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Thursday, 10 January 2013 14:10

Straus Elected Speaker of the House in Texas, Simpson Bows Out

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State Representative Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) was elected Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives as the first order of business in the 2013 legislative session. He fended off a challenge by Representative David Simpson (R-Longview), the state representative who made national news last session with his TSA Anti-Groping bill. The Speaker of the House vote was by acclamation rather than a roll-call vote. Representative David Simpson (R-Longview) had earlier indicated he would stay in the race up to a roll call vote, but changed his mind at the request of a number of his supporters. In his withdrawal speech, Simpson said:

If fear of retribution were not so very real, conscientious support for an alternative choice for Speaker would not cause such trepidation. But since it is, and absent a certainty of winning this contest, at the request of my colleagues, I withdraw my candidacy.

Alice Linahan, Director of Women on the Wall (WOW), said she spoke with a number of state representatives who indicated fear of retribution if they voted for Simpson. The speaker’s office in Texas has become a powerful position appointing 72 percent of the committee chairmen. Many people consider the choice of speaker to be one of the most important votes in a legislative session. In the Texas Legislature, a chairman of a substantive committee can keep a bill from passing by never holding a hearing on it. If a bill has a hearing and is favorably voted by the substantive committee, it’s then forwarded to the Calendars Committee which decides if and when to schedule it for consideration on the floor.

Numerous informed sources told The New American there are plans to submit some rules changes that will decentralize power. The proposed rules changes will look something like:

“No Committee Chairman could serve on the Calendars Committee” and
“If a measure has 76 or more co-authors the Calendars Committee must submit it to the House Floor for an up or down vote within 7 to 10 days.”

These rules changes specifically address some of the bureaucratic roadblocks that were used to bottle up the TSA Anti-Groping bill in the previous session. A floor vote on these reforms could take place sometime between Thursday, January 10 and Monday, January 14. Citizens are being mobilized to urge their legislators to vote yes on them. Rules for obtaining signatures of legislators to over-ride a committee chairman who is blocking a bill by failing to act on it are fairly common in legislatures. The U.S. Congress calls it a discharge petition.

WOW sponsored a two-day program in Austin called Keep Texas Strong — Speaker Showdown. It was attended by numerous conservative groups, such as Texans United for Reform and Freedom (TURF), Lone Star Tea Party, The John Birch Society, Immigration Reform Council of Texas (IRCOT), Stop the Magnet, Clear Lake TEA Party and others. It featured such well-known speakers as Pat Caddell, Brandon Darby, and Anita Moncrief.

Because the overflow crowd of spectators interested in the speaker’s race exceeded the capacity of the Texas House of Representatives Gallery, many of the spectators had to watch via closed circuit TV in a nearby location.

Photo of Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus: AP Images

 

2 comments

  • Comment Link Thelma Taormina Monday, 14 January 2013 15:35 posted by Thelma Taormina

    It is extremely disheartening to see the continuation of the "politics as usual". With continued pressure from the citizens of Texas and of the United States of America, at some point in the future we may see a return to the Republic(s) as they were founded.

    We may also see individuals in our legislature and in the US Congress who actually have the courage that our founder found within themselves. Here we have "fear" of losing power within our legislature, how truly sad this is when you consider the men who feared losing freedom over losing power in a legislative body.

    We no longer have any representatives with the convictions and courage to stand for the individual rights of their countrymen. What we have is a powerful coffee clutch who are so fearful of losing their place amongst the powerful that they would continue to allow unprincipled individuals to dictate to them how things will be done.

    The argument is one that tries to defy the logic of our founding documents. Our founding documents created a country that was free of the fear of the powerful. Instead we have come full circle back to little dictators, all concerned that they will lose their place among the privileged.

    I am tired of the games, I am amazed that so many of my fellow activists will not call our the cowards when we see them. Our Republic was set up to survive zealous, hot, emotional debates, sadly we no longer have them.

    Why is there such a fear? Have all our representatives forgotten that "We, The People" have your back? Find your courage, We, The People are no longer sleeping and we demand your loyalty. We will no longer sit back while you play games with our lives.

    I hear Strauss is a betting man, is he really betting against the people of Texas?

  • Comment Link sirburban Thursday, 10 January 2013 16:19 posted by sirburban

    These dictators need to be reined in via amendments to state constitutions. Something along the lines of a rotation of speakers to go to even members of third parties. Using a lottery sytem on odd years for the speakership to go to anyone who is an elected legislator and then on even years allow the speakership to fall to the most senior member. And then every third cycle allow voters to choose the Speaker of the House.

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