal” and “corrupt.” Leal puts the two words together — in that order — at the end of his ad, which seems to equate liberal political views with corruption.

Seliger, meanwhile, is running hard on his own conservative credentials, proclaiming himself to be pro-local control, pro-life and pro-National Rifle Association.

As someone who plans to vote quite soon — my wife and I will be unavailable to vote on March 6, which is primary Election Day — I am taking a keener-than-usual interest in this race.

Just maybe Leal ought to take a deep breath before he airs this ad too many more times. I happen to remember the first time Leal ran for a legislative seat. It was in 2010. He wanted to succeed David Swinford, who retired from his House District 87 seat.

But here’s the deal: Leal had resided for many years in Randall County, which is not part of District 87. He then rented a house in Potter County, which falls within the legislative boundary. Questions arose about whether Leal was residing in the Potter County house.

I will not divulge whether I believe Leal actually lived in that Potter County residence. However, questions surrounding that messy residence matter can — and occasionally do — find their way back to the front burner.

Especially when politicians toss around words such as “corrupt.”

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.

Randall County GOP puts Speaker Straus on notice

So, just how Republican-red is Randall County, Texas?

It believes that the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Joe Straus of San Antonio, isn’t conservative enough. It believes he has stalled legislation near and dear to the far right wing of the GOP. Why, he is just too bipartisan, too willing to work with those dreaded Democrats in the Texas House.

So, the Randall County Republican Party has joined some other county GOP operations in pulling its support of Straus should the Republican seek another term as speaker of the House.

Good bleeping grief!

Straus appears to have drawn the ire of the Randall County GOP because he heeds public opinion on certain controversial measures. Off the top of my noggin, the Bathroom Bill comes immediately to mind.

Texas senators approved the Bathroom Bill, which was pushed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and sent it to the House. Straus opposed the bill that requires transgender people to use public bathrooms in accordance to the sexual identity stated on their birth certificate. Straus saw the bill for what it was: an unenforceable act of discrimination against some Texans. He joined chiefs of police, business executives and medical professionals who also opposed the Bathroom Bill.

But because he didn’t push this monstrosity of a bill through the House — among other legislation — he no longer deserves to be speaker. The Randall County GOP’s resolution seeks to get state Reps. John Smithee and Four Price, both Amarillo Republicans, to vote against Straus if he seeks another speaker term.

It’s interesting to me that Price, whose district includes Potter County, declined to comment to the media about the Randall County resolution. Why do you suppose he did that? Oh, maybe it’s because he might applaud the job Straus has done while serving as the Man of the House.

I don’t want the Randall County Republican Party to have its way. The Texas House has managed to stall some overheated legislative remedies, the Bathroom Bill being one of them.

As for the bipartisanship that Straus has shown, I welcome that, too. It is in keeping with a longstanding Texas legislative tradition with governors, lieutenant governors and Texas House speakers routinely reaching across the aisle to get things done for the good of the entire state.

Bathroom Bill is dead; may it remain dead

Ladies and gents, boys and girls … I am delighted to proclaim the return to sanity in at least governmental power center.

That would be in Austin, Texas, where the Legislature is concluding a special session called to deal with 20 issues mandated by Gov. Greg Abbott. One of them was the so-called Bathroom Bill.

The Bathroom Bill has been flushed away. It’s gone. The Legislature won’t send this idiotic notion to the governor’s desk.

While the nation is trying to gather its wits after the president’s stunning remarks Tuesday about “both sides” sharing blame for the tragedy that unfolded in Charlottesville, Texas lawmakers have performed a profoundly sane act by killing the Bathroom Bill.

The bill, which was part of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s wish list of items to be enacted, would have required folks to use bathrooms in accordance with the gender noted on their birth certificates. It is intended to prevent transgender individuals who identify with the “other gender” to use the bathroom commensurate with their sexual identity.

That would apply to those who’ve actually had their gender changed surgically. Yep, a man who was born a woman would have had to use the women’s restroom — and vice versa.

Discriminatory? Yeah. Just a tad.

Texas senators approved this bill and sent it to the House of Representatives. Speaker Joe Straus, though, opposed it, as did most House members. Straus said he wouldn’t be party to a bill that discriminated against transgendered individuals.

So, the bill has died a quiet death.

Lt. Gov. Patrick had support among social conservatives and clergy. Police chiefs opposed it, as did business leaders. According to the Texas Tribune: “Transgender women, men and children from across Texas descended on the Capitol to testify about how the proposal — which would ban local policies that ensured transgender individuals’ right to use public and school restrooms that match their gender identity — could endanger their lives. The business community rallied against the legislation too, giving House Speaker Joe Straus cover as he refused to negotiate with Patrick on bathroom restrictions.”

Read the rest of the Tribune story here.

It’s foolish to predict that the Bathroom Bill will remain dead. It might come back when the 2019 Legislature convenes. It might even be part of yet another special session if Gov. Abbott is inclined to call one.

I hope he doesn’t. The state has many compelling issues with which to wrestle. The nonsense associated with the use of public restrooms isn’t one of them.

‘Bathroom Bill’ on life support? Pull the plug!

Texas’s so-called “Bathroom Bill” is wallowing in the Texas House of Representatives.

Some lawmakers have said the bill is on “life support.” It’s not likely to get to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his signature.

To which I offer a hearty “hurrah!”

The Texas Legislature has eight days to go before adjourning its special session. The Senate has sent a bushel bucket of bills to the House. One of them is that damn Bathroom Bill, which requires individuals to use public restrooms commensurate with the gender listed on their birth certificate. The bill discriminates against transgender individuals. It is a patently ridiculous piece of legislation.

Legislative Republicans say it’s intent is to protect women and girls from male sexual predators who enter their restrooms disguised as women. Police chiefs around the state say that rationale is utter hogwash, that they have no reports of that kind of sexual assault.

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus opposes it. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick supports it. The bill is one of many such bills that might end up in the trash can when the Legislature gavels the special session to a close.

If the governor intends to bring legislators back to Austin to finish their work, my sincere hope is that he reduces the legislative call by at least one measure: that would be the Bathroom Bill.

As the Texas Tribune reports: “House State Affairs Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, said Tuesday he will not give the ‘bathroom bill’ a hearing in his committee — and the measure’s author, state Rep. Ron Simmons, said it would be difficult to amend the bill as written to any other legislation moving through the chamber.”

Here is the Texas Tribune story.

It looks to me as though it’s time to pull the plug on the Bathroom Bill and concentrate on issues that really matter to all Texans.