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Straus re-elected as Texas House Speaker

As the Texas Legislature today opened its 83rd session, the House of Representatives’ first order of business was filling the Speaker of the House position.  Though Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, was poised to seek a third term as leader of the 150-member state House against challenger David Simpson, R-Longview, Simpson withdrew his name prior to a vote leaving Straus re-elected without opposition.

Simpson’s position in announcing his speakership challenge was that floor votes for either party’s legislation should not be obstructed.  If the speaker has exclusive power to control an overall legislative agenda, public policy passage becomes about who buys legislation – not a full, open review of policy options.

“I respect Speaker Straus as a fellow legislator; however, we differ on the way that the House should be led. And I am not alone in that opinion,” Simpson said upon announcing his speaker candidacy.  “The culture of ‘go along to get along’ politics, where members face intimidation and retribution should they disagree with a leadership decision, stifles representative government.“

Shortly after the session was opened by Secretary of State John Steen, Simpson reportedly stated:

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.

The Dallas Morning News describes the House floor activity following Straus’ re-election as a “six-part oratorical fanfare about Straus’ virtues.”

Rep. David Simpson’s withdrawal from the race cleared the way for a six-part oratorical fanfare about Straus’ virtues. Four Republicans and two Democrats, including a black and a Hispanic, said Straus has a broad view of state needs, is fair and will be respectful of those with whom he disagrees. (That, of course, is what Simpson said in his earlier floor speech is sorely lacking.)

The Austin American-Statesman described Straus’ agenda:

Straus’ speech focused on the core responsibilities of government, as he sees them. Straus was interrupted often with applause from members and observers in the gallery.

He spoke about relaxing the rigid testing standards for Texas grade school students and reforming the state’s accountability and testing system and making it more appropriate.

“The goal of education is not to teach children how to pass a test, but to prepare them for life,” Straus told the chamber. “The goal of every teacher is to develop in students a lifelong love of learning, and we need to get back to that goal in the classroom.”

Straus also said the session should focus on making higher education accessible and affordable for more Texans.

“In a state as large and complex as Texas, we need a range of educational options to empower students to reach their full potential,” he said, again to applause.

The speaker also talked about other topics that will come up in the coming months, such the need for more water supplies and, of course, the budget.

“We should work in this session to make our state budget more transparent. We may disagree at times about the size of government and the need for spending, but I think we can all agree that our budget should be honest and straightforward with taxpayers,” Straus said.

To wrap up, the speaker — perhaps optimistically — talked about how he sees the members working together.

The regular session of the 83rd Texas Legislature began today and will run 140 days through May 27.

Lou Ann Anderson

Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist. As a contributor at Raging Elephants Radio and Examiner Austin, she writes and speaks on a variety of public policy topics. Lou Ann is the creator and online producer at Estate of Denial®, a website that addresses probate abuse via wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney as well as other taxpayer advocacy issues.

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