Tag Archives: Texas House of Reps

Good luck, Speaker Phelan

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The Dade Phelan Era has commenced in the Texas House of Representatives and — wouldn’t you know it — he already is taking some incoming fire from those on the far right wing of his Republican Party.

Phelan is the newly elected speaker of the House. He is a Beaumont Republican who had the temerity to suggest he wants to work well with Democrats who comprise a substantial minority of the 150-member legislative body.

One of the two House members who voted against Phelan happens to be freshman GOP Rep. Bryan Slaton of Royse City, who said in a statement that he voted against Phelan because the new speaker is someone “who has refused to articulate to Republicans whether or not he believes we should have a true conservative session.”

Dade Phelan elected speaker of the Texas House | The Texas Tribune

What the hell does that mean? Is Slaton suggesting that Phelan’s more bipartisan approach will result in more dreaded “liberal policies” that Slaton and other right wingers cannot support? Slaton is parroting the language used by Texas GOP chairman Allen West, the transplanted Florida fire breather who moved to Texas and got elected party chairman this past year. West doesn’t much like Phelan’s approach, either.

I want to remind everyone here that bipartisanship has worked well for previous speakers of the Texas House. My favorite example of the success of that approach involves former Speaker Pete Laney, the Hale Center Democrat who hardly  legislated as a flaming liberal when he served as the Man of the House. He reached across the aisle frequently and governed on the policy of letting “the will of the House” do its job.

“We must all do our part — not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Texans and Americans,” Phelan said. “Let us unite in one common purpose to do what is right for the people of Texas.”

Wow. That’s hardly lifted from the Communist Manifesto.

I want to wish the new speaker well as he takes the gavel. It likely will be a difficult session that will demand that everyone search fervently for “one common purpose.”

Some advice for next Texas House speaker …

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Admittedly, I am a long time and a long way from my days in Beaumont, Texas, covering and commenting on politics of the region.

So I am drafting this blog post with a bit of trepidation. It appears that a young man from that corner of the state is set to become the next speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

He is state Rep. Dade Phelan, a Republican. He is the son of a prominent developer in the community, a fellow I knew only casually. Still, I feel only a couple of degrees separated from Rep. Phelan.

I wish him well if he musters the support he claims to have lined up to be elected speaker in advance of the 2021 Texas Legislature. Phelan succeeds a fellow who turned out to be an abject failure as speaker, state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, who served a single term as speaker before deciding against running for another term in the House.

So, it’s one and done for Bonnen. The dude found himself in a meeting with a right-wing zealot who taped the event secretly. The two of them talked about Bonnen turning on 10 of his GOP colleagues, offering them as targets for Michael Quinn Sullivan, guru of Empower Texans, to defeat in the 2020 Republican Party primary.

Bonnen denied saying those things. Sullivan then produced the recordings of Bonnen deceiving his colleagues. Bonnen apologized. Then when the sh** hit the fan, he decided to retire from the Legislature. Now he’s about to be gone.

In steps Phelan, a young man who pledges to work across the aisle. He wants to curry favor with Democrats as well as Republicans … or so I have been led to believe.

That’s not a bad goal. Some previous House speakers have done well serving the entire body, not just the members of their own party. I think of Republican Joe Straus of San Antonio and Democrat Pete Laney of Hale Center; I happen to know Laney fairly well, as I covered him when I moved from Beaumont to Amarillo in early 1995. Texas House speakers can govern effectively if they adhere to the traditions of the Legislature, which include bipartisanship when it becomes necessary.

OK, so here’s the final bit of advice I for Rep. Phelan: Don’t speak privately to Michael Quinn Sullivan without frisking him to ensure he isn’t recording what you tell him.

Who is this Texas GOP chairman?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Who is Allen West?

I will answer the easy part. He is the current head of the Texas Republican Party. He’s also a one-term former congressman … from Florida! He moved to Texas a year or two ago I reckon to restart his political career.

He served in the U.S. Army, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was then discharged — I believe it was honorably — but only after facing a charge of “conduct unbecoming” an officer. He was involved in an incident involving an Iraqi prisoner who was treated harshly by U.S. service personnel.

West is a firebrand. While serving in the U.S. House, he accused his Democratic colleagues — all of them! — of being agents for communists around the world. Nice, eh? Hardly. It smacked to my ears of the kind of rhetorical crap spouted by the late, and infamous Sen. Joe McCarthy, the noted commie-hunter who became disgraced because of his witch hunting tactics.

West’s latest rhetorical barrage came at the expense of a young Texas legislator from Beaumont, Dade Phelan, who wants to become the next speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. It turns out that Phelan has been courting Democrats as well as his fellow Republicans, which according to West is a bridge too far. A GOP House speaker shouldn’t have to court the favor of Democrats, West said in criticizing Phelan.

Wait a second, dude. Texas has a long history of House speakers who have worked well across the aisle. Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican, was one; then we had Pete Laney, a Hale Center Democrat, who worked well with Republicans.

Indeed, governors of both parties have been known to reach across the aisle to seek favors from the other side.

So, what is this intruder trying to do?

I had thought that Texas had enough dedicated Republican political operatives of lengthy Lone Star State standing to lead the party. Instead, it has turned to this guy who knows practically nothing of this state’s unique political climate.


No speakership for Price

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The word found its way to me far, far away from the hustle and bustle of Texas politics.

It is that state Rep. Four Price, an Amarillo Republican, is not going to seek to become the next speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

I am disappointed to hear that news. But not surprised.

I’ve known Price for a long time. He won election to the Texas House after David Swinford of Dumas decided to retire in 2010. Price was being talked up as speaker material in his first legislative session, in 2011.

I haven’t spoken with Price about this latest decision, which was reported by Quorum Report and relayed to me by a former Morris Communications colleague who remains wound tightly in the goings-on in Austin. I am, shall we say, decidedly less involved in keeping up with the nitty gritty of Texas government.

I happen to believe Four Price would be a splendid House speaker. I mean, anyone who can fend off a goofball challenge by Empower Texans — the right wing PAC that takes delight in challenging Republican officeholders — is OK in my book. Price got a primary challenge in 2018 and dispatched the Empower Texans-financed pretender with ease.

More than that, though, Price has been an effective legislator. He is diligent and hardworking. I hear from spies in the Panhandle that Price doesn’t think he has the allied strength among his fellow House members to be elected speaker.

The current speaker, Republican Dennis Bonnen, will leave the House at the end of the year. He didn’t seek re-election after being outed by Empower Texans chieftain Michael Quinn Sullivan who recorded Bonnen offering up fellow GOP lawmakers as potential targets in this year’s election. Not a good move, dude. So, Bonnen is a goner, which is fine with me.

A big part of me believes Four Price never would have allowed himself to be suckered into speaking so stupidly to someone such as Michael Quinn Sullivan.

Which tells me why he would be a terrific speaker of the House.

This race could determine Texas tea party power

Republican Texas state Rep. Joe Straus has been challenged for his San Antonio Texas House of Representatives seat by one Matt Beebe, who lost to Straus in the 2012 election.

Why does this matter to anyone outside The Alamo City? Straus also is speaker of the Texas House. Beebe is a tea party darling who lost to Straus in an ugly, name-calling campaign.


So … what now?

By my reckoning, Straus has done a pretty good as speaker by trying to include everyone in the lower legislative chamber. That means Democrats. However, as has been the case whenever the tea party gets mentioned, the far right wing of the GOP just cannot stand it when Republicans work with Democrats to, oh you know, try to get legislation enacted. They try to make government actually work, make it function, try to get things to move forward.

I guess Beebe doesn’t see things that way. He says Straus isn’t conservative enough for the voters of House District 12. I beg to differ with him on that one, given that voters have re-elected him repeatedly. I would surmise from that electoral result that Straus’s conservatism fits his constituents just fine.

What I think Beebe really intends to say is that Straus isn’t conservative enough for, well, Matt Beebe.

Although it is true that Republicans hold a supermajority in the House of Representatives, the speaker is in charge of the entire body, not just the GOP wing of it. The speaker makes committee assignments involving Democrats, too. He must juggle multiple legislative balls in the air — and that means working with the other party when the need arises.

I believe Straus has managed to do that and it’s one reason why he deserves to be sent back for another term as state representative from San Antonio.

I’ll let the House members haggle among themselves over whether he should return as speaker.