Political bombshell from Texas House speaker shakes Capitol

By Lauren Wied, Shayne Woodard and J Pete Laney, TAD government relations

Wednesday, Oct. 25 may go down as one of the biggest Texas political seismic shifts in recent years when Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) announced he would not seek re-election. This announcement blows the door wide open for some ultimate insider politics as the entire 150-member House of Representatives will pick a new leader on the opening day of the 86th Texas Legislature on Jan. 8, 2019.

Social media lit up afterward with numerous cheers from the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party that has opposed Straus’ centrist style since he was elected Speaker in January 2009. Then, Republicans held 76 seats to the Democrats’ 74 seats, and Straus was elected with a large block of Democrats and a significant number of Republicans who had become frustrated with the then-Speaker’s style of policy/politics.

This will be the first “open” Speaker’s race since January 1993, when Gib Lewis declined to run for re-election and West Texas House member Pete Laney unanimously was chosen Speaker.

The timing of the announcement sets the stage for a long, drawn out and probably very tense 14-to-15-month “behind the scenes” insider election process. But first, all 150 House members – the only ones who elect a Speaker – have to go through their own elections, with primaries set for March 2018 and the general election in November 2018.

Meanwhile, look for Republican ideologues to make the Speaker’s race a political hot potato in the primary election, where incumbents and candidates might be asked if they support the “House Republican Caucus-only process” to elect the Speaker or if they will support allowing the block of 55 Democrats to have a say in the process. After all, the Speaker must gain 76 out of 150 House votes to be elected in January 2019. Even though the Republicans control 95 of the 150 House seats, there is not actually a “House Republican Caucus-only process.” Rather, the election of the Speaker is set forth in the Texas Constitution. The Constitution states “the House of Representatives shall, when it first assembles, organize temporarily, and thereupon proceed to the election of a Speaker from its own members.”

Again, this is the ultimate political insider sport as 150 folks lobby and press one another for votes as they position and jockey to move various policies and politics forward in our great State of Texas.

As of now, Republicans Phil King of Weatherford and John Zerwas of Katy have filed with the Texas Ethics Commission to run for Speaker.

Other names are being kicked around by various reports and insiders.

The longstanding joke around town is that out of the 150 members of the Texas House, only about 150 of them believe they should be or could be Speaker of the House!

The Texas Association of Dairymen appreciates the leadership of Speaker Straus and wishes him well in his future endeavors.

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Political dates to note

Nov. 11: Filing for March primary elections begins
Dec. 11: Filing for March primary elections ends

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Interim committee studies announced

Speaker Straus and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick recently announced the 85th legislative interim studies for House and Senate committees. Traditionally, work done in interim committees will result in draft legislation filed when the Legislature returns in January 2019.

Many of the committees are charged with assignments related to the impact of Hurricane Harvey.

To review the charges visit: http://www.senate.state.tx.us and http://www.house.state.tx.us/news/press-releases/?id=6395

Some highlights include:

House Committee on Agriculture & Livestock:
Charge 3: Review the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Seed Certification Program and related areas. Consider any benefits or drawbacks to privatizing the program through a nonprofit crop improvement association.
Charge 5: Identify methods for the early detection of exotic invasive organisms that could threaten the production of agricultural crops, such as cotton, in Texas.

House Committee on Land & Resource Management:
Charge 3: Examine Texas’ eminent domain statutes to ensure a balance between necessary infrastructure growth and fair compensation for landowners. Review available public information and data relating to the compensation provided to private property owners. Make recommendations to improve the accountability, as well as successful development, of the entities granted eminent domain authority.

Senate Agriculture, Water, & Rural Affairs Committee:
Agricultural Fees: Review licensing, permitting, or registration requirements and fees imposed on the agriculture industry by licensing agencies within the committee’s jurisdiction. Make recommendations for state licenses/fees that should be reduced, repealed or transitioned to private-sector enforcement. ▪